China is steadily increasing its malign influence in the South Pacific, from Fiji to East Timor, To Tonga, to Papua-New Guinea. It appears to be exploiting the anti-colonialist attitude to Australia, now common in some Pacific countries. Naturally the Communist Party is paying close attention to these developmenrs,
From the Communist Party of Australia’s Guardian
Speaking from the coastal town of Wewak in PNG last week, Prime Minister Somare did little to dispel the accusation that Australia has taken on a colonial attitude to our Pacific neighbours. Speaking passionately about the need for Pacific countries to be run by their own people, Somare launched a scathing attack on Canberra:
“We are running a country, we are a government, we are an institution that is established, and we have run those institutions from the beginning … and now 32 years after independence, we’re running things the way we believe it can be run, and it is our society. We know the problems associated with our people, and we believe if we have an Australian there as an advisor, we will accept him there as an advisor … But to come in and tell us we are weak and we cannot perform … you are not giving us a challenge to try and see the education that you have instilled in the minds of the Papua New Guineans. You are not allowing us to make that work. And suddenly you are coming up and telling us that you know better, that you can do better than us … Work side by side. And help Papua New Guineans to progress … Allow the independent sovereign people decide for themselves what they need for their country” commented Mr Somare.
Recent comments from the leaders of both PNG and the Solomon Islands indicate, however, that they are not happy about the intrusive nature of the Australian “Pacific Policy“.
Somare talks of “the West, may be fearing China” in reference to the new economic player in the region. PNG has inked a $1billion dollar agreement with Chinese company Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC) for the Ramu nickel project — the largest such project with the Chinese in the region. Despite disquiet over labour conditions at the mine, as well as allegations that his former Ambassador to China facilitated illegal entry of Chinese citizens into the country, Somare says they are small problems of “public relations” and unsubstantiated allegations:
“China has been a good partner to us. Since we established our diplomatic relations they have not been very forceful. They do not tell us ‘because we have a big investment in PNG, you should follow our laws and regulations’. No. We have a better understanding. There is proper dialogue, and in a South East Asian context it’s understanding each other that counts most“, said Somare.
As to concerns that cosy bilateral relations with a country the USA calls their “peer competitor” might lead to further unwanted scrutiny from Canberra, Somare maintains it is simply about business.
“We want to stay a neutral country. We do not want the ideologies of West and East, even though it has died out. And China becoming powerful, very powerful economically, they will create it into an economic ideology. And we don’t want to fight the war. We are friends and I said before ‘We want to be friends — and enemy to none’ … I think that all the countries of the world … fear China, but I personally don’t see any reason why we should. If we control ourselves, and maintain and sustain ourselves well, I don’t see a reason why we should be fearful of Chinese control“, he said.