Chinese Economic Investments Advance Security Cooperation in the Solomon Islands
In November 2023, the Solomon Islands plays host to the Pacific Games for the first time. The expanding economic influence of China in the Solomons, evident behind the scenes with infrastructure investments and construction for these games, reflects growing concerns for Pacific Island nations across the region. 3GIMBALS’ OMENTM solution investigates interconnections between Chinese economic investments and influence in the Pacific.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), adopted into the Chinese Communist Party constitution in 2017, offers an infrastructure development strategy to elevate China’s leadership in global affairs. By funding foreign investments in transportation, communication, utilities, and facilities, China boosts trade flows with participating countries. The BRI builds momentum through participation and expands China’s influence around the world.
Chinese investments in the Solomon Islands since 2017 focused on infrastructure contracts for roads, highways, and bridges awarded to the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC) and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). China also funded the award for CCECC to build seven sport facilities for the 2023 Pacific Games complex in the Solomon Islands, as depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Chinese infrastructure investment projects in the Solomon Islands.
The China Railway Group builds and leases infrastructure projects for the Gold Ridge mine on the island of Guadalcanal through contracts with Wanguo International Mining Group, majority project owner. AXF Resources, an Australian private mineral investment company, funded by the AXF Group in China, owns the remainder of the Gold Ridge project controlling interest. A local landowner company, Goldridge Community Investment partners in the project.
The increased Chinese economic investments create openings for security partnerships. Strategically, the Solomon Islands remain significant. The Battle of Guadalcanal (1942-43) marked a turning point in Pacific theater operations during World War II. After the Chinese infrastructure investments in 2017, the Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare started to sign multiple agreements with China.
By 2019, this alignment with China led Taiwan to terminate diplomatic relations with Solomon Islands after 36 years. Angered by the change in allegiance and Chinese company operations, in November 2021 local response in the Solomon Islands led to riots in the capital city of Honiara. Prime Minister Sogavare announced a security agreement with China in April 2022 that overshadowed historical security roles served by Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.
Recently in September 2023, Prime Minister Sogavare chose to skip the US-Pacific Islands Forum Summit in Washington, DC scheduled around the United Nations General Assembly.
3GIMBALS continues to monitor the geopolitical alliances, underpinned by economic influence. We follow the investments and influence of shifting global dynamics before flash points ignite.