Australia and the US believe the Solomon Islands must not be allowed to partner up with China, showing a selective respect for self-determination.
Russia is bad. There is no excuse for attacking Ukraine, and the argument that it was a strategic imperative to stop NATO’s encroachment is just propaganda, right? That’s what every source in the mainstream media will tell you. But oddly enough, that logic never seems to apply when western countries perceive rival states to be encroaching on their own peripheries, and there’s been no bigger example of that than as to how American and Australian political classes have reacted to the now signed “Bilateral security agreement” between China and the Solomon Islands, a small archipelago which exists not far from Papua New Guinea.
The deal was confirmed this week, despite Australia and the US having piled on scores of official visits in a bid to try and halt it. This has been combined with a media narrative of extreme paranoia claiming, without due evidence, that China is set to build a naval base on the islands and poses a direct military threat to Australia in turn. This has produced some hysterical commentaries, with a founder of The Diplomat Magazine even literally calling for bombing and regime change in the island nation.
It seems strange that the same countries who said that Ukraine has a right to “choose” its allies, or in other words self-determination, do not seem to apply that logic to countries who choose to tilt towards perceived rival states, and there’s plenty of historical examples to back it up with. The consensus is, whether expressed in moderate or explicit terms, that more must be done to “remove” the influence of China from the Solomon Islands, with the assumption that only the US and its allies act in the true interests of the state and its people. It’s as if there is no comprehension whatsoever as to why the Solomon Islands may not consent to be under the hegemony of Australia and the United States, and why it is obviously going to prefer a strategy of “hedging” to maximize political space and opportunity for itself, rather than being forced to exclusively pick one side. This is demonstrative of the elitist mindset which dominates these countries.
Butter wouldn’t melt in Australia’s own mouth. Canberra presents itself as a benevolent and exceptionalist country that serves only the best interests of the island nations of the Pacific, and not the American empire. In reality, this is a de-facto presumption that it has the right to permanently dominate these countries and shape their politics. At no point does it understand that, as a colonial state, one which for most of its existence espoused openly racist policies against non-whites and decimated its indigenous population, why the island nations of the Pacific may actually not really want to be under their “benevolent hug” after all. Rather, Canberra is lost in the discourse of its own longstanding “Yellow Peril” legacy racism concerning China, its obsession with following US policy at all costs, and in turn projects this as somehow standing to protect these islands, branding China as the threat to the region and itself as the hero.
But again, countries like the Solomon Islands have no reason to see it this way. Being very small in size and population, they are very vulnerable to external political interference and compromising their national sovereignty. Take, for example, the island of Nauru. Because its economy collapsed as its mining resources were exhausted, it has become a de-facto Australian client state which is forced to use its currency and host illegal immigrants turned away by Australia. As a result, it is obvious why other island countries would want to preserve themselves by seeking multiple economic and political partners.
It is therefore lost on Australia why the Solomon Islands, a non-white former British protectorate (the British Queen is, to this day, also the Queen of the Solomon Islands, for that matter), might not want to be completely dominated by Canberra, and by extension, the US. This is why scores and scores of US and Australian officials visiting the island and mounting diplomatic pressure haven’t been able to change the mind of the Islands’ government. The sentiment of Anglophone exceptionalism has become a self-affirming feedback loop to the point they have completely lost touch with other countries. The same principle applies to the Western powers’ insincere concern for Ukraine and their hypocrisy in believing that only they themselves are entitled to “spheres of influence” and they must have an infinite right to encircle rival countries without any right of reply. Russia’s narrative about the threat emanating from Ukraine is simply “propaganda,” we are told, yet China making an ambiguous deal with a tiny island nation of just 700,000 or so is somehow deemed an imminent and escalatory threat to Australia itself. Is it not time we started to question this narrative?