Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce has promised to open the door for new wharves, shipbuilding, fishing facilities, and clean energy development in the Solomon Islands, according to a recently leaked document, hinting at the possibility that a contentious security deal could open the door for the militarization of the region.
The memorandum will see both parties work towards a “win-win” partnership and “deepen cooperation” in the blue economy and green technologies.
Both countries will try to encourage business investment in a range of fields such as industrial fishing, marine technology, tourism, renewable energy (wind power, tidal power), offshore oil drilling, as well as the building of ports, submarine cables, and shipbuilding.
The agreement comes as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues ramping up infrastructure development in the Solomon Islands.
The emergence of the security pact has sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity from democratic allies, including visits from the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell and, more recently, a meeting between Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her Solomons counterpart, Jeremiah Manele, in Brisbane on May 6.
This comes as the CCP has been scrutinised for its adherence to the military-civil fusion doctrine, which allows the party to repurpose existing civilian technologies and developments for military use.
The issue came to prominence when it emerged that thousands of Chinese professors working in universities in Western countries were actually linked to the People’s Liberation Army and using the know-how and research they had gained to bolster the development of the CCP military arm.
Anne-Marie Brady, a China expert based at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, has accused the regime in Beijing of “repeatedly” trying to gain access to militarily significant airfields and ports in the South Pacific.
“China provides weapons, military vehicles and vessels, uniforms, training, and military buildings” to the armed forces of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, and now the Solomon Islands,” Brady wrote on Twitter.
“PLA Yuanwang space-tracking vessels deploy to the Pacific during missile and satellite launches, using [French Polynesia’s capital] Papeete and [Fiji’s capital] Suva as their base ports. China is using its Pacific embassies as sites for Beidou ground stations. Like GPS, it is military technology, crucial for missile targeting.”