Continuity and Flux in Fiji-China Relations
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Continuity and Flux in Fiji-China Relations


APLN member Sandra Tarte co-writes an article with Nicola Baker. They point out that increasing geopolitical tensions and domestic political pressures have tested Fiji’s efforts to strike a balance in relations with its traditional partners and China.

Rabuka’s continued engagement with China has had the effect of provoking these Western partners into seeking to outbid or delegitimise Chinese initiatives, especially in the security sector where China is suspected of attempting to extend its strategic reach. But, while his government would have anticipated and welcomed the Australian offer to replace China as its partner in upgrading Fiji’s ports and shipbuilding industry, Australia’s attempt to delegitimise the policing arrangement with China by associating it with official Chinese transnational drug promotion was not appreciated.

As the Fiji government’s reaction to the latter suggests, its concerns about the effects on its sovereignty of external pressure, undue influence, and interference extend beyond China. That Western partners, and in particular Australia, have increasingly asserted their right to a say in regional and individual Pacific Island Countries foreign policy decisions has caused some dismay and discomfort.

The Rabuka government may be attempting to maximise Fiji’s foreign policy independence, manoeuvrability, and leverage, or to strike a balance between its relations with its traditional partners and China. But it also may not yet have developed a settled foreign policy posture based on consultation and consensus within its foreign policy and security establishment. If there is some disagreement and a lack of direction and coordination, the recently initiated Foreign Policy White Paper drafting process should, if sufficiently inclusive, prove of great value.

The full article can be accessed here.

Image: Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka (left) and the Chinese President Xi Jinping after their discussion on Fiji and China’s longstanding relations during the APEC Leaders’ Summit at San Francisco, USA. Picture: Government OF Fiji Facebook page

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