China-Solomon Islands joint efforts for mutual prosperity deepens, despite unsubstantiated opposition from the West
PM Sogavare says it's stupid not to seize the opportunities offered by China
Published: Jul 13, 2023 09:47 PM
A view of a costal village in Solomon Islands. Photo:IC

A view of a costal village in Solomon Islands. Photo:IC

Solomon Islands, with a population of more than 700,000, is a beautiful country consisting of six major islands and more than 900 smaller islands in Melanesia, South Pacific. 

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is paying an official visit to China. The visit, the second in four years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in September 2019, signifies the deepening of warming bilateral ties.

During the visit, a significant number of agreements were signed, covering a wide range of cooperative endeavors on infrastructure, aviation, fishing and other areas, marking that the bilateral economic and trade relations are entering a phase of rapid development.

By all metrics, the visit by Prime Minister Sogavare was a complete success, and is of great significance to promoting closer partnership between China and Solomon Islands.

However, the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands has been vilified and smeared by Western media. 

The news of the deepening cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands has been characterized by skeptical voices in the West, as hurting Western countries' national security.

The Australian government has called on Solomon Islands to publish the cooperation details between the two countries, claiming it is concerned the deal will invite "regional contest" in the Pacific, reported.

Not 'a chess piece'
The excessive reaction from the Western politicians and media highlights their long-time perception of the Solomon Islands as "a chess piece" in their exercise of geopolitics, Chinese experts said.

"China is relatively a late participant to the South Pacific region, where the Western powers have long engaged in resource exploitation and colonization...following the independence of South Pacific nations, the remnants left behind by Western countries have resulted in dilapidated economies that hindered local development," Chen Hong, executive director at the Asia Pacific Studies Center of East China Normal University, told the Global Times.

Through cooperation with China, particularly under the BRI framework, some Pacific countries have witnessed marked progress in the past years. But some Western countries consistently badmouth and distort China's cooperation with the Solomon Islands through narratives such as "police cooperation" and forming "debt trap" which is wicked. 

At the launch of the country's embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, Sogavare told the Global Times that China is a great country, and for countries like the Solomon Islands and other similar Pacific Island countries, it would be "very stupid" not to increase cooperation with China, and seize the development opportunities that China offers.

'We're good friends'
"China is our good friend, and it can help us achieve our development goals," Sogavare said.

During his official visit to Beijing, the practical cooperation and prospects of the two countries' partnership, especially under the BRI, were highlighted.

In the recent Joint Statement on Establishing a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Featuring Mutual Respect and Common Development for the New Era between China and Solomon Islands, both nations noted their commitment to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, form greater synergy between the BRI and the 2035 Development Strategy of Solomon Islands.

The two countries pledged to expand practical cooperation in a wide range of areas including trade and investment, agriculture, aviation, energy, minerals, fishery, and infrastructure construction.

The Chinese side will continue to provide assistance to the Solomon Islands to the best of its capacity to help it achieve independent and sustainable development, including supporting rural sustainable development in Solomon Islands, according to the joint statement.

Prior to the announcement of the joint statement, the collaborative efforts between the two sides had yielded many positive outcomes.

One good example is the construction of venues for the 2023 Pacific Games to be held in the Solomon Islands. It represents the first major engineering project undertaken by Chinese companies since the establishment of the diplomatic relations. The project has provided employment opportunities for more than 700 local workers. 

Another notable example is the recent signing of a contract for the access road construction of the Tina River Hydropower in the Solomon Islands by the Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina), the Global Times learned from the company on Thursday.

The project marks PowerChina's successful entry into the local market. The construction period is 18 months. Once completed, the project will provide convenient conditions for the main power station construction, alleviate local power shortage, and promote local economic and social development, according to PowerChina.

Despite diplomatic relations set up only four years ago, China and the Solomon Islands have already embarked on a series of comprehensive strategic cooperation projects. 

No strings attached 
China and South Pacific cooperation, which is based on mutual benefit and respect, has delivered tangible results. But, the US and Australia consistently smear China's partnerships with South Pacific island nations, even pressuring them to take sides. Chinese experts warn that these actions harm the long-term development of these nations.

"From a geopolitical standpoint, Australia has long regarded the Solomon Islands as within its sphere of influence. Australia has sought to exert control over the Solomon Islands but has been unable to promote their independent and autonomous development," Song Wei, a professor at the school of international relations and diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times.

"It is evident that despite years of assistance, Australia has failed to help the Solomon Islands establish an independent and integrated industrial system," the expert said.

China, on the other hand, approaches development cooperation with the Solomon Islands from the perspective of promoting the development of all developing countries, without attaching any political strings.

China's cooperation with the Solomon Islands prominently supports the country's independent and sustainable development, focusing on establishing a relatively complete economic system and consistently ramping up its economic security, Song said.