China’s interests in the new country Bougainville
Recently, Bougainville, a chain of islands voted for a referendum of independence from Papua Guinea. The referendum saw 85% voter turnout choosing Papua Guinea as second option. The referendum was introduced because the peace agreement signed before 20 years ended. The agreement was signed to end nine year conflict or civil war that killed almost 10% of the country’s population. Employment and land acquisition in the island by copper mines (owned by Papua Guinea, Australia and other foreign countries) were the major reason behind the war.
The independence of the country sends strong signals to other movements across the Pacific, especially New Caledonia (a French collectivity) that is preparing itself for the second referendum. The other important message that the independence sends is for the so-called traditional partners of the Pacific namely US, UK, Australia, France and Japan. The referendum has taken place during the period when the strategic anxiety among the traditional partners of the Pacific is at its peak.
The prevailing situation in the Pacific is advantageous to China. China seeks to influence an independent Bougainville. The political and economic presence of china in the country has increased already. China’s support to the island will increase its support among the Pacific islands against Taiwan. It is important to note that Taiwan recently lost two of its Pacific allies this year. Australia, UK and US believe that there are possibilities of China bringing Bougainville into its debt trap diplomacy. China is also interested in Bougainville for its rich fisheries, copper, gold and other resources. Building strong ties with the country will help China increase its presence in the Pacific.
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