Di Valerio Fabbri, writing in Geopolitica.info said that Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, started his multi-country journey to the Pacific Island countries (PICs) on May 26th, 2022 and wrapped up his visits on June 3rd, 2022.
His itinerary covered several island countries in the Pacific region including the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timur.
The Global Times quoted observers hailing the visit as a “miraculous trip” that provided a timely answer to each PICs’ individual needs, increased the scope of cooperation and ushered in a broader future for both bilateral and multilateral relations for China in the region”.
Wang Yi carried out “cloud visits” and virtual connections with 17 leaders of PICs and more than 30 ministerial officials and co-chaired the second China-Pacific Island countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Suva, Fiji.
However, China’s agenda and grand design to increase its sphere of influence among the small pacific islands were fulfilled only partially as its proposed comprehensive, multilateral security and economic cooperation agreement fell through, reported Fabbri.
The Pacific Islands Forum in a meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister Yi declined to sign up for the sweeping regional economic and security deal proposed by China.
As purported by the Chinese Foreign Minister’s spokesperson, the visit was aimed to deepen the friendship and cooperative relationship between China and regional countries and contribute to peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.
However, it could not generate enough trust. Of late, Beijing has been actively pursuing its engagements with those countries, efforts that are part of its aspiration to be a global power by using its deep pockets with an aim to showcase China as a development partner among the developing and least-developed PICs, reported Geopolitica.info.
Nevertheless, the PICs are aware that their enhanced engagement with China could spark a local confrontation between China and the West, which perceives Chinese incursions in the region as a threat to regional peace and stability, said Fabbri.
The United States, meanwhile, alerted the South Pacific nations to be wary of “shadowy” agreements with China, which has put forth a package to expand cooperation dramatically.
Earlier, the US State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, noted that “we are concerned that these reported agreements may be negotiated in a rushed, non-transparent process”.
While the Chinese Foreign Minister was mid-way in his PICs visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also stated that China posed an even more devious, long-term threat than Russia does.
According to him, “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it.”
The scope of China’s failed proposed agreement with Pacific Island countries was very comprehensive and described as a potential ‘game changer’.
Some observers have attributed China’s failure to steer ahead of its comprehensive multilateral agreement with the Pacific Island countries to Australia’s new Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s intervention in Fiji just before Wang’s stopover.
However, many analysts opine that the rejection of the Chinese deal signals a “collective and unequivocal approach” of the Pacific Island countries not allowing themselves to be “used as pawns” in a “geopolitical contest”