In his speech to the National People’s Congress in 2013, Xi Jinping described the “Chinese dream” as the restoration of the Chinese nation’s power and influence worldwide.
After introducing the China Dream, the Xi government adopted the “Belt and Road” initiative to influence the world, focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.
The “debt trap” is helping Beijing expand its influence in the Indo-Pacific region
To obtain a global advantage, Beijing has escalated the Belt and Road plan. These loans are frequently accompanied by high- interest rates and short repayment periods, compelling countries to take on loans that they cannot repay, enriching the Chinese leadership. Pacific countries joined the BRI, including Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, Niue, Samoa, and Papua New Guinea.
After failing to repay a loan, Sri Lanka was forced to surrender over 70% ownership of the country’s important Hambantota Port to a Chinese state-owned business on a 99-year lease. In the meantime, China forced Djibouti to hand over control of its main port, with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) building a permanent military station there.
According to Tom Corben of The Diplomat, China infrastructure projects create a regular military presence for China in the Pacific Islands States (PIR). Beijing will pose a military threat to island nations such as Australia while also cutting off vital supply lines from the U.S. and Japan.
In response to China’s military threat, Australia has joined multinational alliances
Australia is currently a member of all U.S.-led alliances to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, such as AUKUS and the Diamond Quad. In addition, the country has bilateral agreements with the U.S. to deal with the Chinese government.
On March 12, the “Diamond Quartet,” which includes the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, held an online meeting. AUKUS will distribute 1 billion free COVID vaccines to countries across the region. They want to stop Beijing’s vaccination diplomacy, which relies on large quantities of low-quality vaccines to entice many countries to its side.
According to the Hindustan Times, the “Diamond Quartet” fleet began the Malabar 21 drill off the coast of Guam in the Western Pacific on August 26. The Indian Navy said in a statement that the exercise’s goal is to “improve interoperability among participating militaries and build a shared understanding and standard operating procedures for maritime security operations sea.”
In mid-September, Australia joined the AUKUS trilateral alliance with the U.S. and the UK to counter China’s regional ambitions. According to expert Benjamin Lai, the Chinese Navy woefully lacks in the submarine and anti-submarine technologies. It shows that Australia has carefully examined the Chinese military’s limitations and wishes to gain the initiative by attacking the opponent’s weak point, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported. In March, the Australian government pledged A$300 million ($232 million) to high-quality infrastructure projects in neighboring island nations.
The five key projects now receiving finance are developing an undersea connection for Palau, a hydroelectric system in the Solomon Islands, and a solar farm in Papua New Guinea. There are also preliminary studies on East Timor’s undersea telecommunications cables and flood mitigation in Fiji’s island nation.
China is reducing its investment in the Asia-Pacific region
According to Lowy Institute research, China’s aid to the Pacific region peaked in 2016 at $287 million. The “Pacific Aid Map,” on the other hand, shows that the CCP has recently provided less assistance to the Pacific region than in the past.
In 2018, China provided 59 percent of its assistance in grants, with the remaining 41 percent in the form of concessional loans. By 2019, joint loans accounted for 67 percent of all loans.
According to the 2019 report, China’s support funding has declined to its lowest level since 2012. “We did a rough examination of China in 2020, and we haven’t seen a rebound yet.” Jonathan Pryke, director of the Institute’s Pacific Islands Project, said.