For China, winning over the Solomon Islands from Taiwan was a matter of prestige and a geographically strategic move, an analyst said in the latest issue of Defense Security Weekly, an Institute for National Defense and Security Research publication.
Taiwan cut diplomatic ties with Kiribati and the Solomon Islands on Friday and Monday last week, respectively, after the two said they would switch to China.
The report, published by the think tank affiliated with the Ministry of National Defense, said that Beijing had urgent need of a diplomatic victory amid protests in Hong Kong and a trade dispute with the US, especially as China’s National Day nears.
Photo: Tu Chu-min, Taipei Times
On Oct. 1 China is to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Moreover, gaining the strategically important Solomon Islands greatly strengthened China’s presence in the Pacific, for Chinese fleets could now take measures to prevent the US Navy from joining forces with the Royal Australian Navy, thereby compromising the “second island chain,” the report said.
However, the benefits of the Solomon Islands new-found friendship with China might prove illusory, as Beijing is well-versed in debt-trap diplomacy and its strategic priorities lay in obtaining a maritime base, it said.
Beijing is known to offer loans with high interest rates as a form of foreign economic aid, then extract concessions from the beneficiaries after they prove unable to redeem their debts, the report said.
Taiwan’s former diplomatic allies Sao Tome and Principe and the Dominican Republic became heavily indebted to China after switching diplomatic recognition in exchange for economic aid, it said.
Furthermore, waiting for China to make good on its promises could prove a time-consuming and expensive proposition, the report said, adding that Beijing is not expected to break ground for the airport it said it would build for Sao Tome and Principe until the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Washington seemed to have taken notice of Beijing’s actions and attempted to prevent the Solomon Islands from severing ties with Taiwan, it said.
The Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act, which US President Donald Trump signed into law last year, is widely deemed to be a response to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and the US could well apply the law in the Indo-Pacific region in ways that benefit Taiwan, it said.
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