by Chris McCormack
- More Pacific Island nations backing China
- CCP “infrastructure” money buying influence and strategic advantage
- Human rights and regional security threatened in Pacific
China’s aggressive expansionism in the Pacific and Indian oceans is threatening global security as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) beguiles small nations with fast money.
Former U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet intelligence chief Captain Jim Fanell told Sixty Minutes that China’s expansion in the Pacific is not just a matter of the CCP desiring economic partners. “We have evidence that shows that, when they say they want to become your economic partner, the end result is they become your economic master.”
In September 2019, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati abandoned their recognition of independent Taiwan in favour of recognising it as part of communist China. That leaves only four pacific nations that officially recognise Taiwan and 15 nations worldwide. Australia stopped recognising Taiwan under Gough Whitlam.
The CCP said the September decision would bring “unprecedented opportunities for development” for the Solomons. Would those “opportunities” include borrowing huge amounts of money from China for Chinese state-owned companies to build infrastructure ultimately benefitting CCP strategic purposes, as has happened elsewhere? For example, the Sri Lankan port and the 360-metre Luganville wharf in Vanuatu.
VANUATU, SRI LANKA TWO VICTIMS
The Luganville wharf is the largest in the South Pacific and is capable of docking a Chinese aircraft carrier. However, it is not attracting enough business to pay for itself. Incredibly, the terms of the $129 million loan were hidden from Vanuatuan parliamentarians, who don’t know if the CCP can take over the wharf if Vanuatu defaults on payments.
In Sri Lanka, Chinese loans of $1.1 billion to build a port that docked only 34 ships in 2012, two years after its completion, resulted in the CCP taking control of the port in 2015 and negotiating the handover of a further 6,070 hectares of land for 99 years, after Sri Lanka defaulted on loan repayments.
“The only way to justify the investment in Hambantota [Port] is from a national security standpoint – that they will bring the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] in,” said Shivshankar Menon, India’s former foreign secretary and national security adviser, as the port was being built. Nihal Rodrigo, a former Sri Lankan foreign secretary and ambassador to China, said intelligence sharing with China was an integral part of the deal.
In 2017, the PLA signed a $287 million 10-year lease for 36 hectares in Djibouti (which guards the southern entrance to the Red Sea and access to the Suez canal) to establish a naval base.
Vanuatu received $100 million of CCP money in 2017. Media director and publisher of Vanuatu’s Daily Post Dan McGarry wrote: “Whoever controls Vanuatu controls air and sea traffic between the U.S. and Australia.” Last November, the Vanuatuan Government refused to renew McGarry’s work visa in order “to silence me and warn other journalists in the country not to speak out”, he wrote.
CCP EXPORTS MEDIA CENSORSHIP
McGarry’s troubles began when Vanuatuan Prime Minister Charlot Salwai personally warned him about “negative” coverage after reporting on six people (four dual Chinese-Vanuatuan citizens) who were arrested in Vanuatu by Chinese police and removed to China. In December, the Supreme Court of Vanuatu ruled the government ban on McGarry was unlawful, allowing him to return to Vanuatu.
Daniel Suidani, Premier of the Solomons’ largest island, Malaita, claimed he was offered a $1 million bribe for backing the switch to recognising China. The CCP had also attempted to lease by stealth the Solomon island, Tulagi, for the next 75 years, including the port and oil, gas, tourism, fishing and forestry rights, before the agreement (which was signed by only one Solomon Islander) was deemed unlawful.
Captain Fanell said the CCP “is coming in with soft power and lots of cash to buy out local officials to gain access to ports and airfields and resources that give them the controlling monopoly in the islands to thus give them control over this vital sea lane.”
Tonga owes China 25-40 per cent of its GDP, while Djibouti owes over 100 per cent of its GDP. Tonga agreed to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative in return for deferred debt payments. Samoa and Vanuatu each owe China more than 20 per cent of their GDP. Chinese grants and loans to 150 nations conservatively total $760 billion.
Australian economic assistance and diplomacy with our Pacific and northern neighbours is needed to head off this aggressive Chinese expansionism, which threatens our security.
Read more about the reality of the Chinese Communist Party here:
Alarm bell is ringing loud on China’s trade threats, by George Christensen MP
The China bear in the global living room, by Kevin Andrews MP
Myth-busting China’s ‘soft power’, Part 1 of two parts, by Paul Monk
Myth-busting China’s ‘soft power’, Part 2 of two parts, by Paul Monk