The Chinese government has been running a propaganda and disinformation campaign in the Solomon Islands, “suggesting that Australia, the United States and Taiwan fomented the riots that rocked the capital Honiara last year”, according to an analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the ABC reported on Wednesday.
Chinese diplomats also ramped up efforts to criticise Western countries after the controversy surrounding the China-Solomon Islands security pact, with state media portraying Australia and the US as colonialist bullies, the ASPI report said.
But it said that “China’s attempts to shape public attitudes … achieved mixed results”, because its reports gained “only limited traction online”.
In related news, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was due to arrive in Australia on Thursday as both countries look to mend ties which soured after the Pacific nation struck a security pact with China in April.
“Our relationship with Solomon Islands is incredibly important,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement.
“I look forward to engaging with Prime Minister Sogavare on building a strong and prosperous Pacific region, based on principles of transparency, respect and partnership.”
Both leaders last met in July at the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.
Australia is the Solomon Islands’ largest development partner in health, justice, education, infrastructure and other areas. But an offer by Canberra to fund the Pacific island’s next election led Solomon Islands last month to accuse Australia of “interference”.
The bilateral meeting also comes days after US President Joe Biden and 14 Pacific island states issued a joint declaration to strengthen their partnership amid Washington’s offer of hundreds of millions in new aid for the region.
Solomon Islands endorsed the document after earlier indicating it would not sign the declaration.
- By Jim Pollard with Reuters.