China's growing influence in the south-west Pacific: Australian policies that could respond to China's intentions and objectives

Publication: Indo-Pacific Strategic Papers

This paper analyses interests, policies and actions of Australia and China with respect to the South Pacific island nations, in particular those members of the Pacific Islands Forum. The paper cautions that China's influence in the South Pacific should not be over-stated. However, it also suggests that China's growing influence has eroded Australia's standing and leadership role, and that Australia can and should be doing more to rebalance China's influence.

The paper argues that a number of Australia's existing policies should be reviewed, namely in relation to the Seasonal Workers Program, aid coordination and joint Australia/China aid projects, the Cairns Compact (on strengthening development coordination), and the US presence in the South Pacific. It also argues for a new policy of relationship management with South Pacific island leaders. The paper concludes that China's aid and trade can contribute significantly to the prosperity and development of the South Pacific, and that Australia should look to work with the region and China to maximise the benefits to the mutual benefit of all parties.

This paper was also published in the Indo-Pacific Strategic Digest series.


Group Captain Matt Hegarty, CSC