In Washington’s ongoing efforts to confront and contain China’s rise on the global stage, it has announced yet another bloc, the “Partnership in Blue Pacific.”
The Financial Times in a recent article titled, “US and allies launch initiative to help Pacific Island nations,” would claim, regarding the stated objective of the new bloc, that:
The scheme aims to help small island nations — such as Fiji, Palau, Samoa and the Marshall Islands — tackle issues from climate change to illegal fishing, but it also marks a stepped-up effort to counter Chinese initiatives.
The island nations face issues much more serious than “climate change” and “illegal fishing,” suffering from decades of poverty and political instability. These stated objectives of the new partnership which includes the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and possibly even France, are merely pretexts for the US and its allies to reassert themselves over these nations and prevent them from alleviating these much more serious setbacks – setbacks rooted in Western exploitation and colonization stretching back generations.
The Financial Times would also note:
One US official told the Financial Times it would include a range of measures, including boosting diplomatic presences across the region, and helping countries tackle climate change and illegal fishing. He said the US would also supply more COVID-19 vaccines to countries, and added that the initiative would also include an arrangement to send young leaders from the region to executive education courses in America.
The latter most point, “executive education courses in America,” is a means of indoctrinating young leaders, networking them into circles of US interests and utilizing them to advance US foreign policy objectives. It is a method of control and colonization practiced by empire stretching back to Roman times, documented by Tacitus in his book Agricola concerning the Roman conquest of the Gauls.
It is also worth repeating the Financial Times pointing out that this initiative is a “stepped-up effort to counter Chinese initiatives.” No initiative is mentioned by the Financial Times or any other Western publication in relation to what the US and its “Partnership in Blue Pacific” are actually countering.
This is done deliberately. Chinese initiatives across the Pacific island nations are focused on boosting trade, building infrastructure, facilitating new industries and expanding nascent opportunities. China is also stepping in to underwrite peace and stability in the form of security pacts.
For the US to “counter” these initiatives, it would require blocking trade, stifling development, undermining infrastructure investment, as well as sabotaging peace and stability.
Far from mere speculation, this is precisely what is unfolding in the Solomon Islands whose growing relationship with Beijing triggered the creation of the “Partnership in the Blue Pacific” to begin with.
The Solomon Islands: Harbinger for What’s to Come
In 2019, the Solomon Islands made a decision to recognize the One China policy, shifting recognition from the Taiwan-based “Republic of China” to the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. The Solomon Islands and a small number of other nations had adopted this position, mainly through both pressure and bribes paid by the US (who itself ironically recognizes the One China policy) and the administration in Taiwan. Before China’s rise as an economic superpower, the benefits of this arrangement outweighed the costs.
This is no longer the case. The opportunities China’s rise have opened up for nations like the Solomon Islands have offered a path out of subordination to the West and the poverty and destabilization that characterize it. Thus, in 2019 the Solomon Islands joined Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Despite these opportunities, there are still costs for the Solomon Islands and others across the Pacific for choosing Beijing over the status quo imposed by the West
The very next year after the Solomon Islands shifted its diplomatic stance regarding China, an article in the Diplomat titled, “US Aid Pledge to Pro-Taiwan Solomon Islands Province Raises Eyebrows,” would admit:
The United States has pledged $25 million in aid to the Solomon Islands province of Malaita, which has in recent weeks made calls for secession from the national government over its relationship with China.
Malaita, the largest province in the Solomon Islands, announced its plan to hold a referendum on independence last month, citing the central government’s switch in diplomatic relations with Taiwan to China last year. The decision has put Malaita at odds with the rest of the country, as Malaita preferred to continue relations with Taiwan.
The article would go on to note:
The US aid package, more than 50 times what the province received in aid from all countries in 2018, has sparked concerns that Washington is using the aid for geopolitical gain, to counter China – despite the risks it poses in flaring old tensions.
The article would then explain just precisely what these “old tensions” were:
The Solomon Islands endured five years of civil war between 1998 and 2003 as the country was split along ethnic, cultural, and political lines between Malaita, the second largest and most populous province and Guadalcanal, the largest by area and second by population, and home to the central government, in the capital Honiara.
The US was not alone in manipulating, dividing, and disrupting political stability in the Solomon Islands. A 2021 Diplomat article titled, “Taiwan Must Avoid Pouring Fuel on Solomon Islands Fire,” would reveal:
…while the bribery became more sophisticated, it had previously been indiscriminate. In June 2001, a US$25-million loan to the Solomons from Taiwan’s Export Import Bank (EXIM) was announced by Taipei. The suitably vaguely stated purpose was to foster peace by compensating the victims of the ethnic conflict that had ravaged the islands since 1998.
But while some of the money went to legitimate causes – displaced families and unpaid civil servants – the lion’s share ended up lining the pockets of politicians and militia leaders. Armed gangs held up government ministers for “compensation” as Honiara descended into mob rule.
At the end of 2021, deadly violence would erupt when mobs from Malaita stormed the capital of Honiara, attacking Chinatown in particular, leading to widespread arson and even several deaths.
Turning to China Specifically Because of the “Partnership” with the West
The US and its allies, including the administration in Taipei, have and continue attempting to control the Solomon Islands through coercion, dividing its society, funding and backing violent mobs and even armed militias to create and maintain a constant threat looming over Honiara if and when the government seeks to pursue its own interests rather than facilitate those of Washington.
While the US and its “Partnership in Blue Pacific” claim China’s growing influence across the Pacific is a development that requires “countering,” it is actually decades of neglect, exploitation, and interference that convinced the Solomon Islands and many others working with Beijing that it is worth it despite the risks.
Pacific island nations, as the Solomon Islands help illustrate, do face tangible security threats, threats that are not only not being addressed by their “traditional partners” in the West, but threats created deliberately by them.
The West frames security deals proposed by Beijing with these nations to address these threats as merely Beijing attempting to expand military dominance outward across the region. It should be remembered, however, that Chinese trade across the region is both the engine of China’s rise and also what is helping lift the rest of the region with it. The trade surplus the Solomon Islands enjoys is owed to its trade with China. Trade can and regularly is disrupted by instability both between nations and within them. The late 2021 violence in Honiara literally targeted and destroyed Chinese businesses as well as disrupted and threatened the lives of the people China does business with in the Solomon Islands.
There is no hidden agenda that comes with Chinese security deals, it is clearly offered in a bid to create stability Chinese trade requires to continue and prosper.
Conversely, the aforementioned Financial Times article would cite a US official who claimed:
There may be some security steps that we would take over time to help buttress our position in the region. I imagine we’re going to have more ship visits, more engagement. And there may be even something a little bit more permanent.
Since it is the US behind the unrest in the region in the first place, US efforts to militarize these island nations is surely not in pursuit of peace and stability, but to ensure no nation can bring stability, especially China.
It could not be more obvious unless explicitly stated that the “Partnership in Blue Pacific” is a means of maintaining a status quo, one that represents the perpetuation of Western hegemony in the region stretching back generations, and hegemony meant to fence in China to prevent the dynamics in the region from changing. Empire throughout history expands and maintains power by keeping those under its control down. China’s BRI clearly seeks to raise nations up. The “Partnership in Blue Pacific” is just the latest iteration of the West imposing the former to prevent the latter.
Only time will tell if China’s persistent, constructive approach to the region can help build it up faster than the US and its allies can tear it down, or if the US eventually decides to find a constructive role to play among other nations through multipolarism rather than insisting on imposing itself on all other nations through its current policy of unipolarism.
Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.