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China wages charm offensive in Pacific in attempt to squeeze out U.S.

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The US faces a significant uphill battle to balance China’s rise in the Pacific. Granted, the Biden administration did host the inaugural US-Pacific Island Country Summit in late September, which culminated in a joint declaration of the fourteen Pacific island countries involved pledging greater cooperation in defense, trade and other areas with each other and the United States. However, the accord was signed by the Solomon Islands only after “indirect references to China” were taken out of the language.

The watered-down declaration comes after years of significant military gains made by China in the Pacific. In 2018, reports suggested that China was attempting to establish a military base in Vanuatu, in 2021, China was in talks with rehabilitating an old airstrip in Kiribati which could serve both civilian and military capabilities, and in 2020, the US became aware of China trying to set up a military base in Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. This April, China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, which contains provisions that some analysts believe open the door to establishing a Chinese military base there.

Additionally, the United States lags behind China’s “soft power” in the Pacific. As the Biden administration admitted in the recent summit, the US has yet to establish embassies in the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Kiribati. Meanwhile, the CCP is waging a significant propaganda war against the United States over the Pacific. Outlets like China Daily and Global Times claim that China’s interests in the Pacific are benevolent, while the US is seeking to militarize the Pacific. The CCP press also claims that China is generously giving robust aid to the Pacific states, while the US is neglecting them.

Claim #1: China is acting out of benevolence

The CCP media claims that China is increasing its influence with the Pacific nations out of benevolence. China “has no regional ambition in the Pacific Islands region, and its engagement with the Pacific Island nations is mutually beneficial cooperation and friendly exchanges,” according to China Daily. “Over the past decade, equality and mutual respect have become important norms governing the relations between China and Pacific Island countries (PICs),” according to Global Times.  According to another Global Times article, “China has no intention to compete with anyone for influence or to engage in geographical competition [in the Pacific].”

Claim #2: The US seeks to militarize the Pacific

The CCP media downplays China’s actions in Vanuatu, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Cambodia, and near Taiwan, and states that it is the United States that is militarizing the Pacific. Ironically, it is the United States that views the countries in the South Pacific as “merely handy chess pieces, to be instrumentalized and even weaponized to serve its regional and global hegemonic strategy,” in the words of Global Times. Continuing the chess analogy, another Global Times article, quoting Chinese ambassador to Kiribati Tang Songgen, states that the US and the West “[…]regard the island countries as pawns in geopolitical games, and push the island countries into a geopolitical battlefield.” The West is “turning the South Pacific into a venue for geopolitical competition and confrontation,” according to China Daily.

For further evidence that the US seeks to militarize the South Pacific, one Global Times article points to the US discussing building Australia’s first nuclear-powered submarines, while another Global Times article points to US military exercises on Fiji. The latter article calls Western reports that that China wants to establish military bases on the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as “groundlessly spread rumors.”

Claim #3: China gives robust and appropriate aid to the Pacific states

Chinese media also portray China as delivering concrete aid to the Pacific. According to China Daily, Chinese investment has assisted the Pacific Island nations “improve connectivity, reduce poverty, safeguard public health, and protect the environment.” To the Solomon Islands, China has given “some SBD5” [nearly $600 million] “in grants targeting infrastructure facilities, education in terms of scholarships and the development of a new hospital aimed at improving services at the Solomon Islands National Referral Hospital in Honiara,” whereas the $25 million that the US has promised Malaita Province in grants for forestry, fisheries and agriculture has yet to be paid, according to Global Times.

Claim #4: The US is neglecting the Pacific

CCP media also portrays the US as “neglecting” the Pacific. Global Times characterized US relations with the Pacific nations post-World War II as “eight decades of neglect.” According to a journalist from the Solomon Islands, as quoted by the same article in Global Times:

“You have got to show up. And the United States has not…For decades, we identified with the West, a legacy forged when the United States, Australia and their allies halted Japan’s imperial advance during World War II in the Battle of Guadalcanal. But that was long ago. There is a creeping sense today that we are being ignored, if not forgotten. So, who can blame us if we open the door to new friends who can help with our needs? And those needs are great.”

Another Global Times article characterized the US viewing the South Pacific as “a neglected, out-of-the-way corner of the world” where the US and its allies detonated nuclear devices, thereby bringing “radiation poisoning, birth defects, leukaemia [sic.], thyroid and other cancers” to the population. This was followed by a period of the US viewing the South Pacific after the Cold War as “having lower or little strategic value. Embassies were shut down, aid programs pulled out and financial support drastically reduced,” according to the article.

Conclusion

CCP media is on full throttle against the US regarding the Pacific Island nations. China is waging a sophisticated propaganda war in the region, and is trying to establish a military foothold in several of these countries. The US has yet to devise a credible check on the rise of Chinese influence in the region.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic 

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China

Number of illegal migrants from China, mostly single males, surpassing those from Mexico in some areas

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that the total number of apprehensions from China at the conclusion of the 2023 fiscal year, was 24,048 persons, more than 10 times the 1,970 arrests recorded in 2022. Of the more than 140,000 Chinese nationals, mostly single males, who have illegally entered the United States since President Joe Biden took office, does not include persons who have evaded capture.

In one California border sector, where the majority are apprehended, CBP announced that between October and February, the 21,000 encounters with Chinese citizens surpassed the 18,700 Mexicans taken into custody.

Foreign Desk News explains that the migrants will typically fly to Ecuador, as there is no visa requirement, then pay guides to transport them to the U.S. border. Many of the transients will claim asylum on the basis that they are victims of the oppressive regime in Beijing.

The influx has caused concern in Washington over the possible national security implications, such as how on March 27, an unnamed Chinese individual was arrested for attempting to enter the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, without identification.

The Wall St. Journal reported that unauthorized Chinese citizens, often posing as tourists, attempted to access or surveil sensitive U.S. military instillations more than 100 times in recent years.

Last summer, House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-TN), announced that his committee had obtained evidence from the U.S. Border Patrol confirming that many of the detained, and later released per Biden administration policy, have ties to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

 

 

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