China-Solomon Islands ties poised to set example for South-South cooperation
Published: Jul 02, 2024 06:31 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Jeremiah Manele, the new prime minister of the Solomon Islands, is on his inaugural international tour since he took office in May. His visit started with his country's closest neighbor, Australia, and will wrap up with a meeting between Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and Japan's prime minister and top officials in Tokyo. The central part of this trip is in China with meetings with the Chinese leadership and visits to the provinces of Fujian and Shandong. According to an AFP report, "Manele wishes to use the visit to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries and reaffirm his government's commitment to working with China in areas of mutual interest."

China and the Solomon Islands established a diplomatic relationship in 2019. Bilateral relations have since developed rapidly with fruitful outcomes benefiting both countries and peoples. China's aid programs, joint ventures, investment programs and trade activities have exceedingly contributed to the recent economic growth of this underdeveloped island country. In particular, China has been extensively supporting the build-up and upgrading of the Solomon Islands' infrastructure, significantly improving the country's transport and logistic capacities. 

This has led to improved business conditions and environment, boosting trade and investment cooperation with China and other countries, ultimately contributing to the country's economic development.

However, due to the lack of sufficient development of a local governance system during the Solomon Islands' time under Western colonial rule, continual social unrest used to plague the island country. In 2021, the capital, Honiara, experienced violent riots and turmoil, with the local police force unable to effectively bring the situation under control due to inadequate policing capabilities and a shortage of necessary anti-rioting equipment. 

To enhance its law-enforcement capacities, the Solomon Islands' police authorities sought help from their Chinese counterparts, who proactively responded with substantive support. China donated policing equipment and provided specialized training programs to the Solomon Islands' police force. Progresses are perceptibly significant. The 2023 Pacific Games and the 2024 general election took place smoothly and successfully, testifying the drastic improvement of the country's policing professionalism and capacities.

When meeting with the island country's then prime minister Manasseh Sogavare in July 2023, China's President Xi Jinping pointed out China's "four full respects" policy toward PICs. China fully respects the sovereignty and independence of the Solomon Islands and other PICs, their will their cultural traditions and their efforts to seek strength through unity. This policy serves as the fundamental guiding principle for China's relations with other developing countries, in particular the PICs. Although today's world is still undergoing unpredictable changes and sometimes tumultuous turbulences, China always remains a trustworthy friend and a reliable brother of the PICs, and always stays committed to building an even closer community with a shared future with them.

In recent years, the Biden administration has stepped up the implementation of its "Indo-Pacific Strategy," which is purported to deter, disrupt and derail China's development and its mutually beneficial cooperation with the rest of the world. Washington has positioned the South Pacific as a key arena for its rivalry with China. A malicious scare and smear campaign has been waged to demonize and sabotage China's cooperation with the PICs, including the highly successful partnership with the Solomon Islands. Such deceitful attempts of rumor-mongering underestimate the political wisdom of the governments and peoples of the island countries.

When he took his first interview with international media after taking the prime ministerial office, Manele expressly pointed out that the Solomon Islands government's decision in 2019 to establish a diplomatic relationship with China "brings the Solomon Islands to the right side of history. It was a sovereign decision, and if I may say, perhaps the most important decision we have made since independence... I expect the relationship between the two countries to grow and be a model for South-South cooperation."

We have the confidence that in defiance of the external disruptions and interference, the China-Solomon partnership will continue to grow and benefit the island country to develop, as its national anthem envisions, into a country where its people "experience joy, peace, progress and prosperity."

The author is a professor and executive director of the Asia Pacific Studies Centre at East China Normal University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn