Civil unrest in the Solomon Islands: China to blame?

Many people have been killed in the violent anti-government protests in the Solomon Islands which began on 24 November 2021. During the unrest, buildings were set ablaze and shops looted by protesters angered by problems such as high unemployment and crowded housing.

The unrest followed protests by residents of Malaita who opposed a decision by the government in 2019 to formally recognise China instead of Taiwan. The peaceful protests against the government’s decision to recognize China over Taiwan turned violent as protesters attempted to storm Parliament. The government responded by deploying the police in which they used tear gas on the protesters and also requested neighbouring countries for support.

As a result, Australia and New Zealand deployed their Federal police and Defence troops while Papua New Guinea and Fiji dispatched peacekeepers.

Prime Minister Sogavare has resisted calls to resign, while a no confidence motion by the opposition was defeated in parliament on 6 December 2021. Sogavare’s decision to recognise China over Taiwan contributed to strains in relations between Malaita and the Solomon Islands government.

Malaita’s premier, Daniel Suidani, has banned Chinese companies from the province and accepted development aid from the United States. Sogavare said foreign powers had intervened because they did not want the Solomon Islands to have diplomatic relations with China.

Taiwan has denied any involvement in the unrest as the island nation becomes the centre of yet another geopolitical tussle involving big powers. Some island nations have switched allegiances to China with allegations of aid and infrastructure being promised to sway influence.

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