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« Amkat Mai & the need for PNG support for West Papua | Main | Life of uncertainty »

26 October 2015

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History is unfortunately not on your side Chris. When the Solomons imploded and required RAMSI to help settle them down, the Chinese government reputedly paid for three large planeloads to evacuate their people 'on the ground'.

Bougainville may be an easier experiment. However, the inevitable conflict between cultures is probably the biggest hurdle. Melanesian culture, as we know, does not generally accept an Asian way of doing things. So called 'leaders' can be bought and elections can be won with 'gris moni' but in the long run, it's what the people want that will make the difference.

The fate of Bougainville remains in the balance.

People like Leonard Fong Roka foresee a future as an independent nation, based upon traditional values and with Bougainvilleans very much in charge.

I very much doubt that Peter O'Neill and his colleagues see things this way.

This will be especially so if someone with very deep pockets is willing to substantially fund a cash strapped Bougainvillean government in return for access to the island's mineral wealth or, perhaps, in exchange for long term access to a Naval Base and major Military Airport.

Make no mistake, the Chinese government would dearly love to be able to extend its influence into the wider Pacific.

They are already seeking to extend their physical and naval presence within what they see their legitimate geographic "sphere of influence" in the South China Sea.

Armed with huge cash reserves, they have both the will and capacity to exert both "soft" and "hard" power to achieve this and, if so inclined, even further into the Pacific, which has for so long been dominated by the US fleet.

These developments are, rightly, unsettling the USA and its allies.

The USA has exerted hegemonic power in the Pacific since 1945 and will not willingly relinquish its influence or power in the region.

PNG, like Australia, will find its interests best served by maintaining the status quo.

For all its faults, the USA remains a bastion of democracy while China remains a one party autocratic state.

The history of autocratic regimes is not encouraging for those who seek a life of peace and tranquility.

So, to Bougainvilleans I say, beware the Chinese dragon, lest you be burnt!

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