0 $
2,500 $
5,000 $
1,020 $
6 DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER

Backyard Jitters: Australia, China’s Military and The Solomon Islands

Support SouthFront

Backyard Jitters: Australia, China’s Military and The Solomon Islands

Illustrative Image

Written by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The impression given was that of a temple burgled by blaspheming reprobates.  But Australian politicians were having none of it.  A draft official document published online by an adviser to the Malaita Provincial Government of Premier Daniel Suidani suggested that China was considering some military presence in The Solomons.  In its current form, Beijing would be able to send police, armed police and military personnel.

The Canberra establishment got antsy: What were those wicked freedom-hating representatives of the Middle Kingdom up to?  This was, after all, part of the Australian backyard they were poking their noses in.  The response was predictable and quick: a promise of AU$20 million in extra aid, the creation of a spanking new radio network, budget support and an extension of the Solomons International Assistance force.

Spoon-full measures about sovereignty were readily distributed through the press outlets and public.  Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan, the sober side of government paranoia, suggested that The Solomons was at risk of losing its sovereignty to China.  Australia, in contrast, had made sure that everything it had done enhanced “the sovereignty of Pacific nations, to make sure everything we’re doing is to help and support them when it comes to their sovereignty.”  The great regional helper, and local hope.

This was so clotting in arterial richness it ignored the fact that Australia’s own sovereignty, auctioned off to US troop rotations, base expansion, nuclear-powered submarines and Pine Gap, is not an example to emulate.

Australia’s Pacific backyard has become, over time, a default extension of US power, with Australian personnel keeping their eyes peeled at the incursions of any rivals.  Australia’s relationship with the Pacific is also one governed by a traditional donor-charity relationship, lately characterised by a hunger for interference.

The most prominent interference in The Solomons, even if it came in the form of a request by various officials in the country, was the 2003 intervention by Australia to arrest the implosion of what was uncharitably termed a “failed state”.  Prime Minister John Howard stated in July 2003 that, “We know that a failed state in our region, on our doorstep will jeopardise our own security.”

Cheering on this change of heart for an intervention was the Australian Strategic and Policy Institute, Washington’s cashed-up megaphone in Canberra.  The situation had, wrote Elsina Wainwright with stern warning, “paralysed the country’s capital, stifled its economy, disrupted government, discouraged aid donors, and inflicted suffering and hardship on its people.  It had virtually ceased to function as an effective national entity.”

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was marketed as an exercise of generous paternalism, speckled with good traces of self-interest.  It signalled a sharp departure from Australia’s previous policy that had been more disposed to the sovereignty of South Pacific states, if only because keeping one’s hands clean was a good idea.

With Canberra now more concerned about the possible exercises of independence by their Pacific neighbours, the desire to guide and meddle is stronger than ever.  In late 2017, the Solomon Islands again featured in aggressive Australian efforts to influence the award of the contract to build an undersea internet cable between Honiara and Sydney.

The sovereignty of the island state was less significant then than ensuring that China’s Huawei Marine were not involved in the process.  Jonathan Pryke of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Island Program summed the matter up: “This was seen as a red line that Australia would not cross and so we jumped in with a better deal providing the cable as a grant that would be implemented with a procurement partner of Australia’s choosing – that wouldn’t be Chinese.”

Local politics is also playing its part.  Solomon Islands Opposition Leader Matthew Wale has not been shy in claiming that the Australians have been asleep.  Last year, he attempted to wake Canberra from its slumber regarding a potential national security agreement with Beijing.  “I have intimated as much to the Australian High Commissioner and officials that this was in the offing, even as far back as last year – the indications were there and the Australian government did nothing about it – so I’m extremely disappointed.”

The penny should have dropped in November when Canberra hastily deployed police and military personnel to Honiara to help pacify anti-government riots.  At the time, Beijing had made murmurings of a possible deployment of law enforcement personnel.  This did not prevent a team of Chinese police officers being sent to the Solomon Islands last month, wordily known as the People’s Republic of China Public Security Bureau’s Solomon  Islands Policing Advisory Group.  Their mission: aiding the local police force in improving their “anti-riot capabilities”.

Wale is hoping that the bilateral security agreement between Honiara and Canberra can be refashioned and expanded as a weapon against any Chinese military presence.  In a rather rambling statement, he claimed that his country had “benefited from that treaty with Australia, what does that treaty not able to give us, maybe that should be a subject of discussions with Australia, New Zealand as opposed to going into a new treaty altogether with China.”

The concern about Beijing is not uniformly shared, even within the ranks of the Australian government.  Liberal MP Warren Entsch is optimistic about the inevitable demise of the Beijing-Honiara draft agreement.  “There’s lots of things happening there that we can continue to work with them”.  He regularly came across “Chinese announcements, but at the end of the day I’m yet to see anything come to fruition.”

Some of the politicians of the South Pacific are already realising that money and rewards can be made from such concerns.  Paranoia can provide a rich quarry to mine.  It’s time to cash in, and the governors of Solomon Islands should be advised to do so.  To obtain resources and aid from both Beijing and Canberra would suggest an advanced form of admirable, sparkling cunning.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He currently lectures at RMIT University.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Support SouthFront

SouthFront

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Claire Mary Jenkins

“clotting in arterial richness” Such an evocative and astute description.

hash
hashed
Timothy McInnes

⁣⁣⁣𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐫𝐚 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐤… 𝐋𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐧𝐨 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞!!!! 𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 $𝟗𝟓/𝐩𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐮𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞… 𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐝𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝟔 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡 𝐢’𝐯𝐞 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐦𝐲 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐢𝐯𝐞-𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐲𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐜𝐤 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫……http://Jobsthings.ml/

hash
hashed
Last edited 5 months ago by Timothy McInnes
Nott

Casinos, pollution, housing&land bubbles are what they bring

hash
hashed
Karl

It seems strange that the same countries who said that Ukraine has a right to “choose” its allies, or in other words self-determination, do not seem to apply that logic to countries who choose to tilt towards perceived rival states, and there’s plenty of historical examples to back it up with.

hash
hashed
4
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x