Category : News
Author: Michael Morrah

Experts say it's both ambitious and alarming that China has revealed it's pushing for a Pacific-wide security, fishing and trade deal.

Beijing's draft 'development vision' for the Pacific talks of China conducting region-wide police training and has a significant focus on deepening China's influence in fishing. 

In 2017, Newshub joined New Zealand Navy officers on the high seas off Fiji as they targeted illegal fishers as part of a regular exercise with their Fijian counterparts. 

A rusty Chinese trawler was boarded and Navy officers found a freezer full of illegally taken bluefin tuna. Multiple Chinese-flagged vessels were boarded during the operation, and all were found to be breaching maritime rules. 

China's widely viewed as the worst offender when it comes to illegal fishing, and a new document reveals China wants to "deepen cooperation" in Pacific fisheries.

And that's not all it wants.

"It's alarming because it covers almost every sphere of Pacific life. It's almost like a new wave of colonialism coming in," explains Professor Steven Ratuva, director of the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at Canterbury University.

The 'Common Vision' document seeks to "expand law enforcement cooperation", with China holding "immediate training" for Pacific nations.

The document speaks of China's aim to "promote trade cooperation", "expand tourism", cooperate in "energy, mining and IT", including cyber security, and "enhance high-level exchanges at all levels". 

Dr Anna Powles, Massey University Centre for Security & Defence Studies senior lecturer, says it is "deeply significant".

"It certainly sends some strong messages about the extent to which China is seeking to shape the regional order in the Pacific," she tells Newshub.

While China's Foreign Minister stepped off a plane in the Solomon Islands to begin a tour of the Pacific to sell the 'Common Vision' concept, a Foreign Affairs spokesperson in China was saying it's all about prosperity, peace and building on existing friendships.


But New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says when it comes to regional security, we've already got it covered. 

"We are very strongly of the view that we have within the Pacific the means and ability to respond to any security challenges that exist."

And there are concerns that New Zealand's current security arrangements in the Pacific could be disrupted by China's new plan.

"If that went ahead that would cut across and undermine existing regional security mechanisms," Dr Powles says.

Professor Ratuva says China's authoritarian, occasionally violent style of policing would be unwelcome in the Pacific.

"Some of those values would be embedded in the training process and that's a big worry."

This document marks a significant shift in the focus for Beijing. No longer is it just seeking bilateral deals but cooperation on a regional level, and it hopes 10 Pacific nations will sign up.

But analysts say that's unlikely.

"So there is strong resistance to it in the region which suggests it's not going to be successful," says Powles.

"I think Beijing may have actually bit off more than it can chew in terms of its proposal."

It's a proposal that will either divide or unite the Pacific.

Article: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2022/05/analysts-say-china-s-plans-for-the-pacific-a-big-worry-but-doubt-they-can-pull-it-off.html
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