Pacific island countries have the political wisdom not to become US’ tactic pawn
Published: Aug 05, 2022 03:49 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Between August 6 and 8, a delegation led by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy will visit the Solomon Islands. One key agenda of this visit has been announced to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, a six-month campaign that took place in August 1942 that decisively reversed the thrust of aggression of the imperial Japanese forces in the Pacific, an important event contributing to the ultimate victory over the Japanese fascism. 

However, against the current backdrop of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, this visit carries an ulterior motive which is contrary to its purported mission to memorialize and honor peace. In fact, as many international analysts and media outlets have observed, Sherman and Kennedy's trip aims to hinder China's "growing influence" in the region, impede the Pacific island countries' increasingly booming and fruitful cooperation with China, and disrupt the course of economic and social development in the Pacific islands with China as a key partner.

China's aid and assistance programs, joint economic projects, and investment and trade activities in the Pacific region have been appreciably successful. They are based on the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefits. The island countries and their people have substantively profited from such cooperation, with their national economies thriving and local infrastructure improved and upgraded. 

One of the key elements of this success story is that China never assumes a condescending stance, and never attaches any political strings to assistance and aid programs and other trade and investment activities in the island countries. Respect, sincerity and transparency are the keystones to this flourishing partnership, winning the trust and support of the Pacific governments and peoples.

The US has apparently identified the South Pacific as a strategic arena to contest with, curtail and obstruct China's peaceful development. The recent years have seen an ever more frenetic campaign with Washington enlisting its allies to flagrantly interfere with the island countries' internal and foreign policies. 

The Solomon Islands is one of the latest preys of such bullying tactics that have aimed to coerce Honiara to submit to the West's pressures and turn away from its constructive and productive partnership with China. The US, along with the self-proclaimed "deputy sheriff," Australia, had repeatedly exerted browbeating pressures and menaces to thwart a recent security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China. Such intimidation essentially is neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism in a new disguise. 

Caroline Kennedy told reporters when she arrived in Canberra in late July as the latest US ambassador that the Pacific region was critical to the US and "we are coming back." However, the Pacific island countries have intimate and agonizing memories of the colonial past, and are wary and vigilant of the West's "second coming."

For decades, the island countries and their peoples have been ruthlessly exploited and later neglected by the West. The US even once used the South Pacific as its nuclear weapons testing and dumping site during the Cold War. Western aid to the region had significantly dwindled, with the Pacific islands' economy discounted and the people's livelihood disregarded.

It is therefore plain to any observer that Washington's latest sudden attention toward the South Pacific countries has its vested geopolitical and strategic motives. Ever since the US had identified China as its biggest strategic rival, it has been recruiting its allies and partners in the malign efforts to ostracize China from this region. A series of smear and scare-mongering campaigns have been launched to stir and hype up the "China threat theory." Meanwhile, sugar-coated policies and programs have been hastily announced to entice and coax local governments and some of the local people to preclude and reject cooperation with China.

Sherman and Kennedy's visit has also been craftily shrouded with a personal tint, with their fathers as participants in the Guadalcanal battle. History has been sentimentally invoked and manipulated in order to entice and enlist the Solomon Islanders to engage in America's new crusade. However, the Solomon Islands and other Pacific island countries have the political wisdom not to become the US' tactic pawn, with their judicious foreign policy of being "friends to all and enemies to none."

The author is a professor and director of the Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn