A setback for Beijing in Solomon Islands

Domestic News

A map from Wikipedia of the various groupings of island nations in the Pacific, which we included in our brief guide to China and the Pacific island nations last year. Solomon Islands is in the Melanesia subregion. 

After Beijing convinced the government of Solomon Islands to switch ties from Taipei last month, there was immediate speculation that it could be the first of multiple dominoes to fall among Taiwan’s Pacific Island allies.

But Solomon Islands saw an immediate grassroots backlash to the decision, such that the country’s prime minister canceled his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly.

Then the New York Times reported on October 16 that “a Beijing-based company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party has secured exclusive development rights for the entire island of Tulagi and its surroundings,” sparking further uproar.

The NYT on Thursday reported that the deal has been condemned by the country’s attorney general, though it is unclear if this means it won’t end up happening:

The deal for the island, Tulagi — a headquarters for world powers both before and during World War II — granted exclusive development rights for at least 75 years. It was signed by the head of the provincial government and executives from China Sam, a Beijing-based conglomerate founded as a state-owned enterprise.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement on Thursday that the agreement should be terminated because it lacked vital details, such as timelines, and encroached on the powers of the national government…

The agreement had shocked residents of the island, some of whom feared that China was seeking to establish a military foothold there. Critics of the deal welcomed the attorney general’s decision, but warned that China Sam — and other Chinese interests — may see this more as a temporary setback than a cancellation of their plans.