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Australia and China's Cold War for Dominance in the South Pacific

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Geeta Pillai
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Australia and China's Cold War for Dominance in the South Pacific

In the lush tropical atolls of the South Pacific, a strategic cold war is silently brewing between Australia and China. The competition for dominance continues to escalate, with recent bilateral agreements and strategic investments deepening the divide.

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Australia Fortifies its Position

Australia has recently bolstered its position in the region through a bilateral agreement with Tuvalu, a tiny independent island nation. This agreement has not only strengthened Australia's foothold but also granted it veto power over Tuvalu's future deals with other countries, notably China. Australia has agreed to accept a number of Tuvalu citizens threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change and has pledged to become the guarantor of the islands' security.

Investments and Strategic Ties

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The strategic competition extends to other Pacific nations as well. Australia has promised $20 million to enhance the port of Nuku'Alofa in Tonga, a move seen as a direct challenge to China's influence. The newly elected Prime Minister of Tonga, Sitiveni Rabuka, has also shown resistance towards stronger ties with China. In Vanuatu, a security agreement with Australia further distances the nation from China's sphere of influence.

China's Waning Influence

According to an analysis by the Lowy Institute, cited by AP, China's economic influence in the region seems to be waning. China's aid to the Pacific nations decreased from $384 million in 2016 to $241 million in 2021. Most of this aid came with high-interest rates, leading many Pacific nations to prefer Western investments offering more favorable economic conditions.

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US Steps Up

In response to the ongoing situation, the US has committed to reopening its embassy in Honiara and strengthening its regional influence. It has promised $810 million in aid over the next decade and proposed enhanced cooperation in combating climate change and maritime security.

This strategic cold war in the Pacific is a testament to the region's increasing geopolitical importance in the global order. As Australia and China continue this silent battle, the Pacific nations find themselves at the center of a larger superpower contest.

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