China 'attempting to become colonial power' says Damian Green
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Buildings were burnt down and shops were looted during recent anti-government riots in the Soloman Islands which have claimed at least three lives. The protests in the past week have prompted concerns over the rivalry between Beijing and Washington.
Many protesters were from Malaita province, which opposed the switch by the Solomon Islands to formally recognise China instead of Taiwan in 2019.
Malaita’s premier, Daniel Suidani, has banned Chinese companies from the province while accepting development aid from the US.
China’s efforts to win over Taiwan’s friends have alarmed Washington.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati were the last countries to cut ties with Taiwan in September 2019.
This left Chinese-claimed Taiwan with formal diplomatic ties to just 15 countries.
The recent Soloman Islands protests have stoked fears among leaders of other Pacific island nations that rivalry between China, Taiwan and the United States risks aggravating the region’s social and economic problems.
Former Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Meg Taylor told a Reuters Next conference: “I think what is happening in the Solomons is something we all should be paying serious attention to, because it can happen at any time.”
Ms Taylor said resource exploitation, uneven wealth distribution and unfair treatment of locals versus foreigners were all factors behind the unrest in the Solomon Islands.
She also highlighted growing competition between the big powers for influence over some of the world’s smallest nations.
Former Kiribati president Anote Tong added: “There is no doubt that what is happening is part of the superpower rivalry.”
Mr Tong said that Kiribati could face similar issues to the Solomons as there were already “expressions of discontent” when it switched ties from Taiwan to China.
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He added: “There is a local feeling that the change of relations with China and kicking out Taiwan was not entirely popular with the people.”
Micronesia President David Panuelo said his government has carefully balanced relations with the US and China to avoid being “sandwiched” in their rivalry.
He said: “I’ve said to the US and China they can compete on a healthy basis in the region.”
Mr Panuelo added that the big powers should avoid becoming disruptive influences.
Mr Taylor said there is heightened interest in the region from major powers.
She added that while their aid is welcomed, they all expect something in return.
Ms Taylor added: “Everybody comes with price tags.
“I can see this starting to emerge now with the bases – the US is now going to establish bases throughout the region.”
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