February 4, 2023

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What does China want in the Pacific? Diplomatic allies and strategic footholds

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By the time Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s ten-day tour of the Pacific is over in early June, he will have met with leaders from all ten Pacific island countries that have diplomatic relations with China.

This tour is the second of its kind since 2006 (his predecessor Li Zhaoxing visited the region that year). It follows a meeting of Pacific foreign ministers with China last year.

But what does China want from the region and why is it showing such strong interest in the Pacific?

China seeks two main things from the region – one diplomatic and one strategic.

Diplomatically, it needs the voting support of Pacific islands at the United Nations. These countries, most of which are small, have an equal vote at the UN.

Their support – on issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, South and East China Seas, and human rights – matters to China.

For example, during Wang’s visit, Pacific leaders pledged to stick to the “One China” policy. This means they will recognize the People’s Republic of China over the Republic of China (Taiwan).

However, the China-Taiwan diplomatic battle is far from over. In the Pacific, Palau, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Nauru still recognize Taiwan.

Strategically, China sees Pacific islands as a target of what’s known as “South-South co-operation” – partnerships between developing countries.

China’s mistrust of developed countries is deep rooted and has persisted since the founding of the communist regime in 1949. To reduce the strategic pressure from developed countries, China strives to forge close ties with the developing world.

In this sense, Wang’s Pacific visit is largely prompted by recent heightened competition between China and the US-led traditional…

Jino Nicolas

2022-06-02 23:53:19

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