Above: Parts of Honiara were set ablaze during riots in November. Image from http://www.contohkumpulan.com
06-12-2021: Deadly anti-China mayhem flared in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara in late November. Three people were killed, as police found charred bodies in a burnt out building in the city’s Chinatown district. Over 100 were arrested after days of rioting and looting. The rioters target was clearly China, but they also attempted to burn down the Parliament, and attacked and damaged the residence of Prime Minister (PM) Manasseh Sogavare. PM Sogavare said the instigators also created fake Facebook accounts produced in his name which peddled misinformation, as part of an attempt to intimidate him or force his resignation. More than 1000 jobs have been lost, and the small country’s economy suffered a loss of $227 million, which is a huge proportion of their 2020 GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of $1.5 billion.
In response, PM Sogavare invoked a security agreement with Canberra, which the Solomon Islands government signed with the Australian government after the withdrawal of RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) police and soldiers from the country in 2017. Around 100 Australian Federal Police and Army troops were sent to the Solomon Islands and are expected to remain there for several weeks at least. The RAMSI intervention began in 2000, and even though there were civilians, police and troops from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru and the Cook Islands, the Australian contingent was predominant.
This intervention took place after a period known as “The Tensions”, in which ethnic rivalries between the inhabitants of the two main islands, Guadalcanal and Malaita, boiled over. Some Guale (ethnically those from the island of Guadalcanal) residents resented the entry of Malaitans in the areas in and around Honiara, to take advantage of comparatively better economic opportunities. The Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM – also known as the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army) began a campaign of intimidation and violence towards the Malaitan settlers. Thousands of Malaitans fled back to Malaita or to the capital Honiara. In 1999, the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) was formed, and in June 2000 it declared war on the IFM. It can be argued that the Australian intervention in 2000 was not to prevent conflict between the IFM and the MEF and “restore stability”, but to expand the “sphere of influence” of Australian imperialism. Certainly, an intervention which lasts for 17 years would suggest that Australian imperialism was not entirely acting with beneficence on its mind. Today, the 2021 Australian intervention is likewise justified as “restoring stability”.
USA vs PRC
However, the major difference between the year 2000 and the year 2021 is the New Cold War, i.e., the relentless provocations of the government of the United States of America (USA) towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The material basis of the New Cold War is the outstripping of US dominated capitalism in the West by the predominantly socialist and state-controlled economy of the PRC. In almost every sphere – science, technology, engineering, manufacturing, production, infrastructure – the US and European imperialist powers simply cannot compete against the enormous advantages of majority state ownership and a planned economy on the Chinese mainland. In a sense, for the PRC, the real gains of its 1949 socialist revolution are only now coming to fruition. Aware that it will soon be surpassed, if it is not already, the US empire has ramped up its lethal subterfuge in a string of nations that border China as well as its Pacific neighbours. The Solomon Islands, despite being a small nation of only 712 000 people, is no exception.
In the Solomon Islands, Washington uses the familiar playbook of fostering and fomenting ethnic tensions and separatism carefully directed against Beijing – regardless of the human, social or economic cost. In 2019, both the Solomon Islands and Kiribati ended their previous relations with Taiwan to switch to a diplomatic and political recognition of the PRC. At the time Solomon Islands PM Sogavare, in an interview with the Australian National University, said that Taiwan was “completely useless to us” (economically and politically). This was little more than a recognition of reality, given the vast advantages of ties with the world’s most dynamic economic power. Washington acted immediately, but covertly, to lure the Malaita province to its side and function as its proxy in a hybrid war against Beijing. If Malaitan angst against Guadalcanal could be combined with wild anti-China and anti-socialist hooliganism, Washington would be the winner – even at the cost of societal breakdown.
They found a willing ally in provincial Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani. In response to a proposed infrastructure development on Guadalcanal by the state-owned China State Railway Group, Suidani announced the US would develop a port at Bina Harbour, on the western side of Malaita. He claimed that the Malaitan province did not recognise the diplomatic switch to Beijing and invited the US and Australia to beef up security, supposedly to guard against Chinese developers. Incredibly, he also stated in a phone interview with Reuters that “China has different values to the Solomon Islands – this is a Christian province, a democratic one.” Whether such barely concealed discriminatory and anti-socialist antipathy was pre-existing or not, Washington took full advantage.
The Washington based US Agency for International Development (USAID), has had ties to the Solomon Islands dating back 60 years. In the last several months, however, USAID has delivered funding for the SCALE project (Strengthening Competitiveness, Agriculture, Livelihoods and the Environment) focusing on the Malaita province. Even 12 months ago, the Solomon Islands government was aware that certain inaccurate information was being deliberately circulated on social media in relation to this project, and warned Solomon Islanders to be wary. Although not stated openly, this appears to be a reference to spreading misinformation about development assistance programs from China, which favours and spruiks the benefits of the US based aid programs. Dramatic untruths about the alleged intentions of the Chinese originated development programs could easily then be turned against the approximately 3000 Chinese citizens living and working in the Solomon Islands, 90% of whom are residents of Honiara. Tragically, the deadly mayhem which targeted suspected Chinese owned businesses was one result.
US backed separatism/regime change
The November riots had been preceded by an intense two-year dual campaign of separatism and/or regime change sourced from Washington, as a direct result of the Solomon Islands’ diplomatic switch from Taipei to Beijing. PM Sogavare was adamant that the issue of building ties with the PRC was the “only issue” behind the violence, which was “unfortunately influenced and encouraged by other powers”. The “other powers” referred to are no doubt Washington and its allies, but diplomatically not named so as not to directly endanger the aid and investment which arrives from US shores. Yet the tactics of the rioters clearly bore the fingerprints of the modus operandi of US government covertly backed regime change operations in the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere in Asia. For example, along with the Chinese owned businesses and associated buildings set ablaze, so too was a police station.
The claims that the protestors were concerned about corruption and accountability, and about Chinese businesses giving jobs to foreigners rather than locals – are shallow at best. PM Sogavare emphasised that the countries (the US primarily) that are influencing Malaita now are the ones that seek to block ties between the Solomon Islands and the PRC, which violates international law and United Nations (UN) resolutions. He stated that he feels sorry for Malaitans who are being fed false and deliberate lies about the diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China. The PRC is also well aware of what is going on. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called on the government to ensure the safety of all Chinese citizens in the Solomons Islands. Further, he asserted that the establishment of diplomatic ties with Beijing had won the sincere support of Solomon Islanders and thus “any attempts to undermine the normal development of China-Solomon relations are futile.”
This does not stop Washington’s regime change arms from straining every sinew to do just this, however. Freedom House reported that during 2020, Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani proposed an independence referendum for the province. This was in response to a “Covid-19” repatriation flight which largely carried Chinese passengers, apparently with cooperation from the Solomon Islands government. This is yet another example which demonstrates that no matter how much the PRC’s leading political caste prostrates itself before the Western ruling classes by echoing and implementing the fraudulent fear pandemic, it will still be subject to murderous war provocations. Yet, what exactly is the Freedom House which is blatantly promoting anti-China Malaitan separatism? One does not have to look far to find that Freedom House is a subsidiary of Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the department of the CIA which works 24 hours a day on foreign regime change operations. A staggering 80% of the budget of Freedom House is covered by the NED, with other familiar US based regime change “private” foundations – including the Ford Foundation and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation – chipping in for the remainder. With powerful backing such as this, it is little wonder that Suidani feels emboldened to ban Chinese companies from operating in Malaita, while accepting development aid from the US.
No to war in the Asia Pacific
Bona fide Marxists hold that the People’s Republic of China is a bureaucratically deformed workers’ state, which was founded after an epic struggle of hundreds of millions of peasants and workers rising to overthrow centuries-old feudal oppression and imperialist subjugation. The Communist Party of China (CPC) led the epoch marking victory which triumphed in 1949, and still leads the PRC today. Even though 1949 ended China’s “century of humiliation” at the hands of European and American colonialist powers, the class character of its revolution was largely petty bourgeois (peasant), as opposed to proletarian (worker). It was also saddled with what became Maoism, after the vast influence of CPC’s central leader, Mao Zedong. Maoism is a variant of Stalinism, the bureaucratic and autocratic rule of a conservative and nationalist caste sitting atop a workers’ state. The twin Stalinist policies of “socialism in one country” and “peaceful coexistence with imperialism” dominate the entirety of the international and domestic political outlook of the CPC to this day, compounding the political deformities inherited from the non-proletarian forces which nonetheless emerged victorious in 1949.
The foreign policy of the PRC towards the Solomon Islands is thus one of apolitical diplomacy, and one which seeks mutually beneficial terms of investment and development. As profit-gouging capitalism is not the primary driver of the PRC’s economy, it can offer tremendously beneficial development projects to the Solomon Islands in exchange for attenuated commercial gain. The “development assistance” of the US, on the other hand, is one based on tied aid and almost total political subordinance to the vagaries of Western imperialism. In this context, even the US aid offered can be directed towards fomenting anti-China violence in an attempt to stifle the inevitable rise of the PRC.
While workers should not stand in the way of the vast benefits which trade and investment with the PRC involves, a struggle for socialism internationally is the only tangible way to avoid imperialism launching a catastrophic war against China, and indeed the world. “Covid” is the first marker of this conflict, which can scarcely be ended without workers’ revolutions in the Asia Pacific, combined with a proletarian political revolution in the PRC, i.e., the program of Leninist-Trotskyism. Regionally integrated planned economies will thus illuminate a much-needed path to a new socialist order.