Experts Deride Claims Aussie Foreign Minister Singlehandedly Torpedoed Pacific China Pact

Pacific experts have panned claims that new Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong singlehandedly took down Beijing’s efforts to sign 10 island nations onto a sweeping economic and security pact.James Cox, director of Pacific advocacy group Peacifica Australia, said any suggestion that a quick visit from a minister from the newly elected Labor government could shift the balance in the Pacific was “absurd.” “The change in government will certainly have been noted with interest by Pacific leaders, but that’s about it,” he wrote in a post on Twitter, noting that the situation in the Pacific was far more complex. “Two points show that things aren’t as simple as Sen. Wong going to Fiji and saving the day: 1. The [Federated States of Micronesia’s] president’s great cautionary letter was written well before Wong came to Fiji; 2. Fiji’s [prime minister] is one of the more pro-China Pacific leaders.” His comments come after Wong was praised by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) global affairs editor, John Lyons, for having a “blinder” in recent diplomatic efforts. This handout picture, released by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on June 2, 2022, shows Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong attending a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’afa (out of frame) in Apia. (Sarah Friend/Courtesy of Department of Foreign Affairs/AFP via Getty Images) “China had this incredible lunge at the Pacific—10 nations—it was all carefully planned. Australia appeared to not know much about that, Penny Wong, I think, has at least rescued it, at least for the moment, and she’s playing the card of climate change,” he told ABC on June 2. “I think it’s trying to salvage one of the worst foreign policy blunders we’ve seen in this country for many years; we almost lost the Pacific, in a sense, to Chinese influence,” he said. “It’s saying to the Pacific, we’re interested in you, we’re listening, and secondly, playing the card that this new government has of climate change. Clearly, they want to change direction.” Similar praise was meted out by Belinda Barnet, lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University in Melbourne. “Are we going to talk about how Penny Wong managed to *fix* a situation that was giving Australians a lot of anxiety? We could at least acknowledge how she did it in THREE DAYS,” she wrote on Twitter on May 31. “This did not happen by magic or by chance. It happened because we put an intelligent, diplomatic, and strategically-minded adult in charge of foreign relations,” she added. “We do not deserve Penny Wong. But God, I’m glad we have her.” The comments, however, were not received well. “Or … we could recognise and acknowledge that it was actually Pacific states who determined the outcome of the proposed communique. That’s the real story and where the credit lies,” Anna Powles, senior lecturer of international security at Massey University in New Zealand, wrote in response. Foreign affairs reporter for the ABC, Stephen Dziedzic, said Pacific nations had agency and that “all the intel” suggested the Pacific leaders declined to push ahead because of internal disagreements and not because of “Australian arm-twisting/advocacy.” “No consensus, no deal,” he wrote on Twitter. Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has embarked on an eight-nation tour of the South Pacific aimed at shoring up alliances with key leaders that have close ties with Beijing, including the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a joint press conference with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in Fiji’s capital city Suva on May 30, 2022. (Leon Lord/AFP via Getty Images) However, leaked documents emerged to reveal that the Chinese regime had ambitions exceeding that of bilateral ties, with Beijing proposing a sweeping 10-nation economic and security bloc in the region. The China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision envisioned the CCP working even closer with Pacific leaders in the fields of free trade, fisheries, pandemic response, and sensitive areas such as security, cyber, and maritime mapping. The deal fell over on May 30 during a meeting between the Chinese foreign minister and leaders of the Pacific after a lack of consensus. David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, was vocal in his opposition to the pact, writing to 21 Pacific leaders warning it could trigger a new “Cold War.” “Chinese control over our communications infrastructure, our ocean territory and the resources within them, and our security space, aside from impacts on our sovereignty, is that it increases the chances of China getting into conflict with Australia, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand,” he said. If you read one thing about #WangYi‘s Pacific tour, make it @POTFSM letter to other Pacific leaders about the ‘vision’ and ‘five y

Experts Deride Claims Aussie Foreign Minister Singlehandedly Torpedoed Pacific China Pact

Pacific experts have panned claims that new Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong singlehandedly took down Beijing’s efforts to sign 10 island nations onto a sweeping economic and security pact.

James Cox, director of Pacific advocacy group Peacifica Australia, said any suggestion that a quick visit from a minister from the newly elected Labor government could shift the balance in the Pacific was “absurd.”

“The change in government will certainly have been noted with interest by Pacific leaders, but that’s about it,” he wrote in a post on Twitter, noting that the situation in the Pacific was far more complex.

“Two points show that things aren’t as simple as Sen. Wong going to Fiji and saving the day: 1. The [Federated States of Micronesia’s] president’s great cautionary letter was written well before Wong came to Fiji; 2. Fiji’s [prime minister] is one of the more pro-China Pacific leaders.”

His comments come after Wong was praised by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) global affairs editor, John Lyons, for having a “blinder” in recent diplomatic efforts.

Epoch Times Photo
This handout picture, released by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on June 2, 2022, shows Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong attending a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’afa (out of frame) in Apia. (Sarah Friend/Courtesy of Department of Foreign Affairs/AFP via Getty Images)

“China had this incredible lunge at the Pacific—10 nations—it was all carefully planned. Australia appeared to not know much about that, Penny Wong, I think, has at least rescued it, at least for the moment, and she’s playing the card of climate change,” he told ABC on June 2.

“I think it’s trying to salvage one of the worst foreign policy blunders we’ve seen in this country for many years; we almost lost the Pacific, in a sense, to Chinese influence,” he said. “It’s saying to the Pacific, we’re interested in you, we’re listening, and secondly, playing the card that this new government has of climate change. Clearly, they want to change direction.”

Similar praise was meted out by Belinda Barnet, lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University in Melbourne.

“Are we going to talk about how Penny Wong managed to *fix* a situation that was giving Australians a lot of anxiety? We could at least acknowledge how she did it in THREE DAYS,” she wrote on Twitter on May 31.

“This did not happen by magic or by chance. It happened because we put an intelligent, diplomatic, and strategically-minded adult in charge of foreign relations,” she added. “We do not deserve Penny Wong. But God, I’m glad we have her.”

The comments, however, were not received well.

“Or … we could recognise and acknowledge that it was actually Pacific states who determined the outcome of the proposed communique. That’s the real story and where the credit lies,” Anna Powles, senior lecturer of international security at Massey University in New Zealand, wrote in response.

Foreign affairs reporter for the ABC, Stephen Dziedzic, said Pacific nations had agency and that “all the intel” suggested the Pacific leaders declined to push ahead because of internal disagreements and not because of “Australian arm-twisting/advocacy.”

“No consensus, no deal,” he wrote on Twitter.

Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has embarked on an eight-nation tour of the South Pacific aimed at shoring up alliances with key leaders that have close ties with Beijing, including the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a joint press conference with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in Fiji’s capital city Suva on May 30, 2022. (Leon Lord/AFP via Getty Images)

However, leaked documents emerged to reveal that the Chinese regime had ambitions exceeding that of bilateral ties, with Beijing proposing a sweeping 10-nation economic and security bloc in the region.

The China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision envisioned the CCP working even closer with Pacific leaders in the fields of free trade, fisheries, pandemic response, and sensitive areas such as security, cyber, and maritime mapping.

The deal fell over on May 30 during a meeting between the Chinese foreign minister and leaders of the Pacific after a lack of consensus.

David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, was vocal in his opposition to the pact, writing to 21 Pacific leaders warning it could trigger a new “Cold War.”

“Chinese control over our communications infrastructure, our ocean territory and the resources within them, and our security space, aside from impacts on our sovereignty, is that it increases the chances of China getting into conflict with Australia, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand,” he said.

Heston Russell, a former special forces operative who also spent years working behind the scenes in the South Pacific region, said Pacific nations had major problems with corruption and that Beijing had largely succeeded in locking in relationships with some Pacific leaders (elite capture).

He said democratic nations should avoid going “pound for pound” with Beijing and instead pivot and focus on grassroots engagement.

“There’s a separation between the political level and local population. Most of the population are too busy surviving and going about their everyday lives and are not actively engaged in politics or what’s going on,” he previously told The Epoch Times. “That allows the political elite to exploit the country, be influenced, be corrupted, and that plays right into the hands of countries with big resources, big regions, big power bases like the Chinese.”


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Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at [email protected]