The Solomon Islands seems to be on a collision course to become the next victim of China’s ‘debt trap diplomacy’. The nation is currently seeking $100 billion in loans from the CCP.
This is a continuation of its previous course of action, moving away from democratic allies and towards more authoritarian ones that might be a bit more loose with their purse strings.
One early sign of this was the decision, back in September of 2019, was to switch diplomatic relations away from Taiwan to Beijing. The undemocratic move, made by a small cabinet, seems now to be a sign of the direction that the country is moving, it also, at least in part, led to massive riots that Australia came in to help clean up.
As a thanks to Australia for sending in security forces to deal with the islands rightfully upset citizens, the Solomon Islands signed an overlapping security agreement with the PRC.
This move is even more authoritarian due to the fact that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is appointed by the legislature rather than being directly elected, he is also currently serving his 4th term as PM. Thus, many have viewed this move as self interested money grabbing rather than working to help the Solomon Islands.
Sogavare has also recently thanked China for being a good partner, all while refusing to answer questions from the Australian press. However, it remains to be seen if he will feel the same in a few years, and it seems many citizens of the islands already resent this attitude.
Some in the international community fear that the Solomon Islands will end up like Sri Lanka, deep in debt to China and essentially forced to follow their dictates, while unable to even gas up their cars.
This strengthening of ties has also led many to fear that China plans to establish a military base in the Solomons. Both countries have denied this however, a recent security pact signed in April has led many around the world, but especially in Australia, to feel skeptical about these claims.
Security deals have already begun to increase, one is example is the recent donation of police equipment by China. These donations included drones and water cannons (similar to those used in the anti-extradition protests that occurred in Hong Kong in 2019). There is also speculation that China may set up permanent training centers for law enforcement officers in the country, as Chinese cops have already trained their counterparts in the Solomons.
While the PM has claimed that he is attempting to create a more self reliant country in the Solomon Islands, these recent developments sew doubt about that narrative. What the future for the nation is and if the leaders of the country keep heed their own words will be seen in the coming months and years.