Pacific islands: A new arena of rivalry between China and the US

The view over Honiara and Iron Bottom Sound in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The Solomons, an archipelago of 630,000 people north-east of Australia grappling with poverty, corruption and occasional ethnic strife, is being hit by the full force of a risin
The view over Honiara and Iron Bottom Sound in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The Solomons, an archipelago of 630,000 people north-east of Australia grappling with poverty, corruption and occasional ethnic strife, is being hit by the full force of a rising China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory and over which it has mounted a diplomatic campaign to isolate Taipei.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

HONIARA (Solomon Islands) • The three dozen men and women sitting under huge poinciana trees listen intently to Ms Joyce Konofilia. A candidate in last week's general election in the Solomon Islands, she was campaigning in a squalid settlement on a hillside above the capital city of Honiara where few residents have access to electricity and even fewer have jobs.

But when Ms Konofilia, an Australia-educated tourism consultant, had finished her stump speech, the first question from her audience was about foreign policy. A local elder rose and asked: "Do you support switching diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China?"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2019, with the headline 'Pacific islands: A new arena of rivalry between China and the US'. Subscribe