ABC | 10 October 2019
Solomon Islands joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as leaders meet in Beijing
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has met Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the Pacific leader’s first official visit to China since his Government controversially cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan last month.
The two leaders signed several agreements, including one about cooperating with Mr Xi’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, and others on economic and education strategies.
One of the deals would see Solomon Islands become a destination country for Chinese tourists, according to a report from Chinese state media agency Xinhua, but specific details on the agreements are yet to be made public.
"Although the Solomon Islands and China have just established ties, real friendship is not determined by when it starts," Mr Xi said.
The new diplomatic relationship is a sign of China’s growing influence in the Pacific and a setback for self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province.
Countries that adopt formal diplomatic relations with China must accept the One China policy, which asserts that Beijing has sovereignty over Taiwan.
"I am pleased to recognise the One China policy … We are pleased to be on the right side of history and normalise relations with the People’s Republic of China," Mr Sogavare said.
Kiribati, another Pacific nation that had previously supported Taiwan, also cut ties just days after Solomon Islands — leaving Taipei with just four allies left in the region.
Beijing has reportedly promised Honiara some $US500 million ($730 million) in financial aid in exchange for switching its diplomatic recognition.
China has in recent years been expanding its influence in the Pacific, to the alarm of officials in Washington and Canberra.
After the Solomon Islands recognised Beijing, US Vice-President Mike Pence declined a request from the Solomon Islands leader to meet to discuss cooperation.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said last month the end of its diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands was further evidence of Chinese efforts to meddle in Taiwan’s January elections.