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At that time, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s ten-day tour of Pacific Ocean is over in early June, he will have met with leaders from all ten Pacific Ocean island countries with diplomatic relations China.
This tour is the second of its kind since 2006 (his predecessor Li Zhaoxing visited the region that year). It follows a meeting in Pacific Ocean foreign ministers with China last year.
But what do China will have from the region, and why it shows such great interest in Pacific Ocean?
China seeks two main things from the region – one diplomatic and one strategic.
Diplomatically, it needs voice support from Pacific Ocean islands in the UN. These countries, most of which are small, have an equal voice in the UN.
Their support – in issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South and the East China Sea and human rights – means something to China.
For example, during Wang’s visit, Pacific Ocean leaders promised to stick to “One China“politics. That means they will recognize the People’s Republic China over the republic China (Taiwan).
However China-Taiwan diplomatic struggle is far from over. In it Pacific OceanPalau, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Nauru still recognize Taiwan.
Strategically, China ser Pacific Ocean islands as targets for whatis known as “South-South cooperation” – partnerships between developing countries.
China‘s distrust of the developed countries is deeply rooted and has persisted since the founding of the communist regime in 1949. In order to reduce the strategic pressure from the developed countries, China strives to forge close ties with developing countries.
In this sense, Wangs Pacific Ocean visits are largely prompted by the recent intensified competition between China and the American-led traditional powers.
The Quad countries (Australia, India, Japan and the United States) recently issued a joint leadership pledge promising to increase their support for the countries of India.Pacific Ocean territory.
It is hardly a coincidence that on the same day, China‘s Foreign Ministry revealed the itinerary for Wang’s Pacific Ocean visit. Details of concrete results derived from the Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Fujian and Shandong Pacific Ocean islands were released the following day.
China signals that it will not withdraw in its competition with traditional powers. It also will haves to send a message, as a closer relationship to China will benefit Pacific Ocean Islands.
In the long run will Pacific Ocean islands have great security significance for China.
China‘s People’s Liberation Army, especially the Navy, has aimed to break the “island chains” (especially there are a number of military bases on islands near China and in Pacific Oceanwhich Beijing believes the United States and its allies use to surround China).
That Pacific Ocean islands sit along one of these island chains. It is therefore no wonder that the Chinese military is keen to gain a foothold in Pacific Ocean in the long run – this would be crucial if competition between China and the United States worsens to rivalry and even military conflict.
This is the reason why traditional powers are concerned China-Solomon Islands security pact – despite clarification from Beijing and Honiara China will not establish a military base in the Solomon Islands.
To achieve these goals, China has worked hard to create a closer relationship with Pacific Ocean Islands. It has especially highlighted its respect for Pacific Ocean islands as equal partners, economic opportunities for Pacific Ocean raw materials to enter the massive Chinese market, and the benefits of Chinese aid to the region.
In this context, China proposed two broad agreements to be signed by all its Pacific Ocean partner countries during Wang’s visit.
However, this plan was shelved due to the lack of consensus among Pacific Ocean leaders on the nature of these agreements and potential negative consequences for regional security.
For example, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia wrote David Panuelo to leaders of all before Wang’s visit. Pacific Ocean island countries and territories warning that the signing of these agreements may be delayed Pacific Ocean islands into conflicts between China and the United States in the future.
This may have taken China by surprise; President Panuelo paid a successful state visit China in 2019 and praised his country’s relationship with China as “great friendship taken to a new climax”.
This was a clear setback for China. As a suboptimal solution, ChinaThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs turned the two agreements into a position paper and published them on 30 May.
A significant difference is that in the position paper, China indicates only briefly its willingness to cooperate with Pacific Ocean islands to promote regional security, combat transnational crime and tackle non-traditional security threats.
In contrast, the original two agreements had more details on security co-operation, such as training the police for the region and strengthening co-operation on cyber security.
Apparently, China has learned to downplay its planned collaboration with Pacific Ocean islands on security, an increasingly sensitive area in the midst of competition.
Looking into the near future, it is likely China will be more careful about expanding its engagement with Pacific Ocean territory.
It is likely to focus on pragmatic cooperation in less sensitive areas such as climate change, poverty reduction, agriculture and disaster relief.
China will lobby for more support from Pacific Ocean islands before it is willing to reintroduce the broad agreements. – Reuters