In September 2019, two Pacific nations—the Solomon Islands and Kiribati—decided to drop diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favor of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The move was the latest step in the Beijing regime’s continuing efforts to chip away at Taiwan’s international standing.
In the face of the Solomon Islands’ national government's decision, Daniel Suidani, the premier of the Islands’ most populous region, Malaita Province, has continued to stand firm in his support for Taiwan, despite pressure from federal colleagues and Beijing.
“As far as Malaita goes, we don’t want any help from the PRC, as we don’t want to have any constraints put on our independence.”
“I received the offer by phone, and they told me where they were and said they wanted to meet with me to discuss it,” he said. “I knew I needed to take a strong stance against such an offer, and I drove to where they were staying so I could tell them that I do not accept.”
“When I arrived, I made up my mind that it is not right for me to even go up and see them. I called and said I was not for sale and they should keep their money.”
Suidani said he wasn't able to comment on whether other politicians received bribery offers, but if Beijing was willing to approach him, then it was likely other leaders were being propositioned. He believes the PRC may have helped fund election campaigns for parliamentarians, which may have spurred the national Parliament's decision to switch diplomatic recognition.
The prospect of Beijing interfering in the Solomon Islands’ democracy didn't dampen Suidani’s resistance.
Just a month after the diplomatic switch occurred, Suidani, with fellow leaders' support, launched the Auki Communique, rejecting the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideology and its Belt and Road Initiative.
“For instance, China overwhelmingly targets destitute countries like Solomon Islands that cannot pay their debts and loans. China has confiscated parts or entire seaports from countries that are unable to pay their debts.”
The move sparked a strong response from the Solomon Islands foreign affairs minister and the local Chinese embassy, particularly for referring to Taiwan as the Republic of China, which implies that the island is a self-governing entity separate from Beijing.
Days later, Suidani told The Australian that the federal government seized a shipment of medical supplies from Taiwan, calling it an “act of defiance.”
With the Solomon Islands and Kiribati choosing to align with Beijing, the remaining South Pacific island nations to retain diplomatic relations with Taiwan are Tuvalu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, and Palau.
Taiwan Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu has warned that Beijing could eventually militarize the South Pacific beyond foreign aid and diplomatic relations, transforming it into "another South China Sea.”
“I certainly don’t want to see the Pacific turned into another South China Sea, with us one day all sighing that it is too late for us to do anything.”