International recognition of Taiwan is waning, suggesting diminished support for the independent state living in the shadow of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In 2019, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said his country would recognize the “One China” principle and would stand on the “right side of history” by switching its diplomatic relationship from Taiwan to the PRC, according to the South China Morning Post.

Shortly after the diplomatic switch, the PRC’s increasing soft power influence in the Solomon Islands became apparent.

A few days after announcing its recognition of the PRC, the Solomon Islands signed a 75-year renewable lease with the China Sam Enterprise Group for the entirety of Tulagi Island, a small landmass between Guadalcanal and Malaita, reports the Guardian. According to the International Business Times and The New York Times, the natural deep-water access at Tulagi—the site of a key battle between Japanese and U.S. forces in World War II—prompted concern among military observers that the location might have dual-use potential. In October 2019, after an outcry by residents, the Solomon Islands’ central government declared the deal illegal and cancelled the agreement, reports The New York Times.

In 2019, the Solomon Islands signed an $825 million deal with China Railway to restart production at the Gold Ridge mine on Guadalcanal, according to Taiwan News. The Solomon Islands will pay nothing for project-related infrastructure at the revamped Gold Ridge mine—but the country will not own it, either. The state-owned China Railway will retain ownership of project-related infrastructure at Gold Ridge, according to ABC News. Control of infrastructure in a country with less than 0.05% of the population of the PRC calls into question the soft power aims of the PRC in the Solomon Islands.

For this edition of Maxar Spotlight, we examined the PRC’s expanding diplomatic and commercial profile in the Solomon Islands. Our experts used Maxar high-resolution satellite imagery, Vivid basemaps and comprehensive analytic reports to evaluate road expansion and infrastructure development, provide contextual mapping layers and deliver insight by harnessing the collective power of proprietary and open-source information.

Read the full periodical to gain a better understanding of how Maxar’s Earth Intelligence capabilities reveal patterns of life and insights to predict, mitigate and resolve crisis and conflict.

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Sneak peek: excerpt from Maxar Spotlight, Vol. 30

A variety of development projects are underway in the Solomon Islands with funding from the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). One historical site located at Alligator Creek on Guadalcanal was sold to Chinese-owned JQY Ltd. just after the switch to develop the area for a fishery project; JQY promptly erected a fence at the Alligator Creek site, preventing access by locals, reports Reuters. The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) constructed the Mbokokimbo Bridge and the Mberande-Aola road and bridges; CCECC also received the contract to construct the Munda Airport terminal, according to Pacific Tenders. Some residents expressed initial reluctance regarding the partnership between CCECC and Munda leadership. However, the Solomon Star reports the residents’ desire for the project’s completion diminished opposition to a PRC partnership in the project. These projects show the influence BRI funds can have on leaders seeking local development. Still, doubt remains among civilians concerned about undue influence by the PRC and their access to trickle-down benefits from such deals, according to the Guardian.

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