B.A Tomasi, Honiara
The reality of China being an important development partner must be taken seriously if any smaller Pacific Islands states wants to advance its economic and infrastructure development. The case of the Solomon Islands since 2019 is a clear example of how China’s involvement can have significant repercussions on a country’s infrastructure and economic landscape. Since the Solomon Islands decided to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish relations with China, there has been a noticeable shift in capital infrastructure development, a key strategic focus which is essential and undoubtedly brings economic benefits. Hence, the experience of the Solomon Islands is an important lesson for other Pacific neighbours. This article briefly analyses the outcome, impact, and influence of the five-year bilateral relationship and cooperation between the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China.
China’s investment in the Solomon Islands has brought about significant changes in the country’s development landscape. The surge of infrastructure projects like the world-class Pacific Games facilities has made us proud of successfully hosting the biggest and best in the region so far. China also strategically invest in essential productive and social infrastructures for effective service delivery including education, health, police and national security. Apart from that, China’s investment support in rural economic and infrastructure development initiatives throughout the constituencies remains significant. Additionally, the Rural Sustainable Development Program (RSDP) under the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) is also taking root and shape. These investment opportunities are not only crucial, but essential initiatives towards promoting economic growth witnessed in the last five years.
The choice for a better alignment to match China’s support has undeniably changed how our traditional donor partners operate in the last few decades. As a result, we have witnessed a more diversified and dynamic approach these days. There has been a drastic shift in their “business as usual” approach and style. It is the first time in decades that aid-donor support increased, was approachable, and was flexible enough to counterbalance China’s heavy support and investment. For instance, for the first time in 2021, the Australian Government announced a financial increase for police and national security initiatives. The shift has also impacted other donor partners. It is more like a “domino effect.” Therefore, we witnessed much shifting because of the need for better alignment with China.
This shift in aid-donor support reflects the changing geopolitical landscape and the increasing influence of China on the global stage. Donor countries recognize the importance of countering China’s growing influence and adjust their strategies accordingly. This shift is evident in financial support for security initiatives and other areas, such as infrastructure development and economic partnerships. The goal is to create a more balanced and competitive environment where multiple actors have a say in shaping the future of international development. Solomon Islands’ experience is relevant and important for progress and growth.
We have also seen greater emphasis on economic development and infrastructure projects as donor partners aim to compete with China’s extensive Belt and Road Initiative. The shifts are historical and are positive gains for the country. Despite criticism, challenges, and risks, the DCGA coalition must be acknowledged for such a bold decision that bears fruit today. Without the switch and recognition of the One China Policy, such changes would not have occurred.
The recognition of the One China Policy has not only brought about a shift in approach and increased competition among donor partners. However, it has also opened up new avenues for collaboration and cooperation. We had already been at the centre of all these changes. By aligning with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, our traditional donor partners have tapped into new sources of funding and investment, leading to the development of crucial economic and infrastructure development initiatives.
To date, we have seen, felt, and reached the positive outcomes, impact, and influence of the benefits and positive changes that the cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Solomon Islands brings about. Overall, the collaboration between China and the Solomon Islands has proven to be a mutually beneficial relationship.
Based on the “friends to all and enemies to none” policy objective, the Solomon Islands has been reaping the benefits of its 2019 stance on recognizing the “One China Policy.” By recognizing the “one China Policy,” the Solomon Islands government has opened up a plethora of economic and diplomatic opportunities. Overall, the decision has proven to be rewarding, benefiting the Solomon Islands both economically and politically. Hence, the Solomon Islands’ success story serves as a beacon of inspiration for other Pacific neighbours to explore the possibilities of partnering with China and harnessing its resources for their growth and prosperity.