At the invitation of the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands is paying an official visit to China from July 9 to 15, with Beijing, Jiangsu Province, and Guangdong Province as destinations of this trip.
This is the PM’s second visit to China after 2019 when the two countries established a diplomatic relationship. “The Solomon Islands and China's relation is special and unique,” said Sogavare during his trip this time.
“China's focus on solving Solomon Islands' violence, building infrastructures and economic transformative initiatives changed lives of local people,” said Luke Mani, Director of the Solomon Islands Foreign Policy Advisory Secretariat, in a recent interview with GDToday.
Unthinkable for any country to challenge others' sovereignty and territorial integrity
Mani underlined that this trip is essentially a real foundation of the China-Solomon Islands friendship. It shows that the two countries are working together to defend their relationship under pressure from the West.
“As the largest trading partner over the past four years, China’s aid to the Solomon Islands is transformative. Seeing is believing,” said Mani.
In 2022, the bilateral trade volume between China and the Solomon Islands hit around 500 million U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of 3 percent, featuring fishery, infrastructure, tourism, and other sectors.
“One of the most important assistance is the stadiums and other infrastructure facilities for the 17th Pacific Games. We have been expecting these stadiums for a long time,” Mani indicated. “China also is helping us in building airports and hospitals, which could change people’s lives in the area. The impact is huge. You cannot undermine its significance in the eyes of an ordinary Solomon islander,” Mani explained.
On July 10, the Joint Statement on Establishing a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Featuring Mutual Respect and Common Development For a New Era Between the People’s Republic of China And Solomon Islands was made public as upgrading bilateral ties, following a meeting in Beijing between Chinese government and Solomon’s Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
From Mani’s view, this statement will strengthen China-Solomon Islands cooperation and speed up the shift from building social infrastructures to economic infrastructures. There is a vision for the future of both sides to accelerate collaboration on maritime resources, stock market, and investments.
Sogavare reaffirmed Solomon Islands’ recognition of the one-China principle in Beijing on July 11, saying “I make it very clear to express that there is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an integral part of this great country.”
Mani remarked that respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty is the requisite and foundation of all diplomatic relationships. It would be unthinkable for any country to challenge that. "For any foreign partner of China, stressing the one-China principle is absolutely fundamental," he said.
Pacific Islands countries are just of strategic importance to the West
China and the Solomon Islands signed a security agreement last year. However, some Western countries alleged that this agreement will damage regional peace in the South Pacific, hyping that China is seeking to build military footholds in the South Pacific, especially through its security pact with the Solomon Islands.
Mani stressed that the security agreement has to be done and is mutually beneficial for both sides. Before talking about regional security, the most important responsibility of a sovereign state is its domestic security.
“At that time, the police force in the Solomon Islands was not equipped enough to deal with the issues and riots. The government has the duty to protect investments and assistance. There were huge gaps in the security arrangements that the Solomon Islands signed with other regions, and especially with Australia then,” Mani introduced.
He furthered that Australia’s priority is clearly not in economic well-being, the stability, and security of the Solomon Islands and other countries in the region.
“The Solomon Islands has to secure itself at best and the most logical partner is China, as China has committed nearly a billion Solomon dollars in infrastructure, and it has its personnel here, such as businessmen and investors,” said Mani.
Mani reckoned that the intense response from Western media unveiled their narrow perspective in the region and that the Pacific Islands countries were just of strategic importance to them. They did nothing to do with the basic interest of us.
He also insisted that as the pressure from the West is increasing, we ought to keep going forward and maintaining focus. “We have to focus on what has been done and focus on the things that matter such as life, transforming development and economy. Do not ever step into the trap that is set up by antagonists.”
Chinese are highly acceptive and curious about the world
Mani accepted this interview from GDToday right after he returned from his 3-month trip in China, leaving footprints in six provinces.
“But through my trip, I felt the Chinese are so curious about the world, wherever I go to, either cities or rural areas. I have been to many places in the world, and I have noticed that some people in developed countries are born with a sense of superiority, so they don’t care about the rest of the world. While China is far more accommodating and acceptive of different peoples, countries, and cultures,” Mani added.
PM Sogavare also visited the province of Guangdong on his last trip to China in 2019.
“It's the right thing for the PM to build on those relationships and links with Guangdong as we have many citizens are from Guangdong,” said Mani.
China's Guangdong Province and the Solomon Islands share a long history and close engagement. Guangdong and the Solomon Islands have witnessed concrete cooperation in city construction, sports, medical treatment, trade, investment, and other fields.
Among about 6000 overseas Chinese in the Solomon Islands, most of them are from Guangdong, according to the Solomon Islands Chinese Association.
Mani introduced that Guangdong’s relationship with the Solomon Islands stretches for more than a century. Guangdong is also the largest source of investors and traders in the Solomon Islands.
"I hope I can come and visit Guangdong someday. I have some Chinese friends who are originally from Guangdong Province and they are very prominent in the Solomon Islands. There are lots of projects with Guangdong in many cities," Mani shared.
Reporter | Rofel Ding, Steven Yuen
Poster | Mia Lai