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The Natives are Getting Uppity

Written By: - Date published: 8:24 pm, March 29th, 2022 - 33 comments
Categories: australian politics, China, colonialism, defence, Diplomacy, FiveEyes, International, jacinda ardern, Pacific, Peace - Tags:

Jacinda Ardern is “gravely concerned.” Peeni Henare was ‘”caught off-guard.”. Barnaby Joyce feels “intimidated.” Solomon Islands PM Sogavare found it “insulting to be branded as unfit to  manage our sovereign affairs.” I think he is right.

Where are all those fine words about democracy we love to preach to others? This is the 21st century, not the 19th, and the independent Solomon Islands government is entitled to make its own arrangements as it sees fit. This doesn’t sound to me like the “new net” going fishing in the Pacific, rather the old net bottom-dredging. Neo-colonialism under the security blanket.

The draft agreement between the Solomon Island and China apparently states:

“China may, according to its own need and with the consent of Solomon Islands, make ship visits, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands, and the relevant forces of China can be used to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands.”

I can see why both the Solomons and China may have an interest in protecting the safety of Chinese personnel and projects. Riots in Honiara last year targeted the Chinese community, and China does take an interest in and look after the safety and concerns of its diaspora. I’m not at all surprised that the Solomons government would appreciate the help of Chinese police and defence personnel is assisting them to keep order. I am sure the Chinese community there will also appreciate it.

Predictably, Taiwan lobbyist Anne-Marie Brady was all over the Australian media ramping this up as “poking the panda.“. In her view, everything China does to protect the interests of its diaspora is malign. But ship visits do not a naval base make – we know this as the  destroyer USS Howard crept into Wellington harbour late last year. The politicians, the pundits and the lobbyists on both sides of the Tasman have gone way overboard on this issue. It does them no credit.

Personally, I’m far more concerned about the Australian government’s proposals to build bases for their nuclear submarines on the east coast of Australia. That will do far more to destabilise the Pacific than a few ship visits to Honiara, or some China-friendly police training. Also, the prevailing winds are westerly.

33 comments on “The Natives are Getting Uppity ”

  1. Stuart Munro 1

    Australia (and NZ too for that matter) haven't always been as good friends of the Pacific as they might have been. Had we been, we might have more reason to protest. If China is behaving with what was typical circumspection before Xi began rattling sabres over Taiwan, there is nothing to be concerned about. China has not been inspired to join or emulate the Putin approach thus far – in fact they seem to be distancing themselves from it.

    Shirvan of Caspian Report floats an issue NZ might need to concern itself with New Zealand at the centre of big power play – YouTube – but unless there are solid indications the Solomons are the thin edge of that particular wedge, we ought to be careful not to overdo the colonial era presumptions.

  2. Peter 2

    I liked the comment about China looking after the safety and concerns of its diaspora. And will do it in its own way of course.

    I presume Hong Kong is part of that diaspora. How's that "looking after" going?

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Or the Chinese diaspora in Australia and NZ for that matter. A very convenient principle this is.

      What shits me is that if it was a western nation doing exactly the same thing, Smith would be predictably ranting anti-imperialist lines. Indeed this is exactly the window of opportunity the CCP has exploited here – because Aus and NZ have not gone in full noise neo-colonial and have to a large degree respected the sovereign operation of the Solomon Is govt – it left the door open for the CCP to buy them outright.

      • Blazer 2.1.1

        You either respect independence and sovereignty or you …don't.

        Speculation on what M.S may or may not say if X or Y occurs does not bolster your…argument,whatsoever.

      • Tiger Mountain 2.1.2

        Well RedLogix, unless you have discovered time travel–who knows what Mike Smith might say in future?

      • Mike the Lefty 2.1.3

        Neither did China seem to care much about its diaspora when Chinese businesses were sacked during the Tongan riots of 2006. But perhaps Tonga wasn't strategically important enough for them to give a toss.

        The Chinese government doesn't do anything out of benevolence, but only if it involves money and power – mostly for the benefit of China.

        I suppose I could be accused of being racist and anti-Chinese, but I have a Chinese spouse and relatives who have told me the same thing more than once.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Agree with Mike Smith on this one. The usual Sinophobic suspects, and rather obscure NATO and US sponsored think tanks and associations are now appearing in media channels.

    NZ, and Australia in particular, have hardly covered themselves in glory over the years with the 5 Eyes backdrop always present in relations with Pacific nations.

    And who is kidding who about imperialist threats–as far as us ordinary people can know via internet search, US Imperialism has approx 750 acknowledged off shore bases and military facilities, PRC perhaps 5!

  4. SPC 4

    That's good of them Rio Tinto relied on Indonesian troops to loot Western Papua.

    Now given that the local administration of one of the islands wants nothing to do with China …

  5. Byd0nz 5

    Ho Hum. Well it could be that a ‘New’ New World Order is coming with China at it’s core. Certainly would be better than the stale’ World Order’ run by the US that has only benefited the rich one percent of the World and after all this time the gap has widened to a chasm.
    This restless native of planet Earth is getting uppity(someone’s nose)

    Surely with the multi billions of weapon construction and sales that represent waste and war, that money could have been used for maintaining infrastructure and the well being of the Worlds’ people. This ‘New’ New World Order could not do worse, coz there’s no worse than worse and the US World Order is certainly the worst.

  6. Ad 6

    Hearing their PM say they are competent to manage their international affairs is laughable.

    The Solomon Islands is regularly considered very close to being a 'failed state'. It has collapsed into civil disorder multiple times since 1998, and is otherwise propped up by foreign countries' aid and development and by the ADB and World Bank.

    Australia and New Zealand have willingly provided the majority of local funding and security support since 1978, with further funding from Japan and the EU.

    When they get to vote, about 25% of them are offered bribes for their vote. 21% have bribed to get a public service in the last 12 months.

    Solomon Islands – Transparency.org

    They have governments that have done nothing but fail. Their population is riven with ethnic tension and their leadership has done nothing about it. Out of their entire Parliament, 4 are women.

    No one expects anyone to be grateful, but no one expects them to make it worse by inviting the Chinese military in either.

    • Sanctuary 6.1

      The most likely outcome of sitting back and allowing this deal will be a pivot by Australia, NZ and the USA to supporting the aspirations of self-governance of the Melitans – and thence to a low intensity civil war which will be allowed to fester along until ANZUS "humanitarian intervention" is required. Or they could call the deal off and take the aid from Anglosphere and Japan and live in reasonable peace.

      The Solomon Islands will stay firmly in the Australian/NZ/USA orbit. They can learn that the hard way, or the easy way.

  7. The Solomons want to have their cake and eat it too.

    "Sogavare said his country was grateful for this security arrangement, which would remain “intact”. But it faced security challenges “so great that there are sufficient space for everyone”, he said."

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/128202394/solomon-islands-pm-rebukes-nz-australia-over-china-security-deal-dismay

    I think New Zealand and Australia should immediately pull all aid, and let the Solomon Islands call on China next time a hurricane comes through. Lets see how that works out for them.

    • Blazer 7.1

      It would work out really well I expect.

      If you look at Fiji, where regime change occurred at gunpoint and despite outrage from ANZUS ,Bainimarama faced down their threats and their attitude changed.

      I see no reason to suggest any different outcome in the…Solomons.

    • Ad 7.2

      NZ never withholds storm emergency aid for political reasons.

      • Blazer 7.2.1

        Haha…

        '

        'The Fiji Government released a new draft constitution two weeks ago, which paved the way for its first democratic elections since a 2006 coup.

        Mr Key, who leaves for the Marshall Islands tomorrow morning, said: "On face value we accept that much of it is heading in the right direction."

        The constitution includes a clause giving immunity to all of those involved in past coups.'

        Key: NZ will accept immunity clause for Fiji coup leaders – NZ Herald

      • tsmithfield 7.2.2

        Why not? Especially when they have a new partner with the capability to sort that sort of stuff for them. Its not like they have been left to fend for themselves if China is as benevolent as they think.

        • McFlock 7.2.2.1

          You're saying the quiet bit out loud again.

          While I wouldn't be surprised if Ad were being a tad sarcastic (aid often being a part of foreign policy, albeit its use more as positive reinforcement rather than its removal as negative negative), explicitly stating that one will happily let citizens of the nation die because of their government's geopolitical realignment might just come across as being a little bit brutal.

          The more intelligent conventional move is to supply as much aid as is needed, covering everything with the supplier's branding. This helps with stock control in a chaotic environment, as well as tells everyone exactly how nice one is.

          • tsmithfield 7.2.2.1.1

            It probably does sound a bit brutal. But so are the potential consequences of having a Chinese Base on the Solomon Islands.

            Probably the diplomatic way to handle it would be to signal to the Solomon Islands that we intend to scale back our support in light of their decision and advise them to seek humanitarian guarantees from China to fill the gap.

            If the Chinese are forthcoming with those, then we probably aren't in any different position to what we were going to be anyway.

            If not, then they may want to give their arrangement with the Chinese second thought, and give us some guarantees about the future scope of Chinese involvement in the Solomons.

            "Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest thing in the nicest way" Isaac Goldberg

            • McFlock 7.2.2.1.1.1

              Yeah – generally the nicest way. Not the most brutal.

              The exception is when it's close to war, in which case one says many things in order to dissemble one's true intentions and thus screw up the opposition's cost/benefit analyses and force distribution.

              Scaling back assistance – even just offeres of such – for the Solomons is essentially ceding our regional influence to the Chinese geopolitical sphere. It also removes the ability for the Solomons to move between the global power structures should they want to.

              Remember, the Solomons are doing the same "grass when elephants fight" dance as we are.

              • tsmithfield

                It is a difficult one. And I do understand the risk of ceding further control to the Chinese. But, on the other hand, I think the action by the Solomons is highly disrespectful of the longterm beneficial relationship that NZ and Australia has provided the Solomons. So, I think there should be consequences for that.

                One thing the situation in Ukraine has shown is that trying to placate aggressive state actors just emboldens them more. So, by doing nothing, the message is that we won't do anything if China decides to exert influence on other local democracies in the area.

                My understanding is that China tends to influence more by long term loans etc that give them strings they can pull. I am not so sure they are big on humanitarian aid and financial support in the way that NZ and Australia provide. So, it probably is an aspect that we can leverage on.

                So far as we are concerned though, we are in danger of being caught under China's spell. We are very vulnerable with the amount of trade we have with them, hence the very diplomatic way we criticise China for human rights abuses in their own land.

                I am thinking there needs to be a "democracy" trade bloc, where countries that support free democracies try to trade with each other as much as possible. This would give an incentive for dictatorships around the world to become more democratic in order to prosper.

                Nothing is easy in all of this.

                • McFlock

                  Part of it is whether we've neglected our own aid budgets, or mis-targeted them over the last decade or two. This can materially affect the strength of democratic institutions in an unstable region of the Pacific.

                  There is also often an intrinsic problem with needs-based aid: assistance goes to the regions most in need, and those regions are often most in need because of domestic politics. One doesn't win the favour of governments by materially supporting their opposition's strongest areas.

                  But that is also too simplistic an interpretation, which doesn't even approach the motivations of key decision-makers. Were they bought by PRC, or did China step in when AUSNZ fucked up the relationship – were we patronising with many micro-indignities? Or is this simply a consequence of Aus in particular being too closely aligned with the US, and the Solomons want to step back into the middle? Does the agreement give as much carte blanche for PRC troops in the Solomons as some seem to fear, or is that a mistranslation or omission of key parts?

                  In general, I think we need to focus on rebuilding the relationship rather than assuming we can punish them for daring to see other people. We all still have to live with each other in the South Pacific.

                  But there's a reason we have foreign ministry wonks and area specialists – relationships are easy to destroy, and take decades to rebuild.

                  • tsmithfield

                    I agree we probably need to increase what we do for our neighbours to increase influence in the region. But I think we should take a strategic approach to that and tie it to maintaining democracy in the regions.

                    Probably one of the big concerns for me (besides the longterm strategic concerns) is that the Solomons, wanting to have Chinese troops present to "protect Chinese infrastructure" as I saw reported, could well be just a proxy to put down dissent in the Solomons, and undermine democracy. We don't want to see that spread.

                    In that sense, we don't want to be in a position where any aid we give is simply enabling and supporting repression of democracy.

                    If that is the aim of the Solomon government, they are playing a very dangerous game IMO. Because China may not necessarily settle for just being a tool of the Solomon government.

                    • McFlock

                      Oh, both parties know the other's game, I reckon. But these are interesting times.

                      I agree we shouldn't help prop up a non-democratic regime, but the Solomons probably aren't there yet. And that would just make us more careful about what aid we provide.

                      In some regards, the treaty might give carte blanche to Chinese forces to advance from their base to secure Chinese-owned businesses (or go even further) if there is further unrest. On the other hand, it might just be the equivalent to enabling US troops to shoot trespassers on US bases in Guantanamo or other facilities around the world.

                      The agreement creates more intensive geopolitical friction in the area, which means NZ needs to make more careful and subtle moves.

  8. Corey Humm 8

    Solomon islands can't even handle their domestic affairs , have you forgotten last November and that we're helping them till May?

    Big Grant Dalton vibes from this post. As in bugger NZ. The big money is overseas i guess… Good grief.

    This is about one thing and one thing only it's about an increasingly imperialistic and hardline China buying off countries in the south Pacific to get a foothold and now they have one.

    Ill always give this blog a lot of credit for allowing both sides of the debate though…. But maaaate have you ever taken a critical position of China? Ever?

    All I ever see from you Mike is whataboutism directed at the west and deflection in defence of China whenever human rights abuses, genocides, authoritarianism, workers rights abusers, govt disappearances or any of the war and peace sized lost of CCP human rights and international laws are mentioned its always deflection and what aboutism.

    I'll get banned for this I know but my goodness.

    Defending the militarization of our region on fake woke talking points is pathetic.

    We live in this region and we have a right to criticize just as we did with aukus.

    You attack NZ and Australias criticism for events going on in our region as Colonialism? Sweet but what about China's neocolonialism? Hmmm? That's what flooding poor nations with all this unrepayable cash for strategic infrastructure is and the fact the USA has done it doesnt make china doing it any better.

    The Chinese people are wonderful people who have contributed so much to this planet.

    The CCP are blood thirsty scumbag authoritarians.

    If this gets me banned so be it.

    Atleast I'm not a tanky.

    • Mark 8.1

      "Sweet but what about China's neocolonialism? Hmmm? That's what flooding poor nations with all this unrepayable cash for strategic infrastructure"

      So simply investing in other countries is neocolonialism? Has China forced any country to agree to its investments. Has China invaded any country to force trade or economic relations against the will of other countries?

      It appears that the one with neocolonial attitudes are people like you, who arrogantly assume that independent non-Western countries do not have the nous to decide on how to conduct their own foreign affairs and requires the intervention of the West to put them right.

  9. Mike Smith 9

    What's a tanky?

  10. theotherpat 10

    and the CCCP has another foothold on our backdoor…..the Solomons will regret this….their fish stocks will be pillaged and whatever development/money given by the CCCP will be used to hang them with….just like in sth america and africa….and if i have to hear again "oh the imperialst USA etc have done this and this " i will puke…yeah they did it and we know it was "wrong" and is not to be used as an excuse for the CCCP to do the same…….i wonder where the money trail goes……………

  11. Grafton Gully 11

    Religion is a factor too and could be a major, given Manasseh's piety.

    "His Excellency Li Ming, applauded acknowledged Prime Minister Sogavare as the initiator of the relationship between our Churches and Churches in China."

    https://www.solomonstarnews.com/prc-ambassador-applauds-pm-for-initiating-relationship-between-our-churches-and-churches-in-prc/

  12. aj 12

    The only religion that counts is money.

    The Ukraine – a decisive transfer of the balance of power from west to east

    Kishore Mahbubani predicted that it will be an Asian 21st century. Prior to 24 February 2022 the progress of the transition of the balance of power from West to East was progressing as a drawn-out process occurring over a decadal timeframe. However, the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is rapidly accelerating this process – an own goal. There is a good chance that 2022 will in hindsight be viewed as the decisive tipping point. Unfortunately, the penny has not yet dropped with Western governments and their compliant media of what their actions have triggered. Enlightened self-interest suggests that a major change in direction is required in the West, Australia included, to make the best of a bad situation.

    https://johnmenadue.com/cameron-leckie-a-decisive-transfer-of-the-balance-power-from-west-to-east/

    Pepe Escobar looks at the bigger picture. Is the world undergoing a transformation as bold as he suggests?

    How Mariupol will become a key hub of Eurasian integration

    The INSTC’s main players are Russia, Iran and India – which are now, post-NATO sanctions, in advanced interconnection mode, complete with devising mechanisms to bypass the US dollar in their trade. Azerbaijan is another important INSTC player, yet more volatile because it privileges Turkey’s connectivity designs in the Caucasus.

    The INSTC network will also be progressively interconnecting with Pakistan – and that means the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key BRI hub, which is slowly but surely expanding to Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s impromptu visit to Kabul late last week was to advance the incorporation of Afghanistan to the New Silk Roads.

    https://thecradle.co/Article/columns/8480

  13. esoteric pineapples 13

    Enjoying your articles Mike

  14. Mark 14

    Great article Mike.

    The Australians are butt hurt because they no longer have the power to enslave Solomon Islanders and other Pacific peoples to work on Queensland plantations like they use to, and the former subjects of Australian enslavement are exercising their right as full sovereign nations to have relations with other nations such as China that were also once under the Western colonial jackboot.

    Blackbirding: legacy of anger in Solomon Islands | RNZ News

  15. It does not make sense for the author to cite the content of the agreement between the Chinese Solomons.

    The author can read China's constitution, which states that everyone has freedom of speech.

    The irony is that if the author went to "China where he doesn't have to worry about",

    he wouldn't even have a chance to publish this article about hugging a panda,

    because he can't just go online.

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