By Tom Tom
In the past year, uniformed Chinese police officers, especially members of the China Police Liaison Team (CPLT), have become more visible in Solomon Islands media due to greater publicity through the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) media unit. Recently, Kung Fu has become the image of Chinese police visibility. On 15 September 2022, the RSIPF media unit released a statement about Chinese police providing self-defense training to women and children at Tulagi in the Central Islands Province. It was accompanied by a picture of a Chinese police officer leading the training. On October 19, 2022, the police media unit released pictures of similar Kung Fu trainings for women and children in Buala, Isabel Province. This probably went unnoticed by many geopolitical pundits focused on the China-Solomon Islands security agreement.
These one-off training sessions are unlikely to provide participants the skills to defend themselves, much less become Kung Fu masters. But they tickle Solomon Islanders’ fascination with Kung Fu, influenced by Hollywood and movie stars like Bruce Lee, Jet Lee and Jackie Chan. The Chinese embassy in Honiara uses this as a community outreach while simultaneously capitalizing on an aspect of Chinese culture that charms the interests of many Solomon Islanders and doubles as self-defense against an undefined enemy. These community Kung Fu outreaches are part of the broader production and dissemination of images and media statements mostly captured and written by Chinese officials in Honiara and distributed via the RSIPF media unit. These images normalize Chinese police presence and policing methods and legitimized by being distributed through the RSIPF media unit.
Chinese police officers are not the only foreign officers in Solomon Islands. They arrive in a country and society already familiar with and largely receptive to the presence of foreign police and military personnel. This stems from nearly fourteen years of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) (2003–2017) and the redeployment of Australian, New Zealand, Fijian and Papua New Guinea police and military personnel following the 2021 Honiara riots. The presence of foreign police and military personnel is therefore familiar to Solomon Islanders.
But within a relatively short period, Chinese police officers have successfully marketed themselves as partners, community benefactors, and protectors. Through the Kung Fu trainings, the “wolf warrior” assumes a benign and protective/self-defense role, while remaining the master in charge.
The Kung Fu lubricates the PR campaign in ways that would not work with Australia’s iconic song, “Waltzing Matilda”.