Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Foreign Ministry of the People's Republic of China)
Geopolitical competition can have adverse impact on third-party countries such as Solomon Islands.
On one side are those who perceive China (and its flotilla of state officials, companies, citizens and investors) as a savior and its intentions as purely benevolent and infallible. They highlight the role of the Chinese state and Chinese companies in infrastructure developments. But they often do not mention that while most of these projects were built by Chinese contractors, they were financed by other funding agencies such as the World Bank and the Solomon Islands government.
On the other side of the debate are those who dislike China because they see it as a one-party communist dictatorship. They highlight its suppression of minorities such as Uyghurs, and the corruptive influence of Chinese entrepreneurs, and they accuse Beijing of being anti-Christian. They contrast this to the US and other Western countries that they consider as hallmarks of liberal democracy. They present China as a monolithic entity with total control by the Chinese Communist Party, despite the complex web of Chinese actors with sometimes differing interests. This group is generally uncritical of Western countries’ colonial histories. They are vehemently anti-China and wear it as a badge of honor.
These groups with differing opinions “shout” at each other, mostly on social media. This has caused divisions that are socially corrosive. There is a middle ground for constructive conversation. This should emphasize how the Solomon Islands government could manage its engagements with competing global powers in ways that would ensure the interests of Solomon Islands are privileged. Solomon Islands must not become a tributary state of others. All development partners are important. But most fundamental is the wellbeing of Solomon Islanders. It is therefore important that Solomon Islanders find a middle ground to discuss their country’s relationship with global powers.