Solomon Islands Recognizes China, Joins Belt And Road Initiative
The Solomon Islands have become the latest Pacific nation to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, recognize China, and sign agreements with China’s Belt & Road Initiative. This comes as the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week.
One of the BRI deals would see Solomon Islands become a destination country for Chinese tourists, but specific details on the agreements are yet to be made public. The new diplomatic relationship is a sign of China’s growing influence in the Pacific, as Sofavare stated “I am pleased to recognize the One China policy … We are pleased to be on the right side of history and normalize relations with the People’s Republic of China,”
Prior to the establishment of official diplomatic relations, China was the largest export destination for the Solomon Islands with 65.2 percent of the country’s merchandise exported to China in 2017, according to the official statistics. Now, deepened ties will offer greater business and growth opportunities to the Pacific Island country and create more development synergies in the region.
In 2018, China-Solomon Islands trade reached 2 billion Solomon Islands dollars (US$242 million), with China the largest single trading partner of the country in total trade volume.
China has already started to increase cooperation with countries in the region under the BRI framework. Chinese President Xi Jinping met leaders of Pacific island countries with diplomatic relations with China in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea on November 2018, to exchange views on bilateral ties and pragmatic cooperation.
The Solomon Islands consist of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu, covering a land area of 28,400 square kilometres. They obtained independence from Great Britain in 1978.
China’s interests will lie in tourism in addition to fisheries, with some copra and palm oil supplies. Most of the Solomon Islands machinery and infrastructure has to be imported, and the Belt & Road agreement with Honiara is said to be worth US$500 million and to provide for the leasing by China of Tulaghi Island, which is the home of the Solomon Islands’ capital, Honiara, as well as and the construction of a gas and oil terminal.
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