The riots that have shaken Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands since Wednesday, are partly due to changes in the diplomatic alliance that began in 2019 in favor of Beijing. explain.
During the three-day riots, on Friday, November 26, the curfew in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, was extended indefinitely, and the Australian army called for the restoration of order.
Since Wednesday, thousands of demonstrators have been calling on Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (Manasseh Sogavare) to resign. After trying to rush into the parliament building two days ago, they even tried to break into his private residence on Friday.
China issue “explodes the situation”
The intervention of the police, who fired warning shots many times in the past few days, did not calm everyone’s morale. The outbreak of violence by the demonstrators continued, and several shops were set on fire. Not just anywhere: most of the buildings that were attacked were in Honiara’s Chinatown.
This is no coincidence. In fact, the shadow of China and Beijing’s influence over other Western powers in the Pacific have put pressure on this protest movement. A large part of the demonstrators came from Malaita Island, the most populous province in the country. Most residents of the island, including the local government, did not forgive Manasseh Sogavare for making a 180-degree diplomatic shift in 2019. It is close to Beijing and to Taiwan. unfavorable.
Therefore, “strictly speaking, the geopolitical wrestling in the region is not the origin of these riots,” questioned Mihai Sola, a former Australian diplomat who was stationed in the Solomon Islands. New York TimesAnother reason for this movement is that the residents of Marletta are in deep economic and social difficulties. They accused the government of “unfair distribution of the country’s natural resources, making Marletta the least developed area in the archipelago”. Memories of the diplomat, A website dedicated to providing news in Asia.
Nonetheless, “the controversy surrounding China’s influence has weakened the social cohesion of the archipelago and made the situation more explosive,” Mihaisola added. In this sense, the Solomon Islands illustrates very specifically how the increasing geopolitical tensions between the United States and its allies on the one hand, and China on the other hand, undermine the stability of the entire territory. Therefore, in a territory with a total population of only 668,000, a social movement aroused the interest of the international media.
From pro-Taiwan to pro-Beijing
Until recently, the Solomon Islands held a special place on the diplomatic map: the islands were one of 16 countries that recognized Taiwan as an independent country. The 1983 decision made the Solomon Islands one of China’s major diplomatic problems in Oceania.
The diplomat pointed out that as Beijing “becomes a great power on the international stage”, China’s anger will only increase. Xi Jinping, who came to power in China in 2012, firmly hopes to expand China’s influence in the world through the famous New Silk Road (China Investment Plan), which makes the Solomon Islands a diplomatic challenge. Beijing’s Tiandian Courtyard—the Pacific Ocean—is even more unbearable.
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In 2019, everything changed with Manasseh Sogavare’s fourth term. The outgoing prime minister has promised to reverse the league game and support Beijing. In September 2019, the new government took action to no longer recognize Taiwan as an independent country. In this process, the Solomon Islands adhered to the principles of the New Silk Road and the “One China Policy” (“One China Policy”, which treats Taiwan as part of Chinese territory).
Manasseh Sogavare justified this diplomatic change by pursuing the economic interests of the archipelago. “For 36 years, Taiwan has provided only US$460 million in aid to the Solomon Islands, and in 2017 alone, the islands exported US$554.8 million in products to China,” said Deng Hua.The Australian National University in Canberra, in an article Opinions published on Diplomat’s website in 2019.
For Washington and its allies, this economic justification is not enough. “The U.S. Senator protested this diplomatic adjustment. Taiwan expressed regret over this decision. Other countries in the region have followed the example of the Solomon Islands, such as Kiribati, and stopped recognizing Taiwan two weeks later.” Attention Guardian.
Not only on the international stage, but the decision to sacrifice Taiwan on the altar of establishing a good economic relationship with Beijing is also bad. On the island of Malaita, the local government decided to leave this option and even threatened to hold a referendum to gain independence because of this diplomatic adjustment.
An island that can be “rented”?
The Prime Minister of Marletta, Daniel Sudani, claimed that China had bribed Manasi Sogavere and his allies to gain their support. He had promised that the Chinese had found himself for the same purpose.
This loyalty to Taiwan is not surprising. The Guardian recalled that Marletta was indeed home to the largest Taiwanese community in the archipelago and the best island to receive financial assistance from the territory claimed by Beijing.
Maraita is also full of certain natural resources that China dreams of, first and foremost timber. The New York Times pointed out that local officials “are worried that the government will sell these resources to improve relations with Beijing.”
The “cooperation agreement” signed at the end of September 2019 intensified this concern, which will allow a Chinese company to “rent” the entire Tulagi Island for 75 years.The news about the initial confidentiality was sharply criticized by the residents of Tulagi, Washington and the Marletta authorities, forcing the government to make concessions and Declare the agreement illegal.
Since then, Malaita Island has not missed the opportunity to pluck a Taiwanese knife on the wounds of the Honiara government. Therefore, during the pandemic, Daniel Sultani very formally thanked the Taiwanese government for providing him with medical equipment to fight Covid-19. The riots that have erupted further prove this point. In the final analysis, is it the Solomon Islands or the Solomon Islands government that has been the “pawn in the political struggle” of the Maraita region for many years, which is caught in the geopolitical struggle of the great powers, China and Taiwan.