Divided Isles: Solomon Islands and the China Switch

Manchester Univ. Apr. 2024. 304p. ISBN 9781526178350. $29.95. POL SCI
In 2019, the Solomon Islands, a remote nation in the South Pacific, ended its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and formally recognized the People’s Republic of China. Australia-based journalist Cavanough uses this event as a window into the wider history, politics, and international relations of the Solomon Islands, which gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1978. Since then, the nation has experienced underdevelopment and political instability, plus invasions by international troops, led by Australia, aiming to restore order. Manasseh Sogavare, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, has deftly used his country’s recognition of China to play off Western fears of China’s expansion into the Pacific, resulting in favorable concessions from Australia and the United States. However, Cavanough shows that the Solomon Islands’ change in relations with Taiwan was not popular with everyone domestically. For instance, the closing of Taiwanese-sponsored farms and fear of Chinese companies’ exploitation of natural resources caused officials in Malaita Province, which has a nascent independence movement, to ban Chinese companies.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in diplomacy with China and international relations in general or the politics and history of the Solomon Islands in particular.
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