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USA-Pacific Islands Leaders Summit

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China’s sustained growth based on the reform policy initiated with Deng Xiaoping in 1978 began to bear fruit in the 2000s. Shortly after the global economic crisis of 2008 [1] China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy.[2] Today, China is the world’s largest economy after the United States (USA).[3] This has led to significant global competition between Washington and Beijing. Therefore, it can be said that China’s global goals are in conflict with the USA. There is an ongoing struggle between the two actors with geopolitical, geostrategic, and geoeconomic dimensions.

The United States will host a second summit with the leaders of Pacific islands from September 25th to 28th, 2023.[4] This situation aims to prevent China from further entering a strategically important region that Washington has long considered its own backyard. In the competition between Beijing and Washington, it can be argued that one of the United States’ most important strategies is the “containment of China” policy.

During the three-day meeting, it is expected that the United States will formally recognize two Pacific island countries. Additionally, it is anticipated that they will pledge new financial aid for infrastructure, including improving internet connectivity through underwater cables. [5]

In last year’s summit with 14 Pacific island countries, the Biden administration pledged to assist the island nations in resisting China’s “economic expansion,” and they strengthened their partnership by stating in a joint statement that they shared a vision of a “region where democracy could flourish”.[6]

Furthermore, the White House has announced that this year’s meeting will focus on priorities such as climate change, economic growth, sustainable development, public health, and combating illegal fishing. As mentioned earlier, it is also said that the United States will formally recognize Cook Islands and the other small island nation Niue for the first time during the summit. [7]

In addition to all of this, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands, who has been deepening ties with China, will not be attending the summit. A senior official from the U.S. administration has expressed disappointment with Sogavare’s decision.[8] At this point, it is noteworthy that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, by visiting China in July 2023 and announcing a new police cooperation agreement, has drawn closer to China This could imply that the Solomon Islands has aligned itself with Beijing in the regional polarization.

At the same time, it is known that Prime Minister Sato Kilman of Vanuatu will not be attending the summit. Sato was elected two weeks ago to replace Ismael Kalsakau, who was ousted by a vote of no confidence by members of parliament. Kalsakau’s removal was related to an agreement with the United States’ ally, Australia, on security matters. As a result, the United States still has reservations about opening an embassy in Vanuatu. China, on the other hand, sent police experts to Vanuatu last month and signed a police cooperation agreement.[9] Sato may indeed have concerns about developing relations with Washington due to the experiences of his predecessor. It can be said that Vanuatu has displayed a much closer stance to China than the United States.

In conclusion, it can be argued that the United States is rapidly continuing its strategy of containing China and will continue to increase pressure on Beijing. It is anticipated that this will significantly intensify both regional and global competition. The purpose of the mentioned summit is to increase both the regional influence of the United States and accelerate the containment of China, thereby increasing pressure on Beijing.


[1] “As Pac West Shares Dive, Are We Seeing The 2008 Financial Crisis All Over Again?”, Cable News Network World, https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/18/china/blinken-china-visit-wang-yi-meeting-intl-hnk/index.html, (Accessed: 22.06.2023).

[2] “China Passes Japan as Second-Largest Economy”, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/business/global/16y, (Accessed: 22.06.2023).

[3] “The World’s Largest Economies”, World Data Info, https://www.worlddata.info/largest-economies.php, (Erişim Tarihi: 22.06.2023).

[4] “Biden Aims to Wrest Influence from China in Pacific Islands”, France 24, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230924-biden-aims-to-wrest-influence-from-china-in-pacific-islands, (Erişim Tarihi: 25.09.2023).

[5] “US Set to Open Embassies in Cook Islands and Niue as Biden Hosts Pacific Leaders’ Summit”, Voice of America News, https://www.voanews.com/a/us-set-to-open-embassies-in-cook-islands-and-niue-as-biden-hosts-pacific-leaders-summit/7281714.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 25.09.2023).

[6] “Biden to Host Pacific Island Leaders in US Charm Offensive vs China”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/biden-host-pacific-island-leaders-us-charm-offensive-vs-china-2023-09-24/, (Erişim Tarihi: 25.09.2023).

[7] “US Will Establish Diplomatic Ties with The Cook Islands and Niue as Biden Hosts Pacific Leaders”, Associated Press News, https://apnews.com/article/us-pacific-islands-summit-embassies-china-influence-c07493a9c05893e1477d991cf07b9ffb, (Erişim Tarihi: 25.09.2023).

[8] “Biden to Host Pacific Island Leaders, ‘No Question’ China’s Influence Has Role in Summit”, The Hill, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/4219230-biden-to-host-pacific-island-leaders-for-second-summit/, (Erişim Tarihi: 25.09.2023).

[9] “US ‘Back in Force’ in Pacific as Biden Hosts Regional Leaders at Summit, Vows to Reopen Embassies Following China’s Diplomatic Push”, South China Morning Star, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3235655/us-back-force-pacific-biden-hosts-regional-leaders-summit-vows-reopen-embassies-following-chinas, (Erişim Tarihi: 25.09.2023).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten graduated from Yalova University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations in 2021 with his graduation thesis titled "American Foreign Policy" and from Anadolu University, Open Education Faculty, Department of Foreign Trade in 2023. Gülten, who is currently pursuing her Master's Degree with Thesis at Marmara University Institute of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations, was a student at the Faculty of International and Political Studies at Lodz University for a semester within the framework of the Erasmus+ program during her undergraduate education. Working as an Asia-Pacific Research Assistant at ANKASAM, Gülten's main areas of interest are American Foreign Policy, Asia-Pacific and International Law. Gülten is fluent in English.