Pacific Island Summit Starts Amid US-China Tensions

    Pacific Island Summit Starts Amid US-China Tensions
    Last updated Jul 11, 2022
    Image credit: Reuters


    • The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) will hold its first in-person summit in three years this week amid growing US-China tensions over regional influence, as well as the impacts of COVID and climate change in the region.[1]
    • The meeting, which is expected to be the most important in years, comes after Kiribati withdrew from the Forum over its failure to make good on appointing a Micronesian nation to lead the secretariat.[2]
    • Post-pandemic economic, climate, and health goals will be key topics throughout the summit, with more than 16 small island nations, as well as Australia and New Zealand, focusing on their 2050 Blue Pacific Continent agenda.[3]
    • Due to their potential economic and geopolitical impacts, discussions will also include fisheries, as China is operating a large fishing fleet in the region and the Quad group has offered to increase surveillance to stop illegal fishing.[4]
    • A recent bid by China to sign trade and security agreements with 10 nations, which was opposed by some members of the summit, will also be on the agenda.[4]
    • Significantly, to have more room to debate internal affairs, the PIF has postponed its "Dialogue Partners" ministerial meeting, which includes China, the US, and the other 19 external partners of the bloc.[1]


    Anti-China narrative

    The US, Australia, and New Zealand must work together to collaborate in the areas of security, building resilience to climate change, and respecting the rights of indigenous cultures across the Pacific Islands. These allies can continue to support democracy across this vibrant region and resist Beijing's concerning expansion of influence.

    Pro-China narrative

    China is a popular and supportive regional partner in the Pacific. While, Australia and other Western powers act as hegemonic colonists, intimidating neighbors who don't follow their orders, Beijing offers a wide range of economic and security development options without demanding political conditions.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Pacific Island nations have every right to play both sides. The current security situation in the South Pacific makes it possible for less influential countries to benefit from the angst of regional powers. The nations can leverage this to maximize aid from both China and the West.

    Cynical narrative

    None of the powers with an eye on Oceania - including the US, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Japan - are taking the true security concerns of the Pacific Islands seriously. The region is threatened by severe climate impacts, but these powers are more concerned with their self-interests. The security and future of the Pacific must be determined by Pacific Island countries on their own.

    Establishment split