Beijing’s great game to win over Pacific’s small island states

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Micronesia’s President Peter Christian, center, reviews an honor guard with Xi Jinping outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in March 2017. Photo: AFP/ Greg Baker

 

Deploying classic tactics – leverage via investment, tourism, diplomacy and political funding – Beijing is winning the strategic competition with Washington across the west and northern Pacific

While the South China Sea is East Asia’s strategic center stage as China expands its military presence and control over that critical seascape, Beijing is quietly and successfully upping its presence in Pacific territories that have traditionally fallen under US influence.

But unlike in the South China Sea, it is not capturing influence with hard power. Instead, it is deploying a range of big-picture, long-game asymmetric tactics that will be familiar to anyone who has studied Beijing’s Belt and Road initiatives in other regions.

While the US fought its now-legendary, trans-Pacific “island hopping” campaign against Japan in many of these territories in World War II, China is today winning a new, non-kinetic war by default – for, beyond East Asian shores, the Pacific suffers from benign neglect in Washington. Continue reading