A new security deal between China and the Solomon Islands is the latest reflection of a global order in flux.
While some of the specifics of the deal remain unclear, it’s evident that China has been granted the authority to station security personnel on the tiny Polynesian archipelago. This includes both police and military personnel, allowing for the possibility of a PLA Navy military base some 2,000 km off the east coast of Australia at some point in the future.
The deal represents three geopolitical developments worth noting. First of all is the secrecy surrounding the negotiations. This was an agreement that, despite persistent local rumors, no one even knew about until a draft text was leaked in March – including members of the political opposition. The nature of the text was also fairly one-sided, with rights being extended to Beijing for seemingly nothing in return (though in fairness, the quid-pro-quo involved might extend into other areas/agreements not obvious at this time). In sum, given the secrecy of the deal and its corresponding direct deployment of security forces, it allows for Beijing to become directly involved in the domestic politics of the archipelago.