Monday, 17 December 2007 5:43 PM

Expert says Riots in the Pacific and China's Involvement Just the Beginning

A Pacific expert is warning that riots in Tonga and the Solomon Islands targeting Chinese immigrants could flare up elsewhere, and that these riots are just the tip of the iceberg.

According to a report by the New Zealand Herald, Associate Professor John Henderson of Canterbury University, made these statements to Parliament's foreign affairs select committee last week, adding that China's involvement in the Pacific could increase if it decides to protect its citizens more.

According to some, the report states, Tongan business owners used the riot in Nuku'alofa last year as an excuse to target their more successful Chinese rivals. Likewise, the April riots and widespread looting in the Solomon Islands were sparked by the election of Snyder Rini as prime minister with some claiming Asian influence on elections.

In the report, Professor Henderson further adds, "My worry and indeed my prediction is that we have not seen the last of this. The same sort of occurrence could happen most likely in Vanuatu ... and indeed in Fiji itself where it's estimated now there are over 20,000 Chinese." As a result of this, according to Professor Henderson, the need to protect its overseas community could be used by China as a justification for ramping up its military presence in the region.

However, Fiji's daily and online newspaper, the Fiji Times Online, spoke with Fiji's Chinese Embassy, which stated that 'China does not station troops or set up military bases in any foreign country'.

According to the report by Fiji Times Online, the embassy states that, "The Article in the NZ Herald which alleged that China will send military to this region is groundless with ulterior motives."
The Embassy added, "China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace, develops relations with the Pacific island countries on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and respect. China has offered to the best of its ability a lot of aid to the Pacific island countries including Fiji, with no political conditions attached, which is well received."

While various countries and organizations have been raising their concerns of their perceived increase of China's presence in the region, the fact is that the Chinese government provides a lot of assistance to the region, be it in the form of financial aid or skills. With its many problems and difficulties with many of its nations classed as third world or developing, the region is grateful for the countries that offer assistance and if China chooses to be one of the major allies of the region, then regardless of whatever perceived ulterior motives there may be, the region will continue to forge stronger bonds with China.