Blinken Criticizes China During Tonga Visit

    Blinken Criticizes China During Tonga Visit
    Last updated Jul 26, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • US Sec. of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tonga on Wednesday to dedicate the US embassy in the capital Nuku'alofa. It's the first time in history that a US Sec. of State has visited the South Pacific island nation as Washington moves to balance against China's regional efforts.
    • In a meeting with reporters, Blinken said that the US doesn't object to China's engagement with the region, but that there are concerns about the transparency and sustainability of PRC investments. Examples cited by Blinken of China's "problematic behaviour" [sic] include the militarization of the South China Sea and allegations of economic coercion.
    • Blinken told his host, Tongan Prime Minister Hu'akavemeiliku Siaosi Sovaleni, that as a "Pacific nation," the US "see[s] the future in the Indo-Pacific." Blinken pledged support on issues that are important to Tonga, such as climate change, development, and illegal fishing.
    • Tonga, a Pacific Island nation of around 100K people and heavily indebted to China, has become a major concern for the West. Tonga owes China's export bank $130M — nearly one-third of its gross domestic product.
    • Speaking to the media after his meeting with Blinken, Prime Minister Sovaleni said he wasn't concerned about the large amount of money his country had borrowed from China, saying Tonga had started to pay back the debt this year.
    • In Washington, US Dept of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said that Blinken met with Sovaleni and other officials. He also discussed US efforts to address climate change in the Pacific by augmenting early warning systems.


    Pro-China narrative

    The US has ignored Pacific Island nations for decades, and only now wants to befriend them because it feels threatened by China’s growth as a major competitor on the global stage. Knowing that China has always had its best interests in mind, the nations of Oceania should continue to favor relations with China while telling the US to stay in its own hemisphere.

    Anti-China narrative

    One only needs to look at China's treatment of Taiwan to understand the threat it poses to other islands in the region. As the PRC grows its military and political presence outside of its borders, China is a threat to the autonomy of many of its neighbors, the US must refocus on the Pacific to provide security and diplomatic alternatives in the strategically important South Pacific.

    Narrative C

    None of the powers with an eye on Oceania — including the US and China — are taking the true security concerns of the Pacific Islands seriously. The region is threatened by severe climate impacts, but Beijing and Washington are more concerned with their own geopolitical interests. The Pacific Island nations are uninterested in being part of an imperial game that ignores their real issues.

    Establishment split



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