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The rivalry between China and Taiwan is fueling tensions on the Pacific islands

Shortly after being elected as a Member of Parliament two years ago, Solomon Islands opposition politician Peter Kenilorea Jr.

People began to approach him and ask him to “say good things about China to get a share,” he said, refusing to identify his contacts.

Kenilorea says the reason was discovered recently. After the 2019 elections, Solomons prime minister Manasseh Sogavare resigned. ambiguous recognition from Taiwan to China, and severed ties with the island after 36 years.

Solomons is one of the smallest but most important Pacific states in the world faced stiff political competition to maintain relations with Beijing or Taiwan.

Even the same competition is taking place in other areas – more recently, Nicaragua he signs earlier this month to recognize China – a situation in the Pacific that is compounded by domestic violence from Solomons to Samoa to cause conflict and, in some cases, violence.

In Solomons, Australia and neighboring countries have sent troops to help restore peace after three people were killed in riots and arson last month. The riots followed a series of protests led by Daniel Suidani, the prime minister of the most populous island in Solomons, Malaita, against the government’s recognition of China, but experts say it was due to racial tensions and conflicts. economic dissatisfaction.

On Thursday, a dramatic change in the country’s administrative system came to light. As Canberra confirmed that most of the country’s peacekeeping forces had been removed, China offered its support. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said a group of police advisers “ad hoc” and technical equipment were on their way to the country.

“They are coming soon to work to strengthen the capacity of the police,” he said.

The 10 Pacific states recognize only China and Taiwan, four of which Beijing claims to be part of its territory and not an independent state and therefore should not be officially recognized. Taipei and Beijing have both given prizes, such as a generous donation of aid, to countries that exchange loyalty.

The cause of the conflict is growing China-US rivalry, which supports Taiwan. Xi Jinping has increased China’s interest in the South Pacific, with all its countries controlling 28 percent of the world’s maritime sector, including key trade routes. Many of the islands were World War II centers.

“[The] a larger means of conflict between America and China [is] on which will be the dominant force in East Asia and the West Pacific in the next few decades, so the peak is very high, ”said Hugh White, an associate professor of Strategic studies at the Australian National University.

China has increased aid, with revenues rising to $ 145m in 2018, according to the Lowy Institute, a tank reaching Australia. The US fears Beijing may benefit access to deep ports or other weapons in the area that could be used in warfare.

“If the People’s Liberation Army had a reliable port in the region, it would have allowed the peaceful deployment of US warships from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Australia,” he said. chief of intelligence in Australia.

A small form of Kiribati, also flexible binding from Taiwan to China in 2019, this year announced plans to be supported by Beijing to upgrade one of the airports for general use.

In southern Samoa, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa overthrew the 22-year rule of Tuilaepa leader Sailele Malielegaoi this year as his party launched a campaign to ban the construction of two Chinese-backed ports in the country.

His supporters said the ports were unnecessary and had brought the country with huge debts. During the Tuilaepa regime, this amount grew to almost half of Samoan income, and China is heavily indebted.

“The amount of debt is a concern and probably not only in China but also for [any] one source, “Fiame said in an interview with Financial Times.

But like most Pacific islands, the local politics that won Fiame were more difficult than China’s debt-fighting campaign.

Fiame became the next prime minister before joining the opposition. One of the four most influential families in the country – in fact, the monarchy – is probably the only one who could oust a powerful prime minister and his party, investigators said.

His campaign was also funded by funding from foreign Samoans, who are known to have serious doubts about China’s assistance to their country.

Although opposition to China has dominated the headlines in the Solomons, Malaita and Guadalcanal, the largest and second largest island in terms of population, they have a history of ethnic conflicts fueled by the lack of opportunities for young people. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

According to a former Western diplomat, Prime Minister Solomon Sogavare was forced to resign from Taiwan in order to ensure the independence of the Guadalcanal Chinese parliament and to protect the majority in parliament against the Malaitan faction.

“[The] “The value of their support is known as Sogavare, who changed its identity from Taiwan to China,” he said.

The MP’s intentions in supporting China were not clear, but recognition could open up Chinese currency, the ambassador said. According to the Global Witness conservation group, about two thirds of the country’s exports, most of which end up in China.

Kenilorea, the daughter of Solomons’ first prime minister and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, said her noticeable change had been announced before the commission’s final agreement was reached.

A report on the matter from a group appointed primarily by the Prime Minister and received by FT, also included the idea that any “change” should take place on October 1, 2019 – the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

Mr Sogavare denied allegations of bribery and criticized last week’s unconstitutional decision, criticizing what he said were “criminal attempts made by Taiwanese embassies”. Malaita responded by announcing an independent inquiry, but experts were skeptical.

Despite the obstacles, Taipei and Washington still maintain support in the Pacific. This year, the Federated States of Micronesia, which approves China, agreed to have U.S. troops in its area. In addition, more than six Pacific regions, including American Samoa and New Caledonia, have security or political ties with the US or France.

But in the long run, Washington will struggle to overcome Chinese influence in the region, experts say.

“China has a lot to offer the Pacific Islands economically, as a market and a source of support, and this provides opportunities for China,” said White of ANU.

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