One of Australia's highest foreign policy priorities, the Pacific Step-up, is at risk of losing ground to China if the federal government ignores the region's needs, a strategic expert has claimed.
Beijing is moving to control vital trans-Pacific sea lines of communication under the guise of helping low-lying Pacific island nations with economic development and adapting to rising sea levels.
Raaymaker argued that as a result the strategically vital nations are being co-opted by China with promises of significant financial and development aid as they face rising sea levels.
This is creating a situation where although Australia has invested $1.9 billion into development assistance programs, it still needs to do more.
"Australia's Pacific Step-up needs a lot more 'up' in its 'step' if such developments are to be effectively countered," Raaymaker wrote.
The Pacific Step-up policy was designed to respond to the Pacific's challenges around climate and disaster resilience, sustainable economic growth, health, and education.
Raaymaker believes Australia has not recognised or addressed the Pacific's broader development concerns, like rising sea levels, and therefore, Australia cannot tailor its development assistance to address these issues concretely.
Marise Payne, Australia's Foreign Minister, previously conceded this point.
In 2019, Payne said: "Our conversations in the Pacific over the past several years have made it clear that we can and should all do more together to rise to the challenge and opportunities of our new Blue Pacific Continent."
Rising Sea Levels Drives Move Towards BeijingIn 2019, both the strategically important Kiribati Islands and the Solomon Islands re-established diplomatic ties with China after previously being allied to Taiwan.
Beijing is eager to help with the expensive task.
Already lined up to construct two major transshipment hubs in Kiribati which will require large scale land reclamation, China is said to be preparing its fleet of dredgers that were used to build the artificial islands in the South China Sea.
The government of the Solomon Islands echoed the sentiments of Kiribati.
According to those officials, the Solomon Islands government turned to China in the hope it would help them create economic development and mitigate the effects of rising sea levels on their countries.
But Raaymaker argues this aid is simply a fallacy perpetrated by the Chinese regime.
"China panders directly to such concerns and bills itself as a global leader on climate change, despite now being the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases," said Raaymaker.
Raaymaker also told The Epoch Times that small nations like Kiribati are incredibly vulnerable to being taken advantage of by the Chinese regime's Belt and Road Initiative with outcomes like what happened to Papua New Guinea (PNG) all too probable.
According to Jeff Wall, an ASPI strategist, the PNG government owes China nearly $5 billion for a range of Huawei-led communications projects and infratstructure projects like the Shenzhen Energy Group/Sinohydro hydropower station.