Nov 17, 2020 - World

What we're reading: China charms Pacific Island countries

Illustration of Chinese flag and chess piece

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

China is using economic and diplomatic incentives to strengthen its sway over Pacific Island nations, a new report finds.

Why it matters: Beijing's charm campaign in the Pacific aims to further isolate Taiwan and expand China's maritime reach.

Details: The report from open source intelligence firm Babel Street finds China is offering generous aid and infrastructure packages to island nations across the Pacific.

  • Some of these projects, such as a major wharf project in Vanuatu, could potentially have dual military-civilian use, creating the potential of expanded reach of the People's Liberation Army Navy.
  • Another goal is to squeeze Taiwan. Four of Taiwan's 15 remaining diplomatic allies are Pacific Island nations. Prior to September 2019, there were six, but Beijing poached two of them — Kiribati and the Solomon Islands. That leaves Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.

What they're saying: "While leaders in these countries see strategic benefit and leverage through deepening relations with the PRC, they must also consider what China hopes to gain through their engagement because the actions on these small islands could have outsized effects," write the report's authors.

Go deeper: Read the report.

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