Home China China, West Compete For Influence In Pacific With Infra Projects

China, West Compete For Influence In Pacific With Infra Projects


China and Western allies are intensifying their competition for influence in the Pacific Islands region. This week saw significant developments as China donated a presidential building complex in Vanuatu, while Australia and New Zealand inaugurated a A$55 million airfield in the Solomon Islands.

New Zealand and Australia’s Joint Airfield Project

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters visited the Solomon Islands on Tuesday to officially hand over the new airfield in Western Province, a project jointly funded by New Zealand and Australia. The airfield, costing A$55 million (approximately $36.55 million), aims to enhance regional connectivity and support economic development.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele, who attended the ceremony, is expected to visit China soon, following his recent visit to Australia, which marked his first overseas trip in his role. Manele mentioned that the Solomon Islands had requested Australia to fund local police recruitment for the next decade to ensure domestic security.

China’s Influence in Vanuatu

Hu Chunhua, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CCPPCC), participated in a ceremony in Vanuatu on Monday to hand over a newly built presidential office and finance and foreign ministry buildings. These structures, located in Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila, were constructed with Chinese funding.

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In a parallel development, Australia boosted its support for Vanuatu’s maritime security by delivering a boat to the local police force. This initiative aims to enhance maritime surveillance capabilities.

Strategic Interests and Aid Contributions

China is Vanuatu’s largest external creditor, following a decade of significant infrastructure investment. Conversely, Australia remains Vanuatu’s biggest aid donor. In her statement, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning reaffirmed China’s commitment to fostering friendly cooperation with Pacific Island nations, including Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Last week, Hu Chunhua also visited Papua New Guinea, the largest Pacific Island nation, which maintains defence ties with the United States.

With Inputs from Reuters