How does medical evacuation expose China’s challenges in the Solomon Islands?Political news
Daniel Suidani, the governor of Maraita, the largest province of the Solomon Islands, is being treated in Taiwan for a suspected brain tumor. But this influential politician has also been criticized by Pacific governments for medical evacuations, which highlights the profound differences in the 2019 decision to shift diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
Since the country ended its 36-year alliance with Taiwan, Shuidani has become one of the most famous Chinese critics in the Solomon Islands. He arrived in Taipei on May 26 and the government condemned it as an “unauthorized” visit.
That decision Establish diplomatic relations with China -Known locally as “switching”-is still unpopular, and the influence of deep accusations of corruption from Taiwan and China helped shape this decision.
Solomon Islanders who oppose this change worry that economic relations with China will be difficult to manage.
Others expressed concern about Beijing’s treatment of religious minorities and its one-party government, which they said conflicted with Solomon Islands’ democratic principles and widely held Christian views.
The opposition is loudest in Maleta, and anti-China activities take root in the provincial capital Oki.
Shuidani has since promised to reject any Chinese investment in his province, and at the same time establish a close partnership with Taiwan, which brought him into direct conflict with the Solomon Islands’ formal “One China” policy and led to an increasingly fierce peace between him and Taiwan. Open quarrel. Manasi Sogavare, Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands.
“Handshake with China”
Since the beginning of this year, the health of Prime Minister Shudani has been deteriorating.
After being advised Sudani to seek treatment abroad, his senior consultant Celsus Talifilu flew to Brisbane to arrange treatment in Australia at a price of 121,000 Australian dollars (92,700 US dollars).
Talifilu told Al Jazeera English that Prime Minister Maledan first sought financial assistance from the Sogavare government. It is said that support for Sudani will depend on a public handshake between Sudani and Sogavare.
The leader of Marletta refused to accept this idea.
“It’s like shaking hands with China,” Talifilou said, referring to Sogavare’s close relationship with Beijing.
The Sogavare government told the local media that its assistance was rejected for political reasons.
“[Premier Suidani] It is possible to express his political views on the government that pays his salary, but his personal health should be his top priority, not spying on his confidant’s bad advice,” it said.
Talifilou, who personally cooperated with Taipei to arrange treatment for the prime minister and traveled with Shui Dani, said that his subsequent request for assistance from Taipei received “strong support” from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
But Taipei downplays these claims.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ou Jiani said: “Prime Minister Shuidani took the initiative to approach Taiwan, hoping to go to my country for medical treatment.
“Considering that Prime Minister Shuidani is a long-term friend and staunch supporter of Taiwan, and professional assessment confirmed the need for emergency medical treatment, the Taiwanese government agreed to Prime Minister Shuidani’s visit to Taiwan based on humanitarian concerns.
The Chinese Embassy in Honiara stated that it has “raised concerns” with the Sogavare government over Sudani’s visit to Taiwan.
China said in a statement on May 30: “China firmly opposes any form of official contact between Taiwan and officials of any country that has diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.”
Change diplomatic strategy
Taipei’s aid to Sudani is the latest example of the expansion of public courtship between the two parties. Water Dani is the leader of a rebellious province with an aspiration for independence and one of the most famous Beijing critics in the Solomon Islands.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Suidani has held several public events to celebrate the arrival of Taiwan’s aid in Marleta-Honiara’s unapproved aid.
After a secret meeting between Talifilu and Taiwanese diplomats in Brisbane, Australia in March last year, the goods began to flow, and the flags of Taiwan and Malaysia were often unveiled at ceremonies.
This The Pacific Ocean has long been a bastion of Taiwan’s support But the Solomon Islands’ recognition of Beijing and Kiribati 2019 was a blow to Taipei’s regional influence.
The four Pacific island nations, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu — with a total population of only 100,000 — still provide Taipei with full diplomatic recognition. Only 15 countries in the world recognize Taiwan.
Maretta is an important geographical province in the Solomon Islands, with a population of nearly 200,000.
As China poached more allies, Taipei adopted unconventional diplomatic strategies, including establishing relations with the unrecognized detached region of Somaliland.
“China’s motivation has always been to shrink Taiwan’s international space,” said Sana Hashmi, a visiting scholar at the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation.
“Amid China’s escalating aggression, Taiwan can interact with more friends and like-minded countries. [Its] Continued contact with Malaita implies strengthening local cooperation with countries with unofficial relations. “
Hashimi believes that Taiwan’s assistance to Shuidani is in line with its “policy of providing humanitarian assistance without any conditions attached.” Its deepening relationship with Maretta shows that President Tsai is “willing to engage with friendly people”.
Taiwan’s contact with Maleta coincided with the growth of Maleta’s split ambitions. In 2020, Prime Minister Sudani announced that Maleta would vote for independence to seek to leave the Solomon Islands, citing the province’s opposition to Honiara’s China policy as a reason.
Unity is in danger
At the same time, since the “transition”, China’s role in the Solomon Islands has continued to increase. It provided important COVID-19 assistance, including the supply of vaccines for Sinopharm.
Two local reporters familiar with Beijing’s media assistance told Al Jazeera that China has courted important media companies by providing them with cars and computers.
However, these efforts were undermined by suspicion of China’s intentions in the country. A Chinese business person’s attempt to rent a central island near Honiara failed, and leaks revealed that Sogavare’s finance minister and a mysterious Of Chinese financiers negotiate a $100 billion loan.
Although Honiara’s relationship with Beijing has entered its third year, opposition politicians believe that the recognition of China by the Solomon Islands has not yet been resolved.
“If I were the prime minister, I would return to the people,” said Matthew Weir, leader of the Solomon Islands opposition party.
He said that any future Welsh government will test whether Honiara is loyal to China in a referendum.
Prime Minister Sogavare’s office did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
Between 1998 and 2003, the Solomon Islands was plunged into civil war, and tensions between Malays and other ethnic groups led to an estimated 200 deaths.
The conflict was brought under control only after Australia and other countries in the region intervened. The peacekeeping operation is called the Solomon Islands Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI), which lasted for 13 years, ended in 2017, and cost more than 700 million U.S. dollars.
As tensions between Marletta and the National Government continue to escalate, some people worry that the country’s post-RAMSI peace is being undermined.
“I am very concerned about the unity of the country,” Wale said. “I am very worried that this matter will lead to civil unrest.”