The Address of the Sino-Australian Rivalry: Solomon Islands

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Due to its location and inability to carry out its fundamental duties, the Solomon Islands, which is viewed as a failed state in scholarly circles, is a particularly suitable target for battles for control over them. As a matter of fact, since 2019, China and Australia have been competing for influence over the Solomon Islands. The struggle started after the Solomon Islands cut off diplomatic ties with Taiwan’s government and formally reestablished diplomatic ties with China on September 16, 2019.[1]

A security agreement between the Solomon Islands and Australia has been in effect since 2018. This agreement includes the Solomon Islands Government sending law enforcement officers to the islands if necessary. For instance, on November 25, 2021, while protests were taking place in the capital, Australian law enforcement officials stepped in to help the Solomon Islands. Despite this, China and the Solomon Islands concluded a security agreement in April 2022.

The agreement’s draft was leaked in March 2022, even though its contents have not been made public. The Beijing government will be permitted, by this draft, to send law enforcement organizations to the Solomon Islands for training and conduct port visits. It has also come to light that China could establish a naval base in the Solomon Islands.[2] This situation has made Washington and Canberra uncomfortable and put them on alert.

When questions about the agreements were addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi on June 3, 2022, China stated that the Solomon Islands is a sovereign state and has the right to sign agreements with other countries, just like any sovereign state. Wang also emphasized that it was disrespectful to the Solomon Islands’ sovereignty to dictate anything to them.[3]

In this context, the tension in the region is constantly increasing due to the intelligence actions carried out by China near the Australian military facilities[4] and the agreement concluded with the Solomon Islands. From a broader perspective, there is a possibility that China will also conclude agreements with other Pacific islands, such as the Solomon Islands. While this possibility alarms the United States and Australia, it also makes it difficult to restrain China.

Pacific Islands Forum

The Pacific Islands Forum, which took place between 11-14 July 2022, provided the appropriate environment for the softening of the Canberra-Honiara relations, which were tense due to the security agreement concluded by the Solomon Islands with China. During the summit, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Solomon Islands President Manasseh Sogavare held bilateral talks. During the talks, Albanese expressed his desire for Australia to remain a security partner for the Pacific islands, not China.[5]

In a statement he made in April 2022 in response to the United States (US) and Australia’s criticisms of the signed security agreement, Sogavare dismissed the possibility of establishing a Chinese naval base in the Solomon Islands and claimed that his nation did not consult any Pacific states before signing the AUKUS Agreement. He also stressed that the Pacific states respected Australia’s decision and that Australia should show the same respect.[6] On the other hand, during the summit, Sogavare wanted to hug Albanese and said, “We are family, there are issues [but] that makes a family strong.”[7]  This shows that the Solomon Islands’ attitude towards Australia has softened.

As can be seen, the Solomon Islands intended to balance Canberra despite having a security pact with Australia by entering a second security agreement with China, but it also did not want to completely oppose Australia and the US. It is possible to assess the Solomon Islands establishing diplomatic ties with China within the framework of balancing policy.

Unstable Relations with Australia

In August 2022, a bill was introduced to the Parliament of the Solomon Islands providing for the postponement of national elections scheduled for 2023. Although the opposition to this measure was fairly vocal, the government postponed the bill due to the Pacific Games, which were scheduled to take place in Honiara, the nation’s capital, between November 19 and December 2, 2023. It went on to say that the Solomon Islands lacked the resources necessary to simultaneously fund both events. [8]

In addition, the Australian Government has offered financial support to the Solomon Islands so that elections can be held on time. However, Honiara called this proposal “interference in its internal affairs” and sternly rejected it.[9] Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong responded by saying that her nation consistently gives similar help to the Pacific islands and mentioned that they offered the same aid during the Solomon Islands’ past national elections.[10]

In an atmosphere where the opposition made harsh attacks on the administration because “they do not want to leave power,” the Australian government’s offer of financial help to prevent the delay of the elections made the government very uncomfortable. Concerns have also been expressed about possible intervention in the nation’s internal affairs. In response, on October 6, 2022, Sogavare visited Australia. Following the talks, it was revealed that they had come to common ground on a wide range of subjects, including awarding student scholarships and formulating shared security and climate change strategies.[11] Furthermore, Sogavare asserted that he had promised the Canberra administration that he would not permit a Chinese military presence in the Solomon Islands.[12]

In conclusion, Australia-China relations have been tense for a while now. The Solomon Islands developed its ties with both nations in a way that put the security problem at the center because it intended to create a balance between the two nations rather than taking a side between the two great powers. Both China and Australia have made efforts to become the main security partner of the Solomon Islands. On one hand, the situation creates problems for the Solomon Islands, but on the other, it has also expanded the action area of Honiara.

[1] Ben Westcott “Second Pacific nation in a week ditches Taiwan for Beijing”, CNN,, (Date of Accession 10.10.2022).

[2] John Ruwitch, “Leaked Draft of an Agreement between China and the Solomon Islands Has U.S. Concerned”, NPR, , (Date of Accession: 11.10.2022).

[3] “Wang Yi on China-Solomon Islands Bilateral Security Cooperation”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China,, (Date of Accession: 11.10.2022).

[4] Andrew Greene, “Defence Minister Peter Dutton says a Chinese Spy Ship Has Been Seen Near Secret Naval Facility off Western Australia”, ABC News,, (Date of Accession: 11.10.2022).

[5] Paul Karb-Kate Lyons, “Australian PM Albanese ‘Very Confident’ There Will Be No Chinese Bases in Solomon Islands”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession : 11.10.2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Kate Lyons, “This Article is More Than 1 Month Old Solomon Islands Refuses Australia’s Offer to Help Fund Election as ‘Foreign Interference'”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Stephen Dziedzic, “Honiara Reacts Angrily after Australia Offers to Help Fund Solomon Islands Election Amid Moves to Postpone the Poll”, ABC News, , (Date of Accession: 12.10.022).

[11] Jack Mahony, “Anthony Albanese Announces Solomon Islands visit after Successful Conversations with Manasseh Sogavare in Canberra”, SKY News,, (Date of Accession: 12.10.2022).

[12] “Solomons PM Tells Australia No Chinese Military Presence”, VOA News,, (Date of Access: 12.10.2022).

Elcan TOKMAK, 2022 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nden mezun olmuştur. Eylül-Aralık 2022 tarihleri arasında ANKASAM bünyesinde Kariyer Staj Programı'nı tamamlayan Tokmak, Temmuz 2023 tarihinden itibaren ANKASAM Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışmalarını sürdürmektedir. Şu anda Hacettepe Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü'nde Yüksek Lisans eğitimine devam eden Tokmak'ın ilgi alanları Çin-Japonya-Kore ilişkileri ve Çin Dış Politikası'dır. Tokmak; profesyonel düzeyde İngilizce, orta derecede Çince ve başlangıç düzeyinde Korece bilmektedir.