Diplomatic relations with China and Taiwan behind violent protests and civil unrest

Author: | Posted in Australia No comments

One of the main causes of unrest is an important decision by the Government of the Solomon Islands to change diplomatic recognition. Taiwan with Chinesesays an expert.

Jonathan Pryke of the Sydney-based Lowy Institute told 9News.com.au that the decision in 2019 caused a major dispute between the central government and the state of Malaita, the most populous island in the Solomon Islands archipelago.

A building in flames in Honiara.
Experts say that a foreign policy decision taken by the Solomon Islands is behind the riots in the capital, Honiara. (Nine)

The Solomon Islands were among the few countries that previously had diplomatic ties with Taiwan rather than China.

But two years ago, the government of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare established official diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Dr Pryke said ethnic tensions in the Solomon Islands, after years of suppression, were reignited by this foreign policy decision.

“There has been tension for a long time between Malaita and Guadalcanal, where the capital Honiara is located,” said Dr Pryke.

But in 2003 they were brought under control with the help of Australian peacekeepers.

People walk the looted streets of Chinatown in Honiara in the Solomon Islands. (AP)

“Now geopolitics has lifted the lid on them.”

Mr Sogavare said he stood by his government’s decision to embrace Beijing, which he described as the “only problem” in the violence “unfortunately influenced and encouraged by other forces”.

External pressures “had a huge . . . effect. I don’t want to name names. We’ll leave it there,” said Mr. Sogavare.

Do China and Taiwan matter in the Solomon Islands?

Dr Pryke’s decision to change diplomatic ties with Beijing has proven unpopular in the state of Malaita.

He said the Taiwanese government continues to support provincial Prime Minister Daniel Suidani, opposing the Solomons Government.

This includes medical supplies and food aid to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in Malaita.

Meanwhile, the expansion of diplomatic, trade and trade links with China and other countries was met with concerns that the Solomons would lose.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands in 2019. (AAP)

Foreigners subjected to violence

There have been long-standing complaints that foreign companies are not providing local jobs in the Solomon Islands.

According to Dr Pryke, many rebels take their grievances out from the Chinese people in and around Honiara.

“More Chinese have come in recently … they are very vulnerable, they do not have deep roots there … and now they are being targeted,” he said.

Australian Federal Police officers prepare to be dispatched to the Solomon Islands. (supplied)

Dr Pryke said it was unlikely that the violence would lead the Solomon Islands to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

“There was an extensive discussion on the subject in 2019… Now that’s done and dusted,” he said.

Instead, he said, Australia’s quick response to sending peacekeepers and advisers to Honiara should calm tensions in the short term.

But until the next Solomon Islands elections in 2023, the political division in the country seems likely to persist.

Why is the South China Sea dispute important?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *