The Solomon Islands – China security pact has sent shockwaves across the Western world, with analysts from Australia to the United States arguing that the deal represents a fundamental shift in geopolitical dynamics in Australia’s immediate region. But what does the agreement mean for Solomon Islands and the Pacific? What impact will it have on Australia’s interests in Solomon Islands? And what does it signal for the future and stability of the Pacific region? Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program, chaired this discussion between three experts on the issue.
Dorothy Wickham is a highly experienced media and communications specialist with an in depth understanding of Pacific islands politics, cultures and effective communication practices. Dorothy was a longstanding host of what was RAMSI’s national radio talkback program Talking Truth and Managing Editor of One News Television, founding editor of social media site Melanesia News Network, and coordinator of Cchange – Solomon Islands. Dorothy is a trusted voice in Solomon Islands and the Pacific.
James Batley is a Distinguished Policy Fellow in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University in Canberra. He joined Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs in 1984. In the early part of his career he was posted to Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. From 1997-1999 he was Australia’s High Commissioner to Solomon Islands. From 1999-2002 he was the head of Australia’s diplomatic mission in East Timor, becoming Australia’s first Ambassador following that country’s independence in 2002. From 2004-2006 he served as the leader of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and from 2007-2009 he was Australian High Commissioner to Fiji (and Permanent Representative to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat). In Canberra Mr Batley worked in a range of senior positions including Deputy Director-General of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Graeme Smith is a fellow at the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs. He was awarded his PhD in 2008 for work that explored the motivations of China’s local officials as they attempted to implement an agricultural extension program in rural Anhui. His current research explores China’s investment, migration, military engagement, technology and aid in the Asia Pacific, with projects in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Timor Leste, Thailand and Vietnam. He has a particular focus on how Chinese infrastructure contractors adapt to and influence the business and political environment in Pacific Island states. He has an emerging research stream on the geopolitics of PRC private Internet companies as they look to invest in the region, including TenCent’s role in the Australian election, Baidu’s efforts to expand into Southeast Asia and Huawei and ZTE’s lobbying efforts in the Pacific. Graeme teaches The Politics of China in the Coral Bell School and hosts The Little Red Podcast with former NPR and BBC journalist Louisa Lim.
This event was broadcast on YouTube on Thursday 5 May 2022.