Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

China and the Solomon Islands Forge Strategic Partnership Amid Rising Geopolitical Tensions

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: July 10, 2023
Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (R) and China's Premier Li Qiang inspect the guard of honor during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2023. (Image: ANDY WONG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In a significant development that underscores the evolving geopolitics of the Pacific Islands, China’s President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands announced on July 10 the initiation of a comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations. 

The event takes place one year after Beijing brokered a security agreement with the Solomons, triggering the United States and its allies to counterbalance Beijing’s burgeoning influence in this strategically-important region.

The partnership comes on the heels of Sogavare’s trip to Beijing on July 9, where he met with China’s new premier Li Qiang. The encounter culminated in the signing of several new agreements encompassing areas of police collaboration, economic development, and technical cooperation.

China’s new premier Li Qiang (R) shakes hands with Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (L) after both witnessed the signing of an agreement between the two countries at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2023. (Image: ANDY WONG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)


In the aftermath of the signing ceremony, Sogavare voiced his intentions to Li, remarking, “We are here to further boost relations,” a statement made more profound by a Chinese military band playing the national anthem of the Solomon Islands.

TOPSHOT – Chinese guards of honour march out during a welcoming ceremony for Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 10, 2023. (Image: ANDY WONG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Shifting gears

The Solomon Islands — located approximately 2,000 kilometers (about 1,242 miles) northeast of Australia — have become a notable achievement for China in its strategic endeavor to bolster its footprint and political prowess in the South Pacific region. 

Though the Solomon Islands’ government was met with significant resistance, with droves of people igniting riots and protests over its decision to side with China, a pivotal moment came in 2019 when the island nation altered its official recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

Flames rise from buildings in Honiara’s Chinatown on November 26, 2021 as days of rioting have seen thousands ignore a government lockdown order, torching several buildings around the Chinatown district including commercial properties and a bank branch. (Image: CHARLEY PIRINGI/AFP via Getty Images)

The mainland Chinese regime claims Taiwan as a rightful part of its territory and has vowed to retake the island by any means necessary, even if that means a military invasion. Since Beijing does not recognize an independent Taiwan, it insists that any country wishing to pursue diplomatic relations with it must first break official ties with Taipei under its One-China principle.

“Solomon Islands, sir, has a lot to learn from China’s development experience,” stated Sogavare during his meeting with Li, highlighting the basis of their expanding relationship. 

Solomon Islands President Manasseh Sogavare (R) and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (L) inspect an honor guard during a welcome ceremony in Taipei on September 26, 2017. (Image: SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

Solidifying ties

Premier Li further solidified this sentiment by acknowledging, “The two governments have decided to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership of mutual respect and common development.” He also stressed that the relationship between China and the Solomon Islands has seen significant advancement, noting how developments and talks between the two nations have been “very fruitful.”

The unfolding events in the Pacific Islands region are indicative of the escalating geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and China — both of which are eager to establish and maintain their influence in the region.

A testament to China’s commitment to this objective was visible when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a comprehensive 10-day tour to visit eight Pacific nations in May 2022, which included Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor.

MORE ON THIS: China’s Foreign Minister Begins Pacific Tour of the Solomon Islands and Surrounding Countries

US on high alert

In reaction to these developments, the U.S. announced plans to reinstate an embassy in the Solomon Islands — with President Joe Biden assembling a summit of Pacific Island leaders in September 2022. This summit introduced a multifaceted strategy that included issues related to climate change, maritime security, and efforts to prevent overfishing. 

Biden further pledged a substantial $810 million in aid for Pacific Island nations over the next decade — $130 million of which is specifically targeted at combating the impact of climate change in the region. 

U.S. authorities have expressed growing concerns when China publicly disclosed that it had entered a comprehensive security pact with the Solomon Islands in April 2022. Although the specifics of the agreement remain undisclosed, a leaked draft suggested that China had been deploying troops to the Pacific nation and beefing up its presence in the region. 

​​​​The first soldiers of the Australian-led intervention force based on the HMAS Manoora come ashore at Red Beach for “Operation Helpem Fren” near Honiara on July 24 2003 to restore law and order to the deeply troubled South Pacific nation of less than a million people. (Image: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

This created apprehension among some sectors of society and the West — giving rise to the fear of the Chinese regime establishing a military base in the archipelago — a region that saw intense fighting during World War II. However, Premier Sogavare has persistently asserted that he has no intention of permitting China to construct a military base in his country.

“It will not be in the interest of Solomon Islands to host any naval or military base of any country, because that will immediately make Solomon Islands a military target for other countries,” Sogavare said on April 6, according to The Solomon Times. Sogavare has also repeatedly reassured that his country would never host any foreign military base as long as he was president. 

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Yi echoed Sogavare’s claims, calling such concerns “groundless and ill-intentioned.”