Chinese firm denies Australian media reports of acquisition deal in Solomon Islands
Published: Aug 01, 2022 10:40 PM
Solomon islands Photo:VCG

Solomon islands Photo:VCG

A Chinese forestry firm on Monday denied Australian media reports about an acquisition deal in the Solomon Islands, while observers dismissed the media hype over the rumored deal as another attempt by Australia to smear Chinese cooperation with South Pacific countries.  

In a fresh gesture of hostility, the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) said in an article on its website that state-owned China Forestry Group Corp (CFGC) is in negotiations to buy a hardwood forestry plantation on the Kolombangara island. The island in the Solomon Islands archipelago "features a protected harbor, deep-water port and an airstrip," according to the ABC report.

An executive of CFGC's strategic investment division told the Global Times on Monday that "we don't have relevant acquisition activities in the island [as reported by Australian media]."

CFGC, the only centrally administered firm in China's forestry industry, operates 224 enterprises globally and is the main force in the country's ecological civilization construction and forestry modernization, according to the firm's website. 

Rumors about the plantation deal are a continuation of scaremongering about China's interests in the South Pacific, said Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University.

As an independent sovereign nation, the Solomon Islands is entitled to making business decisions based on its own economic development needs; hence, the Pacific nation's business deals with other countries shouldn't be politicized, Chen told the Global Times on Monday.

The latest Australian coverage epitomizes conventional Western practice that accuses China of leveraging its financial heft to influence investment destinations' politics and society, the observer said, lambasting such claims as groundless.

It is the US and Australia, among other Western nations, that have been shown to be adept at playing to their economic strengths; however, they have tried to frame China with such dirty tricks, he remarked, speaking of sinister motives behind such attempts that are intended to demonize and exclude China's presence in the South Pacific.

The Monday report, which hyped China's strategic ambitions in the Pacific, intentionally turned a deaf ear to official statements from both China and the Solomon Islands against disinformation about military base plans, experts said.

During a press conference in June, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that some media outlets were hyping up a regional security agreement China intends to sign with Pacific island countries and that was simply fake news, and China has come to the South Pacific region to build roads and bridges and improve people's lives, not to deploy troops or establish military bases.

In an interview with China Media Group in May, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare also said that what the Western media continues to highlight is China's plans to establish a military base in the Solomon Islands, but a lot of what's been said is based on misinformation. China is not talking about any military base, Sogavare reportedly said.