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The Solomon Islands - a China outpost on our border

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 26 August 2022


Readers will doubtless recall my concern in a number of contributions at trends in the Solomon Islands (SI) centred on the growing China influence.

Even I had underestimated just how all-pervading that influence would become.

Today the SI is effectively a China outpost on our Northeastern border. It is extraordinary what China has achieved in barely four years since the SI switched its allegiance from Taiwan to the People's Republic.

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Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom have been impotent when it comes to limiting the growth in China' s presence, and dominance, in almost every aspect of life in a country of just 720,000 people.

From the day the SI switched its alliance it was just a matter of time before it signed up to the PRC's Belt and Road agenda which is China's way of locking in loyalties - and imposing a debt stranglehold that has long term consequences.

Until recently its presence was focussed on gaining a dominant slice of the SI's exports - notably fisheries, timber and agriculture...as well as gaining a stranglehold on the local construction sector.

In recent days it has tightened its grip via Belt and Road.

Via a $100 million Exim Bank loan, with all work to be undertaken by Huawei, China will construct no less than 160 "telecommunications towers" across the SI. The loan will be repaid by the SI Government.

The SI budget does not include any provision for this expenditure. Indeed, reading the Finance Minister's recent budget speech it's clear the capacity of the national government to borrow is just about exhausted.

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A case study on the viability of the telecommunications project done by a reputable accounting firm has questioned the need for it, its cost, and the capacity of the SI Government to repay the loan.

But that is of no apparent concern to the Prime Minister who is arguably the closest Pacific Leader to Beijing.

The new Australian Government has handled its relations with the Pacific competently since its election in May. I would argue the one exception is in regard to the Solomon Islands.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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