"A week-long trip to Beijing by the Pacific’s most flamboyant statesman
Manasseh Sogavare, was always going to cause concern in Canberra.
The substance of the visit was as expected. The relationship between China and
the Solomon Islands was upgraded to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” (on
par with Papua New Guinea, the first Pacific nation to sign up to the Belt and
Road Initiative). Nine agreements were also signed covering everything from
civil aviation and infrastructure to fisheries and tourism.
The Chinese premier, Li Qiang, who inked the deals with Sogavare, made a point
of not mentioning the controversial policing cooperation agreement, the draft
of which was leaked more than a year ago to New Zealand academic Anna Powles.
Despite repeated calls from Australia and New Zealand to release the text of
the policing agreement, there is no indication the Chinese or the Solomon
Islands leadership will do so.
There were also moments of theatre in Sogavare’s trip. The prime minister
declared “I’m back home” when he arrived in Beijing in a clip posted by China
Global Television Network
He then said in a longer interview on the same network that his nation had been
“on the wrong side of history” for the 36 years it recognised Taiwan instead of
the People’s Republic of China, and lauded President Xi Jinping as a “great
Sogavare saved his biggest serve for his return to the Solomon Islands, though.
He accused Australia and New Zealand of withdrawing crucial budget support and
hinted he would look to China to fulfil his ambitions to establish an armed
forces, should Australia be unwilling to help."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics