The South Pacific islands are now an integral part of the wider Indo Pacific construct. The region is now also firmly a part of China’s maritime thinking, and expansion as a part of its “island chain” strategy.
Starting in 2006, China started ramping up its engagement in the South Pacific region, following similar trends elsewhere is the world. Between 2011 and 2017, Beijing provided about 8% of all foreign aid to the region and more than 80% of it was provided through concessional loans (NPR 2019). In 2014, Xi Jin Ping announced the decision to elevate China’s “friendly cooperative’ relationship with the Pacific Island States to a “strategic” partnership. By the time of the APEC Summit in November 2018, Pacific States already owed $1.3 billion in concessional debt and China had suddenly emerged as the second largest donor after Australia in the region (Zhang 2017). Between 2011 and 2018 China committed US$ 6 billion worth of loans to the region – around 21 % of the regional GDP.
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