Viewing the island states as its “vassals”, Australia has closely followed the creeping US hegemony in the South Pacific region for decades

Solomon Islands Landscape Photo: IC

For decades, Australia, the “manager” of the United States in its “backyard” of the South Pacific region, projected its creeping hegemony bare by treating the island nations as vassals. Although the region has been “neglected” for a long time, as Australia’s own official admitted, when China tries to develop normal economic cooperation and exchanges there, Canberra, Washington and their allies cannot stop their attacks. hysterical against China and friendly island governments. to other countries outside the Western bloc.

The security pact signed at the end of March between China and the Solomon Islands has been constantly obstructed by Australia, a hegemonic country in the South Pacific, with the United States behind it. In a row, Australian and American envoys traveled to the island nation to apply pressure, with Japan soon following.

The Solomon Islands are now at the center but its Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, refused to compromise and called the West’s denunciations “insulting”.

“Australia has always viewed the South Pacific region as its own backyard, treating island countries as vassal states with a colonial mentality,” said Chen Hong, president of the China Association of Australian Studies and director of the Center for Australian Studies at East China Normal. University.

Trying to revive the Monroe Doctrine in the South Pacific region will get no support and lead nowhere, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday.

Experts noted that countless precedents have proven that when the United States and its allies launch such intensive “diplomatic siege” and “bombardment of public opinion” against a “small country”, if it refuses to “to compromise”, he may face a blockade or even subversion of the regime.

A tradition of bullying

Looking back on past decades, Australia has continued to exert political pressure and military influence on countries in the South Pacific region and to hinder economic cooperation with others.

Australia’s hegemonic thinking of brazenly treating independent Pacific island nations as its colonies or vassal states is sometimes more blatant and ugly than that of its US ally, observers have noted.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday suggested Australian spies were behind the “draft leak” of the China-Solomon Islands security pact. According to the report, Australian intelligence “encouraged a leak” “as a last resort” to pressure domestic and international public opinion and force Sogavare to change his mind.

To strengthen its military hegemony in the South Pacific region, Australia is working with the United States to expand its naval and air bases in the region.

In 2021, for example, it reportedly committed $175 million to upgrade the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. The base has been expanded jointly by the United States and Australia in recent years for the stationing of large warships.

Earlier, Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne said some Australian ships “will likely be permanently based in Lombrum”, ABC news outlet reported in November 2018.

Economic aid is another major means for Australia to strengthen its control over Pacific island countries. As the largest donor to the Pacific Islands region, Australia provided $7 billion in bilateral aid to 16 countries in the region between 2006 and 2013, according to statistics from the Sydney-based Lowy Institute. Its aid allocation to Pacific island countries was A$1.72 billion ($1.24 billion) in the 2020-21 financial year, a 56 per cent increase on the previous year. 2012-13 financial year, The Australian reported in April.

To prevent countries in the region from diversifying their economic cooperation, especially with China, Australia intimidates them with the cliché of “China threat theory” or “debt trap”. In Fiji, Australia funded a military base in Nadi in 2018 and it ‘contributed a ‘significant’ figure’ to ‘secure rights as the only foreign donor’, The Australian reported in September of that year. .

Australia also imported many seasonal workers from island countries. Although foreign trade has become the mainstay of the economy of some small countries, it has also caused problems such as brain drain and lack of innovation in the economy. Additionally, there have been media reports that island workers face hunger, poverty or exploitation in Australia, according to the Business Human Rights Resource Centre.

“This plan, which was supposed to be a benefit for the islanders, has become an exploitation of them,” said Yang Honglian, senior researcher at the Pacific Islands Research Center at Fiji-based Liaocheng University, in the GlobalTimes.

It reminded many of the dark history of the ‘blackbird’ age in the late 1800s and early 1900s when over 60,000 Pacific Islander men, women and children were transported , some kidnapped, to Australia to become labourers, which some political activists today consider “a form of slavery”.

“Color Revolution” in the islands

Australia has long openly infiltrated the government and judicial systems of Pacific island countries, as well as local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), constantly spreading Western ideology and values ​​to inspire local people to be pro -Australian women, Yu Lei, chief researcher at the Center for Research for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University, told the Global Times.

In collusion with the United States, Australia has attempted to overthrow leaders of the region it dislikes with methods similar to color revolutions. US diplomatic cables from 2006, which were revealed by WikiLeaks in 2011, exposed Washington’s involvement in the “Australian government’s campaign to oust Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare”.

Around 2006, Sogavare called for the departure of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) sent by the Australian government. RAMSI was sent to the Solomon Islands in 2003 to help deal with the country’s civil unrest at the time. However, he continued to stay there for years after the Troubles ended.

Sogavare’s stance against Western infiltration and intervention enraged Australia. Exposed cables showed that then-Prime Minister of Australia John Howard once called and told Sogavare: “I’m going to make things very difficult for you and your government.” Sogavare resigned the following year in 2007.

More recently, after the Honiara riots in November 2021, Sogavare, told the press that the crisis “is influenced and encouraged by other powers”. He further indicated that these forces are the ones that “do not want ties with the People’s Republic of China”.

The same Western hegemonic approach has been observed in other island countries.

In the past week, before heading to the Solomon Islands, White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell landed in Fiji and Papua New Guinea in an attempt to expand Western influence .

“Currently, these South Pacific countries are all facing their general elections. It is clear that Australia, the United States proxy in the region, will attempt to support anti-government forces in these countries, especially anti-government forces. -Chinese,” Chen said.

For example, the Australian government and media used to carry out several public opinion attacks against pro-China leaders in Papua New Guinea, Chen said.

“This kind of behavior is interference in the internal affairs of island countries, which is completely contrary to the ‘democratic equality’ advocated by Australia and the United States,” Yang said.

“The political ecology of island countries is extremely fragile. Once the political situation is unstable, a series of public security issues will arise, affecting the local investment environment, resulting in deterioration of development and construction,” noted Yang, pointing out that “it ultimately harms the interests of the people of the island countries.

The pivot of the Indo-Pacific strategy

In fact, Australia and the United States have “neglected” the Solomon Islands for years, as well as the South Pacific region, but since China entered into diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands in 2019, the island country has become the “preferred” target against which to act. China in the South Pacific region.

“In 2019, the United States began to sink into hysterical anxiety. The US government was afraid of a chain reaction that would cause other puppet countries they were manipulating in the region to change sides,” said Chen.

He also noted that the current security cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands has attracted unprecedented attention from the United States and Australia, but in the past, these two countries have long designed and practiced gradually a new anti-Chinese bloc in the South. The Pacific Ocean.

The islands in the South Pacific Ocean hold the key to maritime traffic between Asia and North and South America and have great military and strategic value, which the United States considers an important military area that must be controlled, Yu said.

To protect its hegemonic system at a time of major power shifts in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States and its military allies are on the one hand building new large military bases in the region. On the other hand, they are doing all they can to tighten their military control over South Pacific island countries, never allowing them to establish military and security cooperation with non-Western countries, Yu criticized.

“In fact, the Indo-Pacific strategy in the South Pacific has nothing to do with the development of the island countries themselves. It is simply a contingency plan drawn up by the United States in case they would lose the first island chain. Once China is reunited, US deployments there will face an embarrassing situation,” Yang said.

In fact, without China’s involvement, island countries would still be the target of looting by settlers and would still be the place to conduct nuclear tests or dump nuclear waste, Yang noted.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “China’s construction of a military base in the Solomon Islands” would be a “red line” for Australia and the United States, ABC reported on Sunday. “We won’t have Chinese military naval bases in our area on our doorstep,” Morrison said.

The handling of the situation in the Solomon Islands could also affect the situation in Australia’s upcoming elections, Yu noted.

If the Morrison administration further “loses” the country, it will again mean the failure of its hegemonic foreign policy in its “backyard”, which will serve as an excuse for political opponents and rival parties to attack, Yu said. “But whichever party is in power, their hegemonic foreign policy in the region will eventually fail.”

Lynn A. Saleh