- China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has toured the Pacific islands seeking security deals with them.
- His aim was to boost Beijing’s presence in the region, says foreign policy expert Alexander Görlach.
- In this op-ed, Görlach analyzes why China’s moves are worrying so many different nations.
This is an edited, translated version of an op-ed that originally appeared on May 31, 2022.
Under President Xi Jinping, evidence of the Uighur genocide has brought China heavy criticism.
In Hong Kong, China has deployed an extreme hard-liner who, as one of his first official acts, had 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen — a democracy-movement supporter — arrested last month.
The message was clear: In Hong Kong, freedom of religion was at an end.
Recently, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, completed a tour of the Pacific islands, aiming to increase Beijing’s influence in the region through security deals.
Yi told countries in the region not to be “too anxious” about China and its aims, but he also refused to take any questions from Pacific-island journalists, with some being physically prevented from asking questions, according to a report in The Guardian.
For now, the Pacific islands have been unable to agree on a regional deal, but the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Samoa have made bilateral deals with Beijing, while Kiribati is in advanced talks on deals of its own, the Financial Times has reported.
Australia and the US have both shown concern over China’s plans in the region, and The Japan Times also reported that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is closely monitoring China’s moves.
China’s goal is not to improve the quality of life for people in the Pacific, but to become the predominant power there.
It wants to become the dominant force in the region so that it can dictate world trade, with the power to manipulate or halt it as it sees fit, and this strategy is becoming increasingly clear.
The deal that China proposed to the Pacific islands focused on security. It would have China become involved in training local police, meaning Chinese security forces would be stationed on the islands.
Cybersecurity was also a key part of the deal. But in reality, this was just a way for China to gain control of the internet and telecommunications on the islands.
Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea, where it has built and militarized a number of islands, hint at its true intentions in the Pacific.
The Spratly Islands are one of the territories that China has claimed and built upon, with Beijing ignoring a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that judged its claims to the territory — which are based on “the nine-dash line” — have “no legal basis.”
But Jinping has already shown that he believes in the law of the strongest.
His government has become involved in a number of territorial disputes, most famously threatening its island neighbor, Taiwan, with invasion.
Similarly, the Biden administration warned the Solomon Islands that it would take action if its deal with China were to threaten the US or its allies in any way.
The US has hardened its policy toward China, but other Western countries have yet to realize the need to follow suit.
Putin’s war against Ukraine has shown how high the costs can be when world governments take too long to respond.