How a small Pacific nation asserts its place between China and the US

Solomon Islands has banned foreign navies from docking on its shores, showing that it is not willing to be the ?backyard?

The United States cannot understand a thing when it comes to the Solomon Islands, which is asserting itself and its interests despite an aggressive US diplomatic offensive, conjured solely with the intention of opposing China.

On Tuesday, the islands announced they would temporarily bar all foreign navies from docking at their ports. While this includes everyone, most media outlets reported that it explicitly targeted the US.

That’s because the United States has long flaunted a strategy of global maritime hegemony by saying it can essentially dock wherever it wants.

Reporting that, it’s no surprise that Beijing was immediately pinned as the culprit, part of an ongoing drama over the past year that accuses China of “gaining influence” in the island country.

Earlier this year, China signed a widely hated security agreement (by Australia and the US) with the Solomon Islands, which went ahead despite pressure and implicit threats from both countries not to do so. .

The US has upped the diplomatic ante ever since, announcing that its embassy in the country will be reopened, creating a group called ‘Partners in the Blue Pacific’, and has tried to charm the islands by presenting China as a threat, and again. again.

But the Solomons have none of that. They are simply dismissing US proposals repeatedly. The security deal was just the beginning.

They have since taken out a loan with Huawei to build telecommunications infrastructure, told a US coast guard ship last week where to go, while their prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, also skipped an event. to commemorate a major US victory in World War II on the islands earlier. in August.

But the US and its ally Australia pretend to miss the point: they believe the Solomon Islands to be their own legitimate “backyard” and claim their recent moves are simply a product of “malign” influence exerted by China. They frame themselves as the benevolent overseers of the “true interests” of the islands doing so purely out of good will.

But Solomon themselves disagree. From their point of view, they have been subject to centuries of unquestioned Anglo-Saxon domination, exploitation and neglect, which first saw them fall under the British Crown, and now under the supreme rule of Washington and Canberra, who expect obedience to their cause, but not They deliver nothing. instead.

The Solomon Islands, of course, do not vent their hatred towards these countries, and Sogavare expressed in a visit to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that “we are all family”. However, it wants to be a strategically independent and autonomous nation that is not dominated by anyone. It no longer wants to be a ‘backyard’.

And for that, China provides a great opportunity. While the US and its allies have refused to invest in Solomon Islands development, China’s market access and investment is a real game changer for the country with a population of just 686,878. people.

In doing so, Solomon Islands is not leaning towards a pro-China alignment (since such a position would be unwise under the circumstances), but is in fact leaning towards non-alignment, i.e. gaining benefits from all sides while they make it clear that the country is not a mere springboard for regional military hegemony.

The United States and Australia have long demanded that the Solomon Islands not host a Chinese military base as part of the security agreement. However, they should have anticipated that this would work both ways. If China is not allowed to have a military presence there, why should others?

This is how a small set of islands carve out their own independent position in the Pacific Ocean and navigate the conflict between the United States and China while ensuring that they are not caught in it as a mere pawn. With the backing of China, the United States and Australia can no longer take the Solomon Islands for granted or simply walk over them.

This elevates the status, power, and importance of this country, whereas if China had never been on the scene, we would never have heard of the country.


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