Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: pacific
Wednesday, 28 March 2012 15:57

The Oceanic Feeling

All marine ecosystems are in constant flux, affected by external influences and short-term disruptions as well as by seasonal cycles. Those who live within an oceanic environment necessarily see the world in a different way from those who dwell in the plains, highlands or mountains. Sudden and unexpected changes foster the representation of distant divine beings whose behavior is unpredictable; the sense of uncertainty generated by the environment encourages flexible strategies, rather than linear thinking. Nowhere is this truer than in the Pacific Ocean, which covers a surface larger than the one occupied by all land areas, and which accounts for eighty percent of the islands of the globe.

In the Pacific world, the ocean is the continent: the sea constitutes the natural environment for all forms of life, it is also the vector of communication... A writer from Tonga, Epeli Hau'ofa (1939-2009) has spoken of a "sea of islands', a sea that unites rather than divides, a sea that is a lived story: for the ocean moves and breathes in those born on its banks like the salt in the sea and the blood within the body. The immense ocean also dwells within the narrow limits of a human body, allowing man to travel into himself in the same way he embarks for finding other islanders.

All this may remind us of what the writer Romain Rolland called, in his correspondence with Freud, the"Oceanic feeling.” Through this expression he was trying to encapsulate a feeling of infinity that goes beyond all structured religious belief. Nowadays, Romain Rolland’s “Oceanic feeling” has become little more than a footnote in the history of religious psychology. Freud was not very appreciative:  "How foreign to me are the worlds in which you move! Mystique is as closed to me as music” he wrote to Rolland – who replied, "I can hardly believe that mysticism and music are foreign to you. I rather think that you are afraid of them, as you wish to keep the instrument of critical reason unblemished.”

Going a step beyond Romain Rolland, one may say that the presence of God in the soul is like the triumphant sound of the waves - and this “like” means two things at once: first, it speaks of the universal nature of spiritual experience; and second, it recognizes the fact that no comparison can account for the way God makes himself present within the depths of man. What the Oceanic feeling helps us understand is that joy arises in our soul always as something nascent. The joy that comes like the light of the day within the darkness of our depths is sung and evoked by the movement of an ocean everlasting and yet nascent, by the rhythm of the waves engraving and erasing their writings on the sand with a finger trembling and yet assured. Eventually, the Oceanic feeling lets us glimpse the mystery of the birth of God within the soul: a gift eternally offered – and always new.

Illustration by Bendu



Wednesday, 28 December 2011 14:35

Micronesian Memories of War in the Pacific

Lin Poyer is a professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming. Her recent work focuses on the Micronesian experience and history of the Pacific War, during the Japanese colonization and afterwards. In December 2011, she was invited to Taipei by the Taiwan Center for Pacific Studies to give a series of lectures presenting her research. We had the opportunity to meet her beforehand and learn about the impact of WWII in Micronesia and the specificities of its oral history in the region.


Monday, 18 April 2011 17:20

Looking South: Taiwan’s Diplomacy and Rivalry with China in the Pacific Islands Region

Taiwan has diplomatic relations with six Pacific Island Countries (PICs) - KiribatiMarshall IslandsNauruPalauSolomon Islands and Tuvalu.[1] This means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) still faces a challenge in the South Pacific that no longer exists in the other sub-regions of Asia-Pacific. In Asia, the ‘one China’ policy is a rule with no exceptions. No Asian state would today even contemplate the idea of switching allegiance from Beijing to Taipei. The Middle Kingdom has been seeking the same level of compliance in the Pacific Islands Region. Consequently, China’s involvement in the South Pacific is primarily due to the capacity of the island states to accord diplomatic recognition, and only to a lesser - but not negligible - extent to the region’s economic and strategic characteristics.[2] As the economies of the two Asian contenders have grown, their rivalry has escalated as the resources available to both have increased, bolstering the South Pacific ‘diplomatic market’. This market has been sustained also by the small PICs, that look at the Cross-Strait rivalry as an opportunity to extract development assistance and supplement their limited resources. Today, China has more avenues of influence and greater economic resources than Taiwan can match and the imbalance is likely to keep increasing. Such a development will factor highly in the diplomatic recognition equation since China will be able to appeal to the PICs’ development aspirations with more than just international aid.[3] Yet, Taiwan has been able to win the diplomatic recognition of some island states which are “sufficiently indifferent to China’s power.”[4] Moreover, the fewer allies Taiwan has, the more aid money it can allocate for each, and the more difficult is for China to outbid its Cross-Strait rival. Over the last decade, the intensification of the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic competition in the South Pacific has progressively antagonised Australian interests and those of the two Chinese rivals, and introduced an additional element of complication in Canberra’s relations with the island states. Recently, the tension has been lowered by a positive development in the Cross-Strait dynamic. In fact, today the two dragons seem to be at a pivotal but still ephemeral turning point, having apparently agreed a ‘diplomatic truce’ which looks stable but also easily reversible.

This paper analyses the Cross-Strait rivalry in the Pacific Islands Region at this crucial juncture. It draws on a vast array of scholarly publications, news reports, and official documentation. The paper contends that, even though the two Asian rivals do not generally acknowledge it, their competition has been conducted mainly through ‘chequebook diplomacy’ - diplomatic recognition in return for not-very transparent development assistance. The paper looks at the type of aid that the two sides of Taiwan Strait are providing to their Pacific allies, and how diplomatic allegiance is maintained and gained. The article argues that the PICs are not the passive objects of the Sino-Taiwanese confrontation, but rather are active co-creators of the rivalry. While this involvement has, under many respects, a negative impact on the PICs’ society, political process and international perception, it would be simplistic to maintain that the island states have not benefited from the aid provided by the two Asian powers, which represents a few-strings attached alternative to the more substantial but highly conditional Western development assistance. The paper initially begins with briefly outlining the historical unfolding of China-Taiwan rivalry in the South Pacific. It then examines what the two opponents are spending and how their diplomatic relationships with the Pacific Islandsare maintained and, occasionally, laboriously won. Next, the paper investigates the islands states’ practice of auctioning their diplomatic recognition and the role played by the PICs as Cross-Strait rivalry co-creators. The paper then analyses the challenges posed by the Sino-Formosan rivalry to the longstanding dominant power in the region,Australia, and identifies the opportunities that the Cross-Strait detente presents to Canberra and the two Asian contenders. Finally, the paper briefly re-examines the contentious issue of the damages and benefits to the PICs from the rivalry, and the prospects for the ‘diplomatic truce’.

A battle of enticements: China-Taiwan diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific

Pacific Islands’ transition to independence from the late 1960s to early 1980s delivered new opportunities for the diplomatic Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry.[5] The transfer of the permanent seat and the right of veto in the United Nations Security Council from the Republic of China (ROC), controlling Taiwan and some island groups nearby, to Beijing played a crucial role in this competition. For example, Australian governmental records reveal that Beijing’s influence in the UN was decisive in establishing exclusive diplomatic relations with Papua New Guinea (PNG).[6] However, Taiwan’s rise to ‘Asian tiger’ status through the 1970s and 1980s assisted Taipei in winning the allegiance of several PICs, partially counterbalancing China’s bigger international footprint.[7] For instance, Taiwan was reportedly able to establish diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands thanks to Taipei’s economic incentives.[8] By 1988, Taiwan had the recognition of four PICs - TongaSolomon IslandsNauru and Tuvalu - and the PRC the recognition of five - PNG, SamoaFijiKiribati and Vanuatu. The basis of the Sino-Taiwanese contention in the South Pacific underwent a change with Taiwan’s transition to democracy. Starting with Lee Teng-hui’s presidential tenure, Taipei increasingly commenced to act more as the government of Taiwan (although formally continuing to claim sovereignty over the over the territory of the PRC and Mongolia), and abandoned the condition that Taipei would only recognize a state if it sever relations with China.[9]“This ‘New Taiwan’ continued to seek diplomatic recognition from the Pacific Islands, but as a state separate from that controlled by the government in Beijing. It would also become interested in acquiring increments of recognition, such as permission for presidential flight stopovers.” [10] However, given that the PRC continues to be intransigent on its ‘One-China’ policy and denying Taiwan’s statehood, the Cross-Strait diplomatic rivalry has maintained many of its pre-1988 connotations despite the ROC’s ‘Taiwanisation’ and ‘Taiwanised’ diplomacy. Over the last two decades, China’s potent economic growth has sharpened the diplomatic confrontation with the other side of the Taiwan Strait, and enabled Beijing to virtually outbid Taiwan on a global scale, including the South Pacific.[11] For example, China’s economic leverage persuaded the Kingdom of Tonga to change its allegiance in 1998 after 26 years of close relations with Taiwan. Moreover, China is reportedly fielding more diplomats in the South Pacific than any other country (although Australia has more diplomatic missions).”[12] However, it would be incorrect to assume that Beijing now has the capacity to outbid Taipei in any case. In fact, the fewer allies Taiwan has the more funds it can allocate on each, and the higher are the expectations and demands of the PRC’s allies. For this reason, China is unlikely to ever be able to ‘buy out’ all of its opponent’s allies. As such, it is not surprising that today the ROC has almost as many ‘friends’ in the South Pacific as it did in the 1980s. Taiwan currently entertains official relations with six of the fourteen island members of the Pacific Islands Forum (FICs) - Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. The PRC has the recognition of eight: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Even though the PRC and - to a minor extent - Taiwan, give the PICs international aid for other purposes, the main part of the development assistance they provide is related to their diplomatic rivalry. Lancaster calculates that Beijing’s overall annual foreign aid budget amounts to $1.5-2 billion.[13] Hanson maintains that China donated $100-150 million to its South Pacific partners in 2007, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized loans. [14] According to the OECD, Taiwan’s total aid budget amount to $514 million in 2007. [15] In a recent ‘white paper’, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) stated that Taiwan’s ‘official’ overseas development assistance totalled $430 million for 2008, 0.11 per cent of gross national income.[16] Taiwan generally allocates $10–15 million for each ally, which translates to a total $60-90 million annual budget for the South Pacific. Taiwan also provides funds to PICs - such as Fiji - that do not bestow official recognition on it (see below).

While the amount the two dragons are spending in the Pacific Islands Region has continued to escalate, the level of spending remains below what the major Western donors give, as was the case two decades ago.[17] However, the two Asian contenders are important donors for some PICs. For instance, Taipei is the second largest donor to Tuvalu after the European Union, and Beijing is PNG’s second largest donor after Canberra.[18] Moreover, “South Pacific governments often perceive aid from China and Taiwan as more valuable than Western aid as it comes in a form over which they have more control.”[19]

Despite the substantial aid that the two Asian contenders liberally bestow on the South Pacific, winning new allies has proved considerably more difficult than keeping the allegiance of the allies they already have. During Chen Shui-bian’s presidential tenures, Taipei and Beijing repeatedly tried to woo each other’s allies, usually to no avail. Only five out of the fourteen Pacific Island states - Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa and Tonga - have changed sides from one dragon to the other over the past three decades. As Atkinson notices, “the main reason for this is the difficulty China and Taiwan face in garnering sufficiently broad political support while maintaining the secrecy necessary to avoid interference from the rival side. In PNG in 1999, Tuvalu in 2004, and Vanuatu in 2006, China or Taiwan were successful in attaining the support of a Pacific Islands country’s leader only to see him ousted in a vote of no confidence due to the broader support of the opposing rival.”[20] However, maintaining the recognition of a ‘PIC friend’ is not an easy task as well. In fact, in order to secure an enduring diplomatic relationship, the two contenders must ‘keep happy’ a relatively large majority of a South Pacific polity. This implies that, unlike the aid from Western countries, the gifts from the dragons (the Taiwanese or Chinese aid packages) are often designed to meet the requirements of the islands’ political elites.

The government buildings and the sport facilities provided by Beijing or Taipei are the most visible sign of the aforementioned policy. For the PRC, this list includes the foreign ministry headquarters in Port Moresby, the Melanesian Spearhead Group headquarters, parliament and foreign ministry buildings for Vanuatu, government buildings for Samoa, and mansions for the president and vice president in Micronesia. Taiwan funded the central government office complex in Tuvalu (notably, the tallest building in the minuscule country). “Although there is no official data available, Taiwan has probably donated around $100 million to Palau since establishing diplomatic ties in 1999, which works out to approximately $5,000 per capita. Of this sum, $3 million dollars has been spent on construction of a conference center, $15 million on airport expansion, and $2 million on the National Museum […]. Taiwan also lent $20 million for the construction of a new capital city, Melekeok, locally referred to as ‘Washington Jr.’ for its architectural resemblance to Capitol Hill.”[21]The buildings erected thanks to Taiwan’s generosity are generally regarded as more valuable to the recipient country as Taipei provides the funds with which to buy both the materials and (local) labour. Beijing typically provides - that is, imports - its own workforce and materials, significantly lowering the benefit to the local economy. As Fergus Hanson puts it, “in the Pacific (and elsewhere) it [China] attaches significant strings to its aid (although publicly it professes to give without any conditions). Use of Chinese contractors, materials and laborers, for example, is generally mandatory, limiting opportunities for local workers and benefits to the local economy.”[22] In addition, it appears that in several cases, the infrastructures built by the Chinese are badly constructed and fail to take local conditions into account. As Graeme Dobell ironically remarks, “Beijing is keen on showpieces that can be locked and left. Large public buildings and sports stadiums are examples of ‘key’ aid: the donor builds the project, hands over the key and leaves after the opening ceremony, with no responsibility for future maintenance or operation of the facility.”[23]

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait hand down other material benefits to the island states’ politicians. For example, the PRC donated a fleet of luxury cars for the use of Vanuatu’s cabinet ministers - notably, almost half of Port Vila’s parliament. Beijing also is a donor to each of Vanuatu’s numerous political parties and involves members of parliament in business deals.[24] Taipei covers Tuvalu’s ministerial travel expenses, and accords funding for Solomon Islands legislators to spend on development projects in their constituencies. Both the PRC and its rival continue the consolidated practice of bringing PIC leaders and other politicians - together with their numerous retinues - on all-expenses-paid visits, with complimentary spending money and gifts included.

The majority of Beijing’s and Taipei’s aid for their South Pacific allies is in the form of

-          direct budgetary grants
-          soft loans
-          and funding for specific projects.

Direct grants are the most attractive type of aid for the PICs’ governments, as they allow the island states to spend the funds as they deem useful. Loans are similarly flexible, and are sometimes forgiven or repeatedly extended. “Moreover, repayments are often made out of government budgets supported by direct grants, and thus not a direct burden on the finances of the country concerned.”[25] The islands’ governments are also given a high degree of control even where funding is labelled as developmental assistance, with the right to both commence and supervise projects. For example, China - which has spectacularly stepped up its aid-giving to the South Pacific (from pledges worth $33 million in 2005 to $206 million in 2008)[26] - funnels the main part of its funding to the Fiji Islands through Suva’s foreign ministry, thus tendering the ministry a direct financial interest in the relationship with the PRC. Taiwan donates a much smaller aid fund (annually, $500,000 circa) through Fiji’s Prime Minister’s office. Taiwan also provides separate funding for education, health, agriculture and fisheries projects directly to the relevant ministries. According to an interview conducted by Australian scholar Joel Atkinson, “this separate system for handling aid from Taiwan came about because of the PRC’s objection to Taiwan’s donations being received directly into the coffers of the state.” [27] As previously mentioned, the two Asian donors also exercise considerably less supervision over their respective aid programmes than Western aid givers. For instance, the Tuvaluan government can “use the money [from Taiwan] where it likes […] no strings attached”[28] on condition it presents a progress report on the destination of the first instalment. This modus operandi can be a source of problems for the ‘dragon donors’ when the policies of the islands’ governments undermine the basis of support in the country as a whole. For example, Taipei’s ambassador had no choice but sending money directly when the Tuvaluan government diverted funds which were earmarked for projects on the external islands to fill in for government revenue shortages.[29]

(Photo courtesy of the Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory)


fab_conf_focus

It is also worth highlighting that - in the hope that this will be conducive to the establishment of relations - both Cross-Strait rivals indulge in the longstanding practice of approaching parliamentary oppositions or presidential candidates. For example, Beijing inked a memorandum of understanding with Solomon Islands legislator Francis Billy Hilly and his National Party providing funding in return for working towards severing relations with Taiwan and recognizing China. Hilly was brought into the Solomon Islands government in 2006, and then expelled even for not reneging on the memorandum.[30] The Middle Kingdom has also established links with opposition politicians in Palau, and invited Palauan legislators to Beijing.[31] To date, neither of these initiatives has been successful for China. However, Taiwan employed this tactic successfully following in the aftermaths of July 2003 presidential elections in Kiribati (see below).

Each Asian rival advertises and stresses out the benefits of having relations with its side of the Taiwan Strait in order to maintain their Pacific allies and win new ones. As mentioned above, Beijing employs its own labour and materials to erect buildings as aid for its PIC partners. China also utilizes its manufacturing resources to provide ‘its’ island states with a multitude of goods ranging from chemical fertilizer[32] to cars.[33] The Middle Kingdom is also an attractive export market for the Pacific Islands and offers its South Pacific allies preferential access. China even invests in PNG’s mining industry,[34] obtaining coveted raw materials and corroborating its partnership with Port Moresby at the same time. The growth of the Chinese economy has enabled an increasing number of mainland Chinese to travel overseas for leisure, and Beijing has granted ‘Approved Destination Status’ (authorizing tourism from China) to its South Pacific allies.

While, for obvious reasons, it is difficult for Taiwan to compete with the mainland as an export market for the island states, Taipei has, however, a remarkable capacity to supply investment capital. Notably, investment was a weighty factor in the establishment of diplomatic ties between Taiwan and Palau,[35] and Taipei is significantly investing in the Solomon Islands.[36] Taiwan has an excellent expertise in agriculture, and continues to carry out agricultural development projects in the South Pacific.[37] In addition, Taiwan is a high-technology powerhouse, and provides the PICs with technology for environmental schemes and initiatives aimed at preventing and alleviating the consequences of the rising sea level.[38] Taiwan’s advanced health system also plays an important role: Taipei regularly dispatches medical équipes and equipment to the Pacific Islands.[39] “During Chen Shui-bian’s presidency, Taipei attempted to fill a gap left by Australia and bring its Pacific Islands allies into Taiwan’s system of temporary foreign labour.”[40] Taiwan often presents itself as a humanitarian power to its allies. For example, In February 2009, ROC Foreign Ministry spokesman Henry Chen hinted that Taiwan could become a safe haven for the whole population of Tuvalu (10,472) in the tragic case the tiny archipelago disappears into the ocean.[41]

China and Taiwan also resort to soft power and ideological appeal. The PRC emphasizes its status as the ‘rising star’ in the constellation of great powers to the Pacific Islands, “and attempts to create a sense of the benefits of China’s friendship and the ‘inevitability’ of diplomatically recognizing China and not Taiwan.”[42] Taiwan, on its part, highlights its democracy and respect for human rights. In some cases, the Taipei’s ‘democracy argument’ seems to have a certain persuasive power. When asked about his country’s alliance with Taiwan, Palau’s House Speaker, Noah Idechong, “says […] Palau is right to stick with its current alliances and not be too quick to embrace China.  He points out that Taiwan and Palau have common values, values that China’s government doesn’t share. […] ‘I feel it would be overwhelming if we join China, that is very heavy handed, in my mind, when dealing with human rights issues, environment, and controlling their people.’ […] Idechong admits that business people here are increasingly asking, ‘Why throw in our lot with the small fish when we could go for the big one?’ Idechong thinks the big fish could sink Palau’s boat.”[43] Last but not least, Taiwan puts emphasis and cultivates the ‘Austronesian link’. The Taiwanese, in other words, stress the scientific evidence that Formosan aboriginal population is culturally and genetically linked to the Pacific Islanders. For instance, Taipei dispatched an aboriginal former legislator to be its representative in Fiji,[44] funds the studies conducted by Palau’s National Museum on the ethnic connection between Taiwan’s indigenous people and Micronesians,[45] and organises the annual International Austronesian Conference in Taiwan.[46]

‘Visit diplomacy’ also has an important role in the China-Taiwan diplomatic competition in the South Pacific. For Taipei, official visits the island states’ capitals serve a double purpose: showing respect to PICs and, more importantly, asserting Taiwan’s sovereignty. During Chen Shui-bian’s two mandates, the Taiwanese government decided to supplement its diplomatic efforts in the region through presidential visits to the PICs. In early 2005, Chen became the first ROC president to pay an official visit to Palau and the Solomons and, by September 2006, Chen had called at each of Taiwan’s Pacific allies. The Chen administration even inaugurated a multilateral diplomacy approach to the region, by organising and attending two Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summits in Palau and the Marshall Islands respectively in September 2006 and September 2007.[47]According to Chen Shui-bian, the summit was meant to be “an evolution in Taiwan’s diplomacy from bilateral links to multilateral comprehensive partnerships.”[48] In late March 2010, ROC President Ma Ying-jeou’s made his first Pacific tour of all Taiwan’s six diplomatic allies.[49] Ma’s voyage had been originally scheduled for October 2009, but “it was postponed […] due to pressures of rescue and relief work in the wake of Typhoon Morakot.”[50] This delay also brought a change in the character of the program. The original agenda prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs included the convening of the Third Taiwan-Pacific Allies Summit in Honiara. However, the Office of the President decided to replace the summit with traditional bilateral state visits. The Ma administration reportedly “renounced the multilateral approach on the grounds that the ‘diplomatic truce’ between the KMT government and Beijing has ‘stabilized’ Taiwan’s ties with the six Pacific allies and because the bilateral approach is ‘more sincere’ for maintaining official relations and deepening cooperation.”[51] Even though Chinese officials had made over twice as many high level visits to the region as Taiwan between 1988 and 1998, Chinese President Hu Jintao has been unable or unwilling to imitate Chen’s and Ma’s diplomatic activism. However, in April 2006, Beijing’s premier Wen Jiabao flew to Fiji, becoming the first Chinese premier to visit the South Pacific. There, he combined bilateralism and multilateralism through meeting separately and jointly with leaders from all of China’s allies during the first China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum. “China made several significant pledges to its allies at the conference. In addition to the main agreement, each participating country struck bilateral deals with China, supposedly worth over $24 million in the case of Fiji.”[52] In March 2007, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang visited Port Moresby and Port Vila, and paid an official visit to Papua Guinea again in 2009.[53]

The Cross-Strait rivalry is a problem the South Pacific regional organizations have been facing since Beijing became a dialogue partner of the South Pacific Forum (later Pacific Islands Forum) in 1989.[54] In 1992, the forum also accepted Taiwan as a dialogue partner. Despite vocal Chinese protests, the ROC attended the 1993 forum in Nauru, a diplomatic ally of Taiwan. China was gravely disturbed by the prospect of Taiwan’s participation in Australia the following year. Beijing then tried to limit Taiwan’s presence to South Pacific Forum meetings held in countries recognizing Taipei. Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating did not kow-tow, and successfully proposed a compromise solution where the South Pacific Forum post-forum dialogue with Taiwan was hosted at a separate venue.[55] This solution proved resilient, and it has been adopted since then. In 2003, when Canberra and Wellington declined an offer of membership to the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO), the organization made the same offer to Taipei and Beijing.[56] China then became the first extra-regional member of the SPTO in April 2004.[57] In return, Beijing agreed to authorize Chinese tourists to vacation in the island states which bestow recognition on the Middle Kingdom, and to fund the SPTO.[58] According to Trevor Olovae, Solomon Islands’ Tourism Minister, “Taiwan [also] promised to financially support the SPTO in a significant way if it becomes a member.”[59] However, China threatened to withdraw in case of Taiwan’s admission in the organization. The decision of the SPTO to exclude Taiwan was then ‘consolidated’ when China raised its contribution to $100,000 for five years. In 2006, the most important regional organization of the South Pacific, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), was forced to steer a course through a particularly insidious Cross-Strait storm.[60] In preparation for the above mentioned ‘China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum Ministerial Conference’, China originally approached the PIF to co-sponsor the event. However, China’s insistence that only the states recognizing it would sign the conference declaration - and Taiwan’s protests - caused the PIF to withdraw.[61] Following this, the PICs siding with Taiwan announced that they were not to attend the conference. In the end, the PIF’s role was limited to “supporting and helping members to take part.”[62]

In 2008, the election of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, a leader openly committed to start a fresh dialogue with China and make political ouvertures to Beijing in return for economic benefits and diplomatic détente, deeply changed the dynamics of the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific. Ma’s government claims it has successfully negotiated a ‘diplomatic truce’ with Beijing and, although China has not publicly acknowledged the truce, “a tacit agreement appears to be in effect.” [63] This informal truce appears to have temporarily anesthetized the rivalry, given that at the moment neither side is actively operating to change the diplomatic balance. This is reflected by some interesting policy shifts on both sides of the straits. “Taiwan released an aid white paper in 2009 that set out a much more responsible approach to aid giving, essentially rejecting the old chequebook diplomacy for which both China and Taiwan got plenty of ‘bad publicity’. For its part, Beijing has taken the unprecedented step of discouraging countries loyal to Taiwan from switching allegiance to China in an effort to keep the improving bilateral relationship on track.”[64] However, the truce does not imply that the contest with Taiwan is no longer central to China’s strategy in the South Pacific and the other regions where Taiwan retains diplomatic allies. Beijing is likely to withdraw its tacit cooperation with the truce if it does not receive what it considers sufficient concessions to its unification policy. “What concessions will satisfy Beijing - and whether this or future Taiwan governments will be prepared to make them - is the subject of intense debate, and the long-term prospects of the diplomatic truce are uncertain.”[65] If the truce breaks down, it is possible that the resulting uncertainty will see the Cross-Strait diplomatic rivalry return to the Pacific Islands Region with sudden rapidity. There are also questions surrounding what the truce will mean for the region while it endures. It is unlikely that the two rivals will drastically reduce their aid commitments to the PICs. Presumably, neither contender will want to unnecessarily neglect ties with its allies while the termination of the truce remains a concrete possibility. Despite the truce, Beijing has so far continued to promise relatively substantial aid packages to the Pacific. This suggests that “China is assuming something of a holding pattern: Waiting to see whether the truce with Taiwan holds and if it does not, making sure it is ready to jump back into the diplomatic tussle for allies.”[66] Even if the truce were to become durably consolidated, there are reasons to assume that Beijing would maintain its aid commitment to the region, albeit it may decide to donate less liberally. China’s view and perception of its place in the world arena, and its capacity to act accordingly, have changed: while the South Pacific might be geopolitically marginal, as a state with global vision and ambitions, the PRC needs to be a protagonist in every regional theater. Actually, both contenders have a set of interests in the Pacific Islands that are separate from their rivalry. For this reason, Beijing and Taipei may prove reluctant to relinquish the versatile influence they have cultivated with the Pacific Islands. For example, In China’s case, the links with the island states provide Beijing with a measure of international support on a range of issues such as its control over Tibet and Japan’s bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat.[67] For Taiwan, its involvement in the region is also a means to advertise itself as a humanitarian power. It is also true that in the South Pacific, there are substantial resources of interest to both China and Taiwan (for instance, many island states have large fishing zones). In the light of these factors, it is foreseeable that the two dragons will continue to be important actors in the Southern Seas well into the next decade, regardless of the resilience of the diplomatic truce.

The Pacific Island Countries: Rivalry Impacted or Rivalry Co-creators?

“That sovereignty has economic consequences can scarcely be debated.”[68] States have taken it away from other states in order to seize control of their wealth. Equally, subject peoples have fought to recover their sovereignty and the economic benefits it entails. States, indeed, exercise sovereignty to pursue their national interests and economic viability. In some instances, states ‘mismanage’ their sovereignty by indulging in activities that are clearly improper or even illegal. For example, it would be difficult to argue that the sale of flags of convenience for shipping, the provision of shady offshore banking facilities and of lawsuit-proof tax havens do not often cross into the realm of the illicit.Diplomatic recognition has always been at the most sensitive end of the spectrum of state responsibility. It should be. It is the constitutive mechanism that has established the state system and maintains it. The state system has been a self-authenticating arrangement since being validated in 1648 by the Peace of Westphalia by virtue of diplomatic recognition.” [69] Even today, states are the only subjects that have the prerogative of recognising the existence of a state are the other states. The community of states is an exclusive club in which admission is awarded only by the countries which already enjoy the membership. Ordinarily, this process has been too laden with implications and dependent on too many actors to be the object of a do ut des or to be reduced to an auction. Even during the Cold War era, “the trade was in political or strategic alignment rather than in recognition.”[70] States traded for international aid and other forms of assistance to accord their loyalty and support to one side or the other. Even considering the role of ideological competition in hastening the tempo of decolonization during the ‘bi-polar decades’ does not substantially refute this interpretation. Indeed, the superpowers did not need to purchase recognition; they had it already. What they sought was to win more ideological satellites. Clearly, the territories pursuing independence needed recognition to attain statehood, but their status and the Cold War dynamics prevented them from bargaining for it. While, the historical record suggests that bargaining for state recognition is a sporadic and impervious practice, the Sino-Taiwanese rivalry for diplomatic recognition, especially in the South Pacific arena, can be seen largely in these terms. It is, however, debatable whether this recognition-race is spurred in the first instance by the PICs trying to auction diplomatic allegiance or by the two dragons to secure it. For example, James Brooke of the New York Times News Service supported the former interpretation when, in 2004, he claimed that the ‘small islands often offer recognition to the ‘highest bidder’ in playing Beijing off against Taipei.[71] On the contrary, the Economist in the same year maintained that the Cross-Strait competition between in the Caribbean region was to be seen in terms of the ‘two Chinas’ actively vying to purchase diplomatic relations as a commodity. While both sides of the Taiwan Strait reject the allegation that they are recognition-traders, before the establishment of the ‘diplomatic truce’, Taipei has been often finger-pointed as the proactive bidder on the grounds of its ‘complicated’ relationship with the international community. Nevertheless, even the Chinese ‘red dragon’ is regarded as playing an active part since it gains by precluding the diplomatic space Taiwan strives for. This, ca va sans dire, can involve ‘outbidding’ Taiwan to win the allegiance of a aid-needy country. Moreover, in these years, other powers - even though not engaged in any battle for recognition - have resorted to the practice of buying PIC votes in international fora. In fact, sovereignty bestows not only the prerogative of recognizing other states, but also the right to membership and vote in international organizations, the United Nations (UN) in primis. This has provided the small and poor PICs with a durable revenue-earning scheme: converting diplomatic recognition and UN membership into cash.

For example, in 2010 Nauru became the fourth country to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Soon after that, the Russian Federation donated nine million American dollars to upgrade the island’s port.  Georgia quickly found a way to strike back: via Tuvalu. On 11 September 2010, it was reported that the Tbilisi was “providing financial aid to the permanent mission of Tuvalu to the United Nations.” Later it was confirmed that Georgia had paid for a medical shipment to Tuvalu worth “about US$ 12,000,”[72] (roughly, one dollar for each Tuvaluan). Notably, Tuvalu was one of fifty countries (along, incidentally, with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia) that voted in favor of the Georgian-sponsored United Nations General Assembly resolution reaffirming the right of return of all refugees to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Not surprisingly, Nauru (together with the Solomon Islands) was among the seventeen nations voting against.[73] Apparently, Washington has been playing this game too, having had Nauru bulk up the ‘no’ vote on the UN’s recurring resolutions on ‘Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine’ in which the United States tends to look visibly lonely. In 2009, 164 countries voted in favor of the latest such resolution; of the seven countries who voted against, four, alongside the United States, Israel and Australia, were PICs.[74] Even Japan has long been accused of buying South Pacific votes in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) “by paying for the participation costs of a small school of sovereign minnows to enable Tokyo to put commercial whaling back on the IWC menu.”[75] At the 2005 IWC meeting in Korea, this shoal of minnows included five PICs - Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. At one time or another, these five countries voted against Canberra’s and Wellington’s initiatives to prevent a return to commercial whaling or using ‘scientific’ whaling to supply commercial markets. This occurred despite promises prior to the meeting from the PICs that they would support Australia’s position.[76]

However, “China and Taiwan are the biggest players in this game.”[77] They have been jockeying for position in the region with their willingness to work with any island state government - without regard to its democratic and transparency credentials - and to profuse aid and grand gifts to such friends. As previously mentioned, both Taiwan and China have erected needlessly monumental buildings for use by local governments. In addition, government officials from the PICs have (and are) being treated generously and “their incomes are boosted by countless lucrative trips to Taipei and Beijing, helping to support what is often described as a ‘per-diem mentality’.”[78] For instance, Kessai Note, President of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), arrived in Taipei in June 2007 for a five-day visit (his sixth in five years), meeting the then President Chen Shui-bian for a few hours, after which “the rest of his trip was private.”[79] At the end of 2010, the head of the Fiji Islands’ military government, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, reportedly visited China twice in less than a month.[80]

In the light of the cases presented above, it could thus be easy to contend that the Islands have a substantially passive role in the market for recognition created by the Sino-Taiwanese rivalry. However, even though - in the words of University of Hawai’i’s Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka - “the Islands are seldom trend-setters, and often trend-followers and trend-impacted,” it would be too simplistic to consider the islands just as secondary and indolent actors willing to ‘go with anybody’ as long as it is lucrative. Equally, it would be incorrect to portray the PICs merely as the cunning and Machiavellian auctioneers of their own diplomatic recognition and international vote. A more realistic way to look at the role played by the governments of the Islands is to regard them as co-creators of the China-Taiwan diplomatic rivalry in the south Pacific.[81]

(Photo: C.P.)


 

The Pacific Islands Region has an extraordinary concentration of microstates.[82] Only Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) amongst the region’s fourteen states and self-governing countries are not microstates.[83] “The small populations and dispersed geography of most countries impose diseconomies on these states in seeking to meet the normal claims of the citizens for goods and services. If these diseconomies are not absorbed by the state, medical services, education, sanitation and the like could not be provided at the levels expected elsewhere.”[84] This makes the PICs heavily dependent on international aid. Actually, smallness, remoteness, vulnerability and dependency on aid are factors that pervade almost all aspects of the regional affairs. Smallness is also a political fact of life for most countries of the region: all their external relationships will be with states that are larger, more powerful and better resourced than they.[85] The political elites of the PICs are acutely aware of this situation, knowing that the ability to extract aid from the international system is vital for the Islands’ capacity to provide (at least basically) for their citizens and meet their sovereign obligations. Factually, as journalist Mara Kay Magistad highlighted in a 2010 interview to Palau’s President (and a former ambassador to Taiwan) Johnson Toribiong, the aid from one of the two Asian contenders can often make the difference for a PIC. In the case of Palau, the not-further-specified “lot of money”[86] that Taipei has donated to its Micronesian ally over a decade, was “enough to build roads, bridges, a museum, solar power facilities, an incinerator, and help with improving agricultural production.”[87] For this reason, in the case of the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry, the islands had to develop an ability to play one dragon off the other, and refine their understanding of the ‘rivalry aid market’. In other words, the PICs had to become skilled - and quite cynical - ‘rivalry managers’. As Senator Tony de Brum of the RMI, one of the politicians who forged cooperation with Taiwan and effectively withdrew his country from the pro-China camp, explained in 2008: “In the past, we abandoned Taiwan and went with China and until 1998 we stayed with it. But then we felt under financial pressure, as we were going through some tough negotiations with the U.S. regarding the Compact. And we felt that we couldn’t beg the U.S. for money while negotiating about defense and finances with it. China’s aid to Marshall Islands was at that time negligible. That is when we decided to go back to Taiwan, which was offering substantial financial assistance.”[88]

The Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry in South Pacific is, in reality, a triangular (China, Taiwan and the islands states) process characterized by informational advantages and feedback dynamics. In this process, the two Asian powers seek to keep an informational advantage vis-à-vis their rival and the island states. On the one hand, Taiwan and China try to keep what they are paying - or intend to pay - for an island state’s allegiance secret from each other in order to make it more difficult for the rival to make an informed counteroffer. On the other hand, both dragons attempt to maintain an informational advantage when negotiating with a PIC.  In other words, Taipei and Beijing try to keep the cost of a relationship down by not letting a seller of diplomatic recognition know that they might be prepared to pay more for the relationship. If a country selling its diplomatic recognition has little information about how much its Asian interlocutor would be willing to pay for maintaining/establishing diplomatic relations, presumably it will not be too demanding.[89] On their part, the PICs maneuver to raise the ‘market price’ of their diplomatic recognition or vote in international bodies. In particular, the islands try to erode the Asian interlocutor’s informational advantage by refining their understanding of their own ‘market value’ and by leaking to one contender hints about the price that the other contender is ready to pay. Actually, one of the main reasons for the fact that only five PICs (Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Nauru) have switched recognition from one rival to the other in the past three decades can be identified in the difficulty the two Asian players face not only in securing sufficiently wide political support among local politicians, but also in maintaining the secrecy necessary to avoid interference from the other contender.[90]

As in other market contexts, in the Pacific Islands’ diplomatic recognition market miscalculations on the value of a certain ‘company’ as well as reputational assets influence the sales and acquisitions process. For instance, China and Taiwan rejected approaches by the islands when they believed requests exceeded the ‘market value’ of a PIC. As for reputational assets, in 2005 “Taiwan initially resisted approaches from Nauru […] before agreeing to re-establish relations, as it had lost confidence in Nauru as an ally.”[91]During the 2000-2008 period - when the diplomatic competition between Beijing and Taipei was at its acme in the South Pacific - some island countries even tried to maximize the rivalry’s dividends by openly and publicly playing on two tables in order to prod the two Asian contenders into a ‘bidding race’. For example, when in October 2000 Taipei refused the Solomon Islands government’s demand for U$40 million in assistance, Honiara’s minister of foreign affairs, who was travelling to Taiwan to attend the inauguration of his country’s new embassy, had a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he was entertained by Chinese officials. Soon after, the then Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told the media: “We have exhausted all discussions with Taiwan so we have decided to go elsewhere.”[92] However, the amount asked by Honiara was too much for Beijing, and, a few days later, the Solomon Islands government backpedalled. Nevertheless, Taipei thought better to stabilize its relations with the Solomons by according a U$25 million loan to Sogavare’s government.[93] At the end of 2004, when the bidding war for Vanuatu’s diplomatic allegiance between China and Taiwan was at its most heated stage (and Vohor’s government’s demise was nigh), Taiwanese Premier Yu Shyi-kun declared that: “the government is likely to pledge aid while establishing diplomatic relations with a specific country, but has never pledged an extremely large special offer to a single diplomatic ally.”[94] Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kau was even more specific: “we are looking at a combined package including aid and private sector investment of US$40 million a year to Vanuatu and have offered to double the per capita income of everyone in three provinces of the government’s choice in four or five years.”[95]

On a few occasions, some PICs also tried to advance and adopt a ‘Two-Chinas’ principle for the relations between them and the two dragons. Clearly, the rationale of the stance of those governments was the belief that ‘flying two flags’ would enable their country to benefit from the aid provided by both sides of the Taiwan Strait. For instance, PNG officials attempted to cultivate relations with both China and Taiwan ahead of independence[96] More recently, in 2003, when Kiribati decided to switch allegiance to Taiwan after the twenty-three years of good relations with China, the government of Anote Tong said that Kiribati “as a sovereign nation it is not obliged to commit to a ‘One-China’ policy and is free to establish diplomatic relations with whomever it chooses.”[97] Kiribati’s Foreign Ministry stated that, while the country was giving new recognition to Taiwan, it was “not breaking off ties with mainland China and it hopes relations with Beijing will continue to prosper.”[98] Notably, according to Chinese diplomats, only a week before ‘defecting’ to Taipei, President Tong had pledged his commitment to the ‘One-China’ policy.[99] Equally, in 2004 Serge Vohor appeared to believe he could continue to receive assistance from China after establishing relations with Taiwan. From the beginning he made it clear that he did not want Beijing to withdraw from Vanuatu, even writing a letter to China’s premier Wen Jiabao explaining that Vanuatu needed Taiwan as a development partner.[100] In a televised address he also argued that Taiwan and China could complement each other in helping Vanuatu. Vohor’s spokesman was even more explicit, telling the media: “we want to set a new policy in the world, we want to support one-China policy, we want to support one Taiwan policy”.[101] It is not surprising that, given Beijing’s intransigence on the ‘One-China’ principle, such positions were untenable, and only caused the severing of relations between Beijing and Tarawa in the case of Kiribati, and the ousting of Serge Vohor in Vanuatu. In fact, the creative diplomacy of Tong and Vohor was little more than a political statement and an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, both cases reveal that the PICs have the will (if not the capability) to play a pro-active and creative part in the Sino-Taiwanese Pacific rivalry. Actually, a more Machiavellian version of the ‘Two-Chinas’ diplomatic game has been played quite effectively by the Fiji Islands. Suva has opted for “a strategy of officially recognizing Beijing, yet offering enough benefits to Taipei to justify continued financial assistance - and to keep China focused on meeting Fiji’s demands.”[102] Notably, Fiji has been able to successfully implement this policy on account of its regional importance and through not letting the clash of dragons factionalize its domestic politics.

The Cross-Strait diplomatic truce has, to a large extent, deprived the PICs of the space for playing the allegiance-selling game or ‘flying two flags’, but it has also provided the PICs with a great opportunity. The Pacific Island nations can now seize the occasion for acting to alleviate the vicious cycle of dependency (as system and mindset) by inaugurating a more open process of conducting diplomatic relations with the two Asian powers. Of course, such a ‘new paradigm’ would not radically solve the ‘sovereignty for sale’ issue, but it would certainly be a big step in the right direction. Diminishing the influence of aid money in encouraging purely opportunistic choices is crucial in this process. “Basing diplomatic relations only on the fees offered by a given country has profoundly negative effects on the island nations. The situation tends to deepen national stagnation, and abets political cynicism.”[103] The islands states should direct the two dragons to allocate more of their Pacific aid to foster sustainable development projects rather than wasting large sums on showpiece structures like government buildings and disproportionately large sport facilities. At the same time, the PICs’ governments should begin to put to a better use the aid they receive from the two dragons. Often, Asian money primarily supports the political elites, who profit directly (through business deals, contracts and official trips) and indirectly. It is time to benefit the people. It is also time to change the ‘flip-flop-state’ image which penalizes and ridicules the island countries. The benefits of a more mature and responsible system of managing relations with Beijing and Taipei can appear remote and less rewarding than opportunistic behaviour, but in the long term it would advantage all the island countries, especially the weak and vulnerable, and the region as a whole.[104] Sovereignty has always been a double-edged sword - it confers rights and freedom but it also imposes responsibilities. Indeed, the exercise of sovereign prerogatives requires responsibility and vision. Without leaders’ responsibility and vision, the peoples of the South Pacific would find themselves in a situation “often as restraining as when Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian nations were outright colonies of Western and Asian powers.”[105]

 

Blame the dragon, but hug the panda: Australia and the Cross-Strait diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific

In 1994, a speech delivered by the then Australian Minister for Pacific Island Affairs, Gordon Bilney, marked the beginning of Australia’s policy of asking a greater return - namely, better governance and higher accountability - from the PICs on which it bestows international aid.[106] This line was strengthened after the inauguration of John Howard’s conservative government in 1996, and appears to inform the Pacific-politik of Canberra’s current Labour government.  This policy has two drivers. The first is the idea that Australian aid recipients in the South Pacific should progressively lower their dependence on their Antipodean big brother, thus lessening the burden on the Australian taxpayer. The second driver is Australia’s growing perception that instability in the Islands represents an immediate threat to Australian interests. After Canberra’s 1999 armed involvement in East Timor, Australia endowed itself with an interventionist doctrine aimed protecting Australian security interests through actively preventing and arresting the failure of PICs: the ‘Howard Doctrine’. The core of this doctrine is that “Australia would more readily intervene militarily in its own region in accordance with its own interests.”[107]

While Australia was developing and pursuing its interventionist and ‘good governance’ agenda for the South Pacific, the region wad also turning into a key arena in an increasingly intense Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic rivalry. The resulting higher degree of political instability in some of the PICs caused Canberra to consider the rivalry as factor challenging Australian interests. As a consequence, the Cross-Strait rivalry became an increasingly significant variable of Australia’s South Pacific equation, and the region came to be a progressively important area of antagonism in Australia’s relations with Taipei and Beijing.

While Australia continues to lead in the South Pacific, Canberra’s ability to shape outcomes in the region is limited by the geopolitical interest of extra-regional powers. In fact, because of the number as well as the geopolitical weight of the external actors, Australia has no real chance of denying a role to external influence. This limitation is has a severe impact on Australia’ primary objective of establishing greater accountability and transparency in aid management in the Islands. Due to the sovereign status of the PICs, to further its governance agenda Australia has to seek the collaboration of the local political elites (‘carrot’ strategy) or resort to the threat of putting its aid on hold in order to achieve policy compliance by the recipient governments (‘stick’ strategy). The effectiveness of the employment of the stick and/or carrot strategies is considerably reduced by the availability of other actors’ no- or a-few- strings attached funds as a financial alternative for South Pacific politicians. In particular, “China and Taiwan’s diplomatic and financial practices compound(ed) the governance issues that Australia is attempting to address.”[108] For this reason, the ‘cash-battle’ between Taiwan and China has brought the two dragons into conflict with Australia. Consequently, Australia had been publicly and privately warning China and Taiwan about the dangers of ‘chequebook diplomacy’ unhinging Island governments and promoting corruption among political elites.[109] For example, a 2006 Australian senate report said diplomatic rivalries could harm stability and economic development in the South Pacific. It described the Sino-Formosan competition as a “Pacific cold war”, with both sides using “chequebook diplomacy.”[110]

While Beijing’s no-strings-attached and ‘value free’ aid policy clearly obtrude Australian ‘grand Pacific vision’ as much as (if not more than) Taipei’s past ‘dollar diplomacy, the importance of China to Australia’s wider interests often results in South Pacific issues being downplayed, to an extent, in the interest of sustaining the broader Sino-Australian relationship. In fact, although Australia’s relationship with Taiwan is very significant, Taiwan’s lesser importance to Canberra’s core interests means South Pacific policy irritants more readily take precedence in Taiwanese-Australian ties.[111] On the contrary, the matrix or hierarchy of Australia’s international interests means that Canberra would never risk its broad relationship with China over differences in the South Pacific.[112] Consequently, the Australian interaction with China in the region has elements of contest, but it is a muted, carefully limited competition in which Canberra is most unlikely to allow South Pacific concerns to jeopardise its larger interests in relations with Beijing.

Actually, while Australia’s interests demand that Canberra adopt an indulgent ‘panda hugger’ attitude toward China, until recently Australia has behaved as a ‘dragon slayer’ toward Taiwan. For example, the sustained public Australian criticism of Taiwan following the above mentioned 2006 post-election civil unrest in the Solomon Islands - a country that has longstanding ties with Taipei and a close association with Australia - caused serious harm on Taiwan’s reputation in Australia. The incident also contributed to the then Taiwanese administration’s perception of “Australia as being increasingly pro-China.”[113] Such a perception was reinforced by Australian media’s singling-out of Taiwan as a Pacific troublemaker. For example, in October 2006 the Sydney Morning Herald accused Taiwan of funding Solomon Islands’ attorney-general Julian Moti’s - whose extradition was demanded by Canberra on child sex tourism charges - escape from Papua New Guinea (despite it being on a Port Moresby’s military plane). On that occasion, the newspaper argued, “While a lot of Australians see Taiwan as a brightening torch of democracy in Greater China, in our own neighbourhood it risks appearing more like a rogue nation.”[114] It is reasonably inferable that Australian media organizations would have not made such attacks on Taiwan “if not for the lead and encouragement provided by Canberra.”[115]

The Australian inclination to make Taiwan a scapegoat might have been an epiphenomenon of Australia’s reluctance to acknowledge the ambitious nature of its agenda vis-à-vis the political, economic and social conditions of the PICs. Actually, as Joel Atkinson piercingly points out, “it is debatable to what extent China and Taiwan weaken Australia’s reform agenda simply through providing South Pacific governments with funds to misuse. Presumably, if Australia’s efforts were effective, the administration of aid from China and Taiwan would improve accordingly.”[116] Officially, Australia does not encourage the PICs recognising Taiwan to sever relations with Taipei and switch to Beijing. However, in the past, when the government (or a group within a government) in an island country that gives allegiance to China has sought to shift to Taiwan, Australia decided to intervene in favour of the Middle Kingdom. Two telling examples of Canberra’s ‘partiality’ are Australia’s political intervention in Papua New Guinea in 1998 and in Kiribati in 2003. Australian lobbying with Papua New Guinea led to the resignation of that country’s Prime Minister Bill Skate and the denouement of his bid to establish relations with Taipei.[117] As for Kiribati, in what Atkinson calls “a largely unpublicised and lower-level intercession,”[118] the Australian High Commissioner attempted, to no avail, to induce Kiribati’s President Anote Tong to give up his resolve to ‘defect’ to Taiwan.[119] Even though Canberra’s initiatives in PNG and Kiribati were presumably inspired by a concern for regional governance standards and political stability, and not for Taiwan per se, nonetheless in the PNG episode Australia’s action prevented Taiwan from achieving greater influence in the South Pacific. According to confidential interviews conducted by Joel Atkinson in 2006, “as Australia has not had a noticeable detrimental impact on China’s policy, Taiwanese policy-makers have come to believe that Australia is actively cooperating with China in its efforts to exclude Taiwan from the region.”[120]

This atmosphere of mutual distrust between Taiwan and Australia was reflected and further poisoned by the conflict that developed in 2004 over the then Ni-Vanuatu Prime Minister Serge Vohor’s intention to shift allegiance to Taiwan. Already entangled in a tussle with Canberra over ‘good governance’, Vohor signed an agreement giving diplomatic recognition to Taiwan, believing that he could subsequently persuade his ministers and the parliament of the benefits in combining Taiwanese and Chinese aid.[121]Beijing’s threat to ‘freeze’ its aid to Vanuatu, determined bidding competition with Taipei, and intelligent exploitation of the divisions within the ruling coalition - together with several faux pas by Vohor - ultimately led to the Prime Minister’s ousting.[122] Because Australia’s interests in having Vohor dismissed was directly opposed to Taiwan’s interests in having him in office, the Antipodean power played a non-secondary role in the sequence of events that brought to the end Taiwan’s hopes of establishing diplomatic relations with Vanuatu. While it is unclear whether Canberra or Beijing played the greater role in Vohor’s defeat, it is certainly clear that China and Australia’s combined pressure made his removal inevitable.[123] Moreover, as the events below show, in the ‘Vanuatu crisis’ Australia openly took sides with China and domestically and internationally embarrassed the Taiwanese administration, thus embittering Taipei’s resent toward Australia. Equally, Taiwan’s reputation in Australia was further tarnished. This prejudice then contributed to Australian perceptions that “Taiwan both manipulated the April 2006 Solomon Islands election and caused the subsequent rioting.”[124]

At the eve of the fatal no-confidence vote against Vohor, two Australian officials arrived in Vanuatu for ‘consultations’ with a large number of politicians and personalities. Vohor declined to see the Australian envoys, but in a media conference the two officials uttered Canberra’s threat to cut the annual A$31 million (US$24.5 million) aid program unless Port Vila returned to governance reform. They also offered the more-aid-carrot if Vanuatu complied.[125] At the same time, “increasingly concerned about its governance agenda in Vanuatu, Australia” had “privately urged China not to engage in bidding for influence, but was ignored.”[126] On the contrary,  the Australians made their clash of  interests with Taiwan public when a reporter asked Rick Wells, one of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) envoys,  if “ the current situation involving Vanuatu moving away from the One China Policy and supporting Taiwan, [would be] a concern for your government . . . given that you are pro-One China?” Wells replied:

Yes it would. We have stated very clearly to the Government of Vanuatu and to other South Pacific countries that we think that the best course of action they can follow in this respect is to pursue a One China Policy. We regard ‘bidding war’ between China and Taiwan as destabilizing and ultimately bad for any country in question.[127]

Such a pro-China utterance elicited a piqued response from Taipei, where the statement was interpreted as evidence that Australia was yielding to Chinese pressure. A spokesman quoted Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen as declaring:

We would like to appeal to the Australian government not to be influenced by China  and interfere in Vanuatu’s domestic affairs at this time, especially as Prime Minister Serge Vohor is encountering difficulties within the Vanuatuan Cabinet . . . it is hard for one not to believe that there is no association between the move made by Australia and influence from China.[128]

Taiwan’s foreign minister had earlier met the Australian Commerce and Industry Office (ACIO) head Frances Adamson, Australia’s de facto Ambassador in Taipei, to convey ‘Taiwan’s stern stand’ that Canberra should not ‘meddle’ in ties between Taiwan and Vanuatu.[129] After that, a spokesman for the then Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer threw some water on the fire by denying China had any influence on comments regarding Vanuatu.[130]

After the 2006 nadir in the Formosan-Australian relations in the South Pacific, the issuing of Taiwan’s white paper on international aid and the achievement of the ‘diplomatic truce’ between Taipei and the Mainland represents a turning point in the relationship between Australia and Taiwan. Entitled New Approaches to Foreign Aid, the white paper states: “President Ma Ying-jeou has called on the Government to adhere to appropriate motives, due diligence, and effective practices when offering assistance.”[131] The new guidelines for delivering aid will be the Paris Declaration,[132] “which promises a far more transparent and results-oriented approach”.[133] Secondly, since assuming office in 2008, President Ma has taken a conciliatory approach to China, which has, for its part, largely embraced this new opportunity. The resulting tacit agreement to suspend (to a great extent) the Cross-Strait diplomatic hostilities represents, in the words of analyst Fergus Hanson, a badly-needed “relief for Canberra aid and governance headache”[134]in the South Pacific. Not surprisingly, the end of Taipei’s ‘chequebook diplomacy’ battle with Beijing for island partners and its new focus on improving aid programs in the Pacific have been well-received in Canberra. Indeed, the release of the white paper and the political fruits of Taiwan’s appeasing Cross-Strait policy have greatly contributed to improve Australia’s perception of Taiwan. Canberra is now increasingly looking at Taipei not as a ‘troublemaker’, but as a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in the South Pacific, a stakeholder with whom there are possibilities for cooperation in the region. An invitation in this sense has come from President Ma who, on his March 2010 tour of Taipei’s diplomatic allies in the Pacific, after noting that Beijing had sent eight senior officials of ministerial rank to Taiwan since his inauguration, declared: “So one possibility for Australia is to send ministers to Taiwan.”[135]

Taiwan’s new course “also throws down a challenge to China. If Taiwan improves the transparency and effectiveness of its aid program and ends the competition, will China follow suit?”[136] Beijing has signed on to a localized version of the Paris Declaration - the Kavieng Declaration in Papua New Guinea[137] - but, to date, there are no clear signs that the Middle Kingdom is obliging. China is primarily interested in keeping and strengthening the diplomatic allegiance of its allies in the South Pacific and securing access to the natural resources that the oceanic region has to offer. By contrast, Australia’s aims in the Islands are more complex. Australia’s multiple aims have and are at odds with the simple calculus often used by Beijing.[138] The way China talks to the Islands is a clear contrast to Australia’s language. Canberra’s emphasis on good governance, economic reform and anti-corruption policies has no counterpart when it comes to Beijing. Apart from the issue of Taiwan, China runs a value-free foreign policy. Where only the ‘One-China’ condition apply to China’s offer of help,[139] Australia arrives carrying a complex list of demands in its dealings with the Islands, asking for action on everything from patterns of healthcare to regional integration. Consequently, there is competition but no overt ideological struggle between Australia and China, because only Canberra is furthering a value system. Beijing is well aware that Australia’s stated aim in the Pacific Islands Region is good governance, [140] but it knows only too well that the kangaroo - which is torn between trade and security - cannot afford to be in bad terms with the dragon, but needs to keep hugging the panda, even when the hug is awkward and uncomfortable. Australian global interests will always constrain Australian actions in the Islands. For this reason, Australia must seek compromise in its Pacific relationship with China.[141] Consistently, Canberra has acknowledged China’s power and rights in the region,[142] and adopted a stance of pretending that it can always concentrate on mutual interests with Beijing, not areas of difference.[143] Thanks to its ‘realist’ aid policy and diplomacy, China is spectacularly penetrating in the Pacific Islands. Australian acquiescence will be a regional measure of what sort of great power China will become.[144]


Conclusions

Because of their diplomatic rivalry, the PRC and Taiwan have emerged as ‘first line actors’ in the Pacific Islands Region. The importance of their role originates from the substantial flows of international aid they direct toward their respective Pacific Islands ‘allies’, and the strategies they adopt to maintain and win the diplomatic recognition of the island states. China-Taiwan rivalry in the South Pacific has, in many cases, exacerbated corruption and instability in the region. The gifts from the dragons have also aggravated the PICs’ dependency syndrome. Not surprisingly, those pursuing reform in the islands states, have seen the Sino-Taiwanese war of enticements as an impediment to domestic and regional political stability, social development, and self-reliance. In particular, the rivalry has been undermining Australia’s conditional aid policy directed at elevating governance standards in the region. It is indubitable that these accusations are grounded in reality. However, it is debatable whether the South Pacific would be a considerably more stable or less corrupt region without the involvement from Beijing and Taipei. It might be even argued that the Cross-Strait competition has benefited - and benefits - the PICs. For example, it has helped the island states through providing a few-string attached alternative to Western aid. When the uncertainties over the damages caused by the two Asian powers’ rivalry are juxtaposed to the benefits - such as improvements to infrastructure, agriculture, education and health services - whether the Sino-Taiwanese diplomatic antagonism has been on the whole a positive or negative force in the South Pacific remains controversial. On the contrary, it would be difficult to question that the diplomatic truce between Beijing and Taipei delivers a great opportunity to the island states, Taiwan, China, and Australia. The island countries - which are significant actors rather than “the static facets of a geopolitical ‘chessboard,’”[145] - are presented with the opportunity to stop bartering myopically their political and economic assets to achieve ephemeral benefits and privileges for the political elites, and put the aid from the dragons to a better use. Taiwan can ‘seize the moment’ to change the perception that the PICs’ governments and peoples have of Taipei’s role in the Pacific. In addition, the Taiwanese government is now free to explore new avenues for closer collaboration with the Western actors, Australia in primis. China can take the time to rethink its South Pacific strategy, and make it more ‘harmonious’, in order to be regarded by the island states and the other major players as a responsible stakeholder rather than a solipsistic buyer of influence that harbours hegemonic ambitions.  Australia - in the light that the truce has lessened the disruptive effects of the Sino-Taiwanese competition - now has the possibility to advance its good-governance agenda in the region by adopting a more empathetic ‘islands diplomacy’ and learning from its own errors. For Canberra, seeking cooperation with the dragons (or, at least, with the dragon who is willing to listen) would be a better option than continuing to blame them. After all, in Chinese culture dragons are benign water creatures. The Southern Seas can accommodate them.


[1] Solomon Times, “Taiwan Pacific Allies Summit”, 23 April 2009, http://www.solomontimes.com/topic.aspx?show=122, accessed 30 December 2010.

[2] Jian Yang, “China in the South Pacific: hegemon on the horizon?”, The Pacific Review, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 139-42.

[3] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, Fijian Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, November 2006, p. 90.

[4][4] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, The Pacific Review, Vol. 23, No. 4, August 2010, p. 408.

[5] Thomas Biddick, “Diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific: the PRC and Taiwan”, Asian Survey, Vol. 29, No. 8, 1989, pp. 810-11.

[6] National Australian Archives, Department of Foreign Affairs; A1838, Diplomatic Representatives Abroad- Taiwan -Closure of Post, 1500/2/62/4 PART 1, “From Australian high commission Port Moresby to department, relations with China and Taiwan”, 1 July 1974, 1972–1973.

[7] Randall Newnham, “Embassies for sale: the purchase of diplomatic recognition by West GermanyTaiwan and South Korea”, International Politics, Vol.  37, No. 3, 2000, p. 273.

[8] Thomas Biddick, “Diplomatic rivalry in the South Pacific: the PRC and Taiwan”, p. 807.

[9] Chiao Chiao Hsieh, “Pragmatic diplomacy: foreign policy and external relations”, in

P. Ferdinand (ed.) Take-off for Taiwan?London, Pinter, 1996, p 80.

[10] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 410.

[11] Kerry Dumbaugh, “China’s foreign policy: what does it mean for U.S. global interests?’, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress RL34588, 18 July 2008, p. 26.

[12] Graeme Dobell, “Pacific Power Plays”, in Australia Strategic Policy Institute, “Australia and the South Pacific Rising to the challenge”, ASPI Special Report, Issue 12, March 2008, p. 79.

[13] Carol Lancaster, The Chinese Aid System, Washington, Center for Global Development, 2007, p. 2.

[14] Fergus Hanson, The Dragon in the Pacific: More Opportunity than Threat, Sydney, Lowy Institute For International Policy, 2008, p. 3.

[15] OECD, Debt Relief is Down: Other ODA Rises Slightly, 4 April 2008.

[16] MOFA, “Progressive partnerships and sustainable development: white paper on foreign aid policy (summary)”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic  of China (Taiwan), May 2009.

[17] Fergus Hanson, The Dragon in the Pacific: More Opportunity than Threat, p. 3.

[18] Tauaasa Taafaki, “Tuvalu”, The Contemporary Pacific, Vol. 19, No 1, 2007, p. 280.

[19] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 412.

[20] Ibid, p. 414.

[21] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”, Japan Focus, 20 April 2008, http://www.japanfocus.org/-Andre-Vltchek/2727.

[22] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”, International Relations and Security Network, 26 October 2010, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/About-Us/Who-we-are.

[23] Graeme Dobell, “China and Taiwan in the South Pacific: Diplomatic Chess versus Pacific Political Rugby”, CSCSD Occasional Paper, No.1, May 2007, p. 4.

[24] Fred Vurobaravu, “Parliament debates Vanuatu-Taiwan deal”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 24 November 2004, http://www.news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/041124-parliament-debates-vanuato-taiwan.shtml.

[25] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 413.

[26] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”.

[27] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 413.

[28] Angela Gregory, “Islands of influence”, New Zealand Herald, 10 December 2005, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/print.cfm?c&objectid=10359277

[29] Ibid.

[30] Pacific Magazine, “Minister sacked for not denouncing MOU with China”, 8 August 2006, http://www.pacificislands.cc/pina/pinadefault2.php?urlpinaid=23913.

[31] Anthony van Fossen, “The struggle for recognition: diplomatic competition between China and Taiwan in Oceania”, Journal of Chinese Political Science, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2007, p. 133.

[32] Xinhua, “China donates fertilizer to Fiji farmers”, 3 February 2010, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90776/90883/6886851.html

[33] Graeme Dobell, &&& p. 13.

[34] See Geoffrey York, “Papua New Guinea and China’s new empire”, Globe and Mail, 2 January 2009, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081231.wyorkchina0103/BNStory/International/home.

[35] Eric Harwit, “Taiwan’s foreign economic relations with developing nations: A case study of its ties with Palau”, The Contemporary Pacific, Vol. 12, No.2, Fall 2000, p. 469.

[36] Solomon Times, “PM Sikua Salutes Taiwans Investment in Solomon Islands”, , 10 December 2009, http://www.solomontimes.com/news.aspx?nwID=4747

[37] Global Bioenergy Industry News, “Taiwan to Help Pacific Islands Plant Jatropha”, 25 March 2010, http://www.thebioenergysite.com/news/5843/taiwan-to-help-pacific-islands-plant-jatropha

[38] Ralph Jennings, “Taiwan plans to save Pacific ally from rising sea”, Reuters, 23 March 2010, http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/03/23/idINIndia-47146620100323,

[39] Shih Ying-ying, “Medical team visits Solomon Islands, forms relationship with sister hospital”, Taiwan Journal, 13 January 2006, http://www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website/4-oa/20060113/2006011301.html.

[40] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 417.

[41] Ralph Jennings, “Taiwan offers hand to sinking South Pacific island”, Reuters, 18 February 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/02/18/idUSTP161893.

[42] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 417.

[43] Mary Kay Magistad, “Palau’s China dilemma”, The World, 16 March 2010, http://www.theworld.org/2010/03/16/palaus-china-dilemma/.

[44] I-chung Lai, “Taiwan’s South Pacific strategy”, Taiwan International Studies Quarterly Vol. 3, No. 3, 2007, p. 142.

[45] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[46] China Post, “Austronesian Conference opens in Taipei”, 9 June 2010, http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/intl-community/2010/06/09/259946/Austronesian-Conference.htm

[47] Taiwan News, “How Ma is undercutting Taiwan-Pacific links”, 22 March 2010, http://en.taiwantt.org.tw/index.php/editorials-of-interest/20-articles-of-interest/1132-how-ma-is-undercutting-taiwan-pacific-links.

[48] Dennis Engbarth, “‘We were right to come to Palau,’ Chen states”, Taiwan News, 6 September 2006, http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/etn/news content.

php?id=190546

[49] Rowan Callick, “Bloody Pacific war for diplomatic loyalty over”, Islands Business, April 2010, http://www.islandsbusiness.com/islands_business/index_dynamic/containerNameToReplace=MiddleMiddle/focusModuleID=19206/overideSkinName=issueArticle-full.tpl

[50] Taiwan News, “How Ma is undercutting Taiwan-Pacific links”

[51] Ibid.

[52] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 419.

[53] CCTV, “China seeks to boost economic, trade ties with Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea”, 5 November 2009, http://www.cctv.com/english/special/lkq_3nations/01/index.shtml.

[54] John Henderson, “China, Taiwan and the changing strategic significance of Oceania”, Revue Juridique Polynesienne, Vol. 1 No. 1, September 2001, p. 152.

[55] Henry S. Albinski, “Taiwan and Hong Kong in Australian external policy perspective”, in Colin Mackerras (ed.), Australia and China: Partners in Asia, Melbourne, Macmillan Education Australia, 1996, p. 37.

[56] Pesi Fonua, “China supports South Pacific tourism”, Matangi Tonga Online, 24 October 2005, http://www.matangitonga.to/article/spnews/pacificislands/article print spto241005.shtml.

[57] Xinhua, “China joins South Pacific Tourism Organization”, 21 April 2004, http://www.china.org.cn/english/2004/Apr/93623.htm.

[58] Samantha Magick, “China syndrome: is China the answer for Pacific tourism?”, Pacific Magazine, 1 April2005, http://www.pacificislands.cc/pm42005/pmdefault.php?urlarticleid=0001.

[59] Solomon Star, “SI failed to put Taiwan in Pacific tourism body”, 25 October 2005, http://www.solomonstarnews.com/drupal-4.4.1/?q=node/view/5507, 29 October 2005.

[60] Pesi Fonua, “China supports South Pacific tourism”.

[61] Yun-ping Chang, “Pacific allies to shun summit with China’s premier”, Taipei Times, 24 March2006, p. 3.

[62] Robert Keith-Reid and Samisoni Pareti, “Stirring a Pacific wok: Chinese ploys for power”, Islands Business, March 2006, http://www.islandsbusiness.com/islandsbusiness/indexdynamic/containerNameToReplace=MiddleMiddle/focusModuleID=5617/overideSkinName=issueArticle-full.tpl,

[63] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 420.

[64] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”.

[65] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 420.

[66] Fergus Hanson, “New Dragon in Town: Chinese Aid in the Pacific”.

[67] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 421.

[68] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, p. 80.

[69] Ibid., p. 82.

[70] Ibid.

[71] James Brooke, “Typhoon of Chinese tourists hits the Pacific Islands”, Taipei Times, 28 November 2004, http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/bizfocus/archives/2004/11/28/2003212925.

[72] Thomas de Waal, “The Caucasian Wars Go Pacific”, National Interest, 22 September 2010, http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/the-caucasian-wars-go-pacific-4116.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid. Francis Hazel, director of the Micronesian Seminar, remembers how one day a television crew from Israel besieged his office in the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Pohnpei. “I wondered what they were doing in this city, which hardly appears on any world maps. Then I understood: the Israeli public was curious about this country which keeps joining the U.S., voting against all UN resolutions condemning Israeli actions in the Middle East.”

[75] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, p. 81.

[76] Chris Johnson “Australia must count the cost of this victory”, The West Australian, 25 June 2005, p. 10a.

[77] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Yokwe Online, “Articles: Marshall Islands and Foreign Affairs Analysis”, 20 January 2008, http://www.yokwe.net/index.php?module=News&func=display&sid=2055.

[80] SWM, “Bainimarama headed back to China for more treatment”, 12 December 2010, http://solivakasama.net/2010/12/12/bainimarama-headed-back-to-china-for-more-treatment/

[81] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 409.

[82] The concept of the microstate implies a level of state capacity below that of the traditional “small power” and is normally related to size of population. For the purposes of this paper, a microstate is defined as a state with a population below 500,000.

[83] PNG with 5,940,775 and Fiji with 944,720 exceed the microstate threshold of half a million population (CIA World Factbook - 2010).

[84] Richard Herr and Robin Nair, “Managing Foreign Affairs in the Pacific Islands: A Case Study” (work in progress), 2007, p. 3.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Johnson Toribiong as quoted in Mary Kay Magistad, “Palau’s China Dilemma”.

[87] Mary Kay Magistad as quoted in Mary Kay Magistad, “Palau’s China Dilemma”.

[88] Tony de Brum as quoted in Yokwe Online, “Articles: Marshall Islands and Foreign Affairs Analysis”.

[89] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 411.

[90] Ibid, pp. 413-414.

[91] Ibid., p. 415.

[92] Jon Fraenkel, The Manipulation of Custom: From Uprising to Intervention in the Solomon Islands, Canberra, Pandanus Books, 2004, p. 124.

[93] Marc Neil-Jones, “China says US$10 million in aid may be lost”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 5 November 2004, www.news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/041105-china-threat-us10-million.shtml.

[94] Marc Neil-Jones, “Council of ministers say ‘no’ to Taiwan”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 11 November 2004, www.news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/041112-council-of-ministers-say-no-to-taiwan.shtml.

[95] Marc Neil-Jones, “Natapei confirms $2m Taiwan offer”, Vanuatu Daily Post, 7 December 2004, www.

news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/041207-natapei-confirms-2m-taiwan-offer.shtml.

[96] National Australian Archives (NAA) (1974) Department of Foreign Affairs; A1838, Diplomatic Representatives Abroad- Taiwan -Closure of Post, 1500/2/62/4 PART 1, From Australian high commission Port Moresby to department, relations with China and Taiwan, 1 July 1974, 1972–1973.

[97] ABC News, “Kiribati explains decision to establish relations with Taiwan”, 9 November 2003, http://www.abc.net.au/ra/newstories/RANewsStories_986137.htm.

[98] ABC News, “Kiribati prepares for backlash after recognising Taiwan”, 7 November 2003, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2003/11/07/984911.htm.

[99] ABC News, “China woos Kiribati to ditch Taiwan links”, 27 November 2003, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2003/11/27/998962.htm.

[100] Marc Neil-Jones, “Council of ministers say ‘no’ to Taiwan”.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Joel Atkinson, “China-Taiwan diplomatic competition and the Pacific Islands”, p. 418.

[103] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[104] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, p. 82.

[105] Andre Vltchek, “Wooing the Islands: China and Taiwan High Stakes Bid for Pacific Island Support”.

[106] Gordon Bilney, “The Pacific island states, rich in resources, need to do better”, International

Herald Tribune, 1 August 1994, www.iht.com/articles/1994/08/01/edsouth.php.

[107] Scoop Independent News, “Australia to become America’s peacekeeping deputy”, 23 September 1999, www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL9909/S00191.htm.

[108] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 61, No. 3, September 2007, pp.354.

[109] Phil Mercer, “Chinese rivals grapple for Pacific” BBC News, 4 April 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6525747.stm, accessed 21 December 2010.

[110] Brian Whitaker, “Chinese flee backlash from Pacific cold war”, The Guardian, 24 April 2006, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/24/china.brianwhitaker.

[111] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 354.

[112] Richard C. Smith, “Australia and the Rise of China: Strategic and Policy Implications”, Wilson Center, 16 June 2009, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/ondemand/index.cfm?fuseaction=media.play&mediaid=09A3C35C-0CE4-E2E0-0AC2CF8763B3562E.

[113] Michael Turton, “Taiwan - Australia - Solomons”, The View from Taiwan, 30 March 2010, http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2010/03/taiwan-and-australia-in-news.html.

[114] Craig Skehan and Cynthia Banham, “High-stakes diplomacy in Vanuatu”, Sydney Morning

Herald, 27 November 2004, www.smh.com.au/news/World/Highstakes-diplomacy-in-Vanuatu/

2004/11/26/1101219751779.html.

[115] Joel Atkinson as quoted in Michael Turton, “Taiwan - Australia - Solomons”.

[116] Ibid.

[117] J. Bruce Jacobs, “Australia’s relationship with the Republic of China on Taiwan”,

in Nicholas Thomas (ed.), Re-orienting AustraliaChina Relations: 1972 to the Present, Hampshire (England) and Burlington (Vermont), Ashgate Publishing, 2004, pp. 35-50.

[118] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 355.

[119] Radio Australia News, “Taiwanese official accuses Australia of meddling in its relations with Kiribati”, 27 September 2004.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Port Vila Presse, “Taiwan establishes diplomatic ties with Vanuatu in snub to China”, 4 November 2004, http://www.news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/041104-vanuatu-taiwancelebrate.Shtml.

[122] Richard Herr, “Sovereignty and Responsibility: Some Issues in Chinese/Taiwanese Rivalry in the Pacific Islands”, Fijian Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, November 2006, pp.87-88.

[123] “Australia and China moved quickly to re-establish their respective positions in Vanuatu. Downer travelled to Vanuatu shortly after the new government was formed to sign a ‘good governance accord’. Australia’s aid commitment was then increased by some 700 million vatu (approximately US$6 million). China promptly brought Lini [Vohor’s successor, ndr.] to Beijing, where he met with the Chinese president and premier, and Chinese aid was increased significantly. China also announced that US$1 million would be provided in cash to support the new government’s budget. The parties signalled that a diplomatic mission would soon be established in Beijing, with an additional consul in Hong Kong ‘on the cards’. On his return, Lini announced that he wanted a law to enforce a ‘one China policy’. China later agreed to two separate defence agreements with Vanuatu worth 32.8 million vatu (approximately US$320,000). These agreements provided equipment, vehicles and uniforms for the Vanuatu military and police. The Chinese further promised two patrol boats).[…] China also moved to approve Vanuatu as a destination for Chinese tourists. Vanuatu was included in a RMB3 billion (approximately US$374 million) over three years concessionary loan scheme for South Pacific countries. Along with Samoa, Vanuatu exports were granted zero tariff entry into China and Vanuatu’s existing debt with China was cancelled. China also provided assistance in buying Vanuatu a new passenger jet. Vohor became opposition leader after his parliamentary defeat, swiftly apologising to the Chinese ambassador so as to renew his party’s (apparently very valuable) links with the CCP.” (Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, pp. 361-362)

[124] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 362.

[125] ABC News Online, “Australia threatens to cut aid to Vanuatu”, 26 November 2004, http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200411/s1251814.htm.

[126] Joel Atkinson, “Vanuatu in Australia-China-Taiwan relations”, p. 359.

[127] Australian High Commission (Port Vila), “Transcript of Australian officials press conference”, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 26 November2004, Bwww.news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/041126-diplomatic-crisis.shtm.

[128] Tai-lin Huang, “Vanuatu: Canberra told not to meddle: MOFA Taiwan”, Taipei Times, 30 November 2004, www.news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/-41130-Vanuatu-Canberra-told-not-tomeddle.Shtml.

[129] Ibid.

[130] AAP, “Vanuatu aid moves anger Taiwan”, 30 November 2004, www.news.vu/en/news/diplomacy/041130-Vanuatu-aid-moves-anger-Taiwan.shtml.

[131] Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of China (Taiwan), “Partnerships for Progress  and Sustainable Development - White Paper on Foreign Aid Policy”, May 2009, www.mofa.gov.tw/public/Attachment/91081802571.doc.

[132] “The Paris Declaration, endorsed on 2 March 2005, is an international agreement to which over one hundred Ministers, Heads of Agencies and other Senior Officials adhered and committed their countries and organisations to continue to increase efforts in harmonisation, alignment and managing aid for results with a set of monitorable actions and indicators.” (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “The Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action”, no date, http://www.oecd.org/document/18/0,3343,en_2649_3236398_35401554_1_1_1_1,00.html).

[133] Fergus Hanson, “Relief for Canberra aid headache”, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2009, http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/relief-for-canberra-aid-headache-20090514-b4s3.html.

[134] Ibid.

[135] Ma Ying-jeou as quoted in Rowan Callick, “Taiwan in appeal for closer contact”, The Australian, 29 March 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/taiwan-in-appeal-for-closer-contact/story-e6frg6so-1225846602929.

[136] Fergus Hanson, “Relief for Canberra aid headache”.

[137] “Kavieng Declaration on Aid Effectiveness: A Joint Commitment of Principles and Actions between the Government of PNG and Development Partners”, 15 February 2008, www.un.org/en/ga/64/generaldebate/pdf/PG_en.pdf.

[138] Graeme Dobell, “China and Taiwan in the South Pacific: Diplomatic Chess versus Pacific Political Rugby”, CSCSD Occasional Paper, No.1, May 2007, p. 4.

[139] Jian Yang, “China in the South Pacific: hegemon on the horizon?”, The Pacific Review, Vol. 22, Issue 2, 2009, p. 141.

[140] Graeme Dobell, “Pacific Power Plays”, in Australia Strategic Policy Institute, “Australia and the South Pacific Rising to the challenge”, ASPI Special Report, Issue 12, March 2008, p. 80.

[141] Allan Patience, “Japan, Australia and Niche Diplomacy in the South Pacific”, in Joseph A. Camilleri (ed.), Asia-Pacific geopolitics: hegemony vs. human security, pp. 145-162.

[142] Hug White, “Striking a new balance”, 8 November 2010, The Age, http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/striking-a-new-balance-20101107-17iug.html.

[143] Ishaan Tharoor, “China Broadens Its Strategy in the South Pacific”, Time, 7 September 2010, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2016287,00.html.

[144] C. Steven McGann, “The Changing Roles of U.S., Australia, China and India in the South Pacific”, address to the Asia Society, Washington D.C., 5 October 2010, http://asiasociety.org/events-calendar/changing-roles-us-australia-china-and-india-south-pacific.

[145] Matthew Hill, “Chessboard or ‘Political Bazaar’?”, Revisiting Beijing, Canberra and Wellington’s Engagement with the South Pacific”, Security Challenges, Vol. 6, No. 3, Spring 2010, p. 41.


Friday, 01 April 2011 16:17

Falling Off The Map: Global Issues from a Regional Perspective

I contend that Oceania is falling of the map because politicians and economists are pushing it off the map. Only people in academia use the word "Oceania", we use the word "Pacific" or "Asia-Pacific" but it is very unusual to use the word "Oceania".  I claim that one of the largest groups that can help to keep Oceania on the map is the Catholic Church...


Tuesday, 29 March 2011 17:10

Cultural autonomy: Balancing soul and survival

Vilsoni Hereniko is a hugely important figure in the Austronesian world charged with the mission of establishing the University of South Pacific's Oceania Centre for Art and Culture and Pacific Studies. He is also one of those inheriting the mission of Epeli Hau`ofa to 'rediscover' Oceania, their sea of islands, removed from its colonial legacy and based on respect for other cultures. Vilsoni was a keynote speaker at the Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific conference at the National Central Library, Taiwan in February 2011. Following the conference we interviewed him in Taitung. In the interview he discussed the indigenous dilemma and the importance of cultural autonomy as opposed to cultural authenticity.


Friday, 25 March 2011 16:52

The 'Kurile Islands': How Far Do They Stretch?

Yakov Zinberg is a lecturer in International Relations at Kokushikan University in Tokyo, and North East Asia regional editor for Boundary and Security Bulletin (IBRU, Durham University, UK). He has published extensively in Japan's territorial issues in English and Japanese. In this interview he discusses Political power transition in Japan and the Northern territories issue.


Friday, 25 March 2011 13:27

Security and the Cartography of Pacific Islands Regionalism: The Origins and Evolution of Regional Identity

Richard Herr has taught at the University of Tasmania since his appointment in October 1972 and has held a variety of positions within the University. He is currently the academic coordinator for the Faculty of Law's Parliamentary Law, Practive and Procedure course. He earned a PhD in Political Science from Duke University and, during his academic career; he has written widely on aspects concerning Pacific Island Affairs. Professor Herr has served as a consultant to the Governments of the Pacific Islands region on a range of organizational issues for nearly three decades and most recently on the restoration of democracy in Fiji. He was awarded the Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours List for "service to higher education". In 2002 he was presented with an AusAID Peacebuilder award for his work in the Solomon Islands.

This is an interview with Richard Herr on Australia's role in the Pacific:

Alternative (for readers in China)

In addition to the full text of the speech available below, we have provided a video of his speech at the conference "Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific" on Regionalism in the Pacific:

Alternative (for readers in China)

Security and the Cartography of Pacific Islands Regionalism: The Origins and Evolution of Regional Identity

Drawing the boundaries of a region would appear to be a relatively simple task.  However, 70 years of scholarship analysing the global growth in international regions suggest it is far from easy.  Bruce Russett demonstrated empirically in the 1960s, using rather sophisticated factor analysis, that there were no real “natural” geographic regions.[1] Nevertheless, regionalism as a concept implies geography as a central factor.  A doyen of international regional scholarship, Joseph Nye, makes the point that geography cannot be the sole criterion.  He has argued that the states that comprise a region need both to be geographically proximate and have achieved a high level of interdependence.[2] But, interdependence demands a third element – trust amongst the associated states.  Geographic proximity tends to encourage trust since it enables the routine interactions required to build interdependence.  The shared characteristics such as ethnicity, historical experience, economic ties and the like that often go into a regional definition usually involve proximity.  Yet, although military necessity is another frequently identified rationale for international cooperation, historically, it is as likely to divide contiguous states as unite them.  In brief, the concept of international regions remains definitionally challenging.  Perhaps, the only practical way to map the contours of an international region is to accept a tautology: a region is a region if its members say that it is.

 

There are complications, nevertheless, even with this temporisation.  Who has the authority to say what a region is?  Here one needs to differentiate between “owners” and “stakeholders” – that is, those that formally constitute a region and those with a significant interest in it.  The distinction is important as this paper argues that ownership of the concept of a Pacific Islands region was in dispute for much of the early years of the post-World War II era.   The issue was largely settled by decolonisation and the decision to retain the colonial era boundaries of the region.   However, the retention of dependencies as co-owners of the concept of the Pacific Islands region and the inclusion of two metropolitan powers within the formal ownership arrangements of the region have continued to create tensions and ambiguities between owners and stakeholders.  These tensions have existed primarily because the independent Island states have maintained the original boundaries of the region.  The emergence of new stakeholders and heightened internal conflicts have raised a second issue with the capacity of member states to decide the boundaries of the Pacific Islands region.  Heretofore, all interdependent arrangements within the Pacific Islands region with limited memberships have been deemed “sub-regional”.[3] This distinction is under pressure now and may well be the most serious challenge to the boundaries of the Pacific Islands region in its history.

Defining a Region

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Indigenous assertions that there was a pre-contact of Pacific Islands’ identity has been disputed despite myths of a “Pacific way” or some pan-Pacific brotherhood of peoples uniting all the Pacific Islands together.[4] Modern scholarship does not support extensive geographic awareness across the entire scope of the modern Pacific Islands region amongst pre-contact Pacific peoples.[5] This is not to deny the extensive voyaging and navigational skills of the pre-contact peoples in various parts of the modern Pacific Islands region, which was truly remarkable, provided some peoples with an in-depth knowledge of the area now considered to be the Pacific Islands region.[6] Rather, it is to say that the contours of the contemporary system were not derived from aboriginal foundations of knowledge or cooperation.  The simple fact is that, at least initially, the residents of the Pacific Islands did not define the scope of their neighbourhood.  The Pacific Islands region and its boundaries were, to a real extent, imposed by outsiders – not as a ghetto, perhaps, but for the convenience of the extra-regional powers nonetheless.  The political marvel is that the locals managed to embrace this concept and to make it their own.

 

The colonial experience was as divisive for Pacific Islanders as it was for peoples in other corners of a world riven by imperialism.  The essentially competitive nature of conquest and subjugation did not tend to promote international cooperation across imperial frontiers.  Nevertheless there were some internationally mitigating factors in the Pacific Islands’ area.  The British Empire, itself very extensive in this area, had its influence further extended by the cubs of the British lion – Australia and New Zealand – who also pursued territorial ambitions with parts of Oceania.  Regionally focused cooperation for administrative efficiency such as the Western Pacific High Commission and the Suva Medical School within the British Empire did promote awareness amongst the dependent peoples from separate colonies of each other but this was scarcely their purpose.  The Pacific Islands Monthly, perhaps, served as the most significant innovation regarding consciousness-raising for Pacific Islands regionalism in the colonial era.  A product of the Great Depression, this English language magazine published in Australia crossed imperial boundaries by satisfying a common need amongst the plantation elites across much of the British and French South Pacific for news of markets, economic trends and political developments.[7]

The Japanese invasion of the European Pacific colonies was an even more powerful, albeit negative, impetus for regional cooperation.  The threat united the Western powers – Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – in mutual defence of their security and for the protection of their Pacific territories.  The Southwest Pacific and South Pacific theatres of war generated integrated command structures and, consequently, the necessary arrangements for cooperation to prosecute the war.  This identity became especially important to Australia and New Zealand as the middle powers whose security interests were most directly threatened by the Japanese aggression.  Their concerns were to survive the war and so gave rise to the modern regional system.

 

The ANZACs’ Draft a Blueprint for the Region – Almost

The Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, a wartime measure to provide for economic and social needs of the island peoples in the two countries’ Caribbean dependencies, offered the template for a regional approach in the Pacific.[8] The two ANZAC states promoted the same basic idea at various post-war reconstruction planning sessions of the Allied Powers.  They made little headway with the other Pacific metropolitan powers that were more concerned with re-establishing their colonial control after the war.  After repeatedly being denied effective representation in the broader councils for Allied post-war planning, the two antipodean powers made their own demarche for regional reconstruction through the Agreement between Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC Pact) in February 1944.

This agreement proposed two post-war regional associations for the South Pacific.  The more important, from an Australian perspective, was one that provided for a regional security system that would stretch from Portuguese East Timor to French Polynesia.  This one would include all the Western colonial holdings (once these were restored to their metropoles) within its ambit. Seven stakeholders were identified for this association – the six allied powers plus Portugal, which was officially neutral during the war.  The second of the regional associations in the ANZAC Pact proposed a trust arrangement to promote the welfare of the dependent peoples.  This arrangement excluded the Netherlands and Portugal from participation and therefore their territories were excluded from the trusteeship region.  The omission of Portugal and the Netherlands was almost certainly due to an anthropological presumption that the dependent peoples of these two states were not genuinely South Pacific Islanders but belonged to Southeast Asia.

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The 1944 ANZAC Pact was a brave but almost futile declaration in terms of generating international support for its regionalist intentions.  It was only Australian persistence and a concession to abandon the security scheme that finally won a grudging willingness from the other metropolitan powers to meet in Canberra in February 1947 to discuss the ANZACs’ proposal for regional cooperation based on the welfare of the Pacific Islanders.  The 1944 Pact did not include either the Dutch or the Portuguese in the welfare body but the Netherlands was invited to the 1947 meeting when it promised not to include the bulk of its East Indies colony within the proposed body.  The Netherlands sought only to add West New Guinea, a territory with people indistinguishable from those across the border in Australia’s Papua New Guinea.[9] Portuguese involvement, on the other hand, appears not to have been reconsidered despite Australia’s debt of gratitude to the people of East Timor for their valiant assistance to Australian troops during the war.

The “South Seas Regional Commission Conference” made most of the critical decisions regarding the scope of the South Pacific region.  Given that the intention of the proposed body was to promote “the advancement and well-being of the native peoples” of the area, the first key decision was in inviting those imperial powers that Australia deemed had the appropriate indigenous peoples whose welfare was to be promoted.  Portugal was out but so too was Chile.   Chile administered the furthest outpost of Polynesia, the sparsely populated Easter Island.  Japan, which possessed much of Micronesia at the start of the war, was not included in the 1944 proposal for fairly obvious reasons.  Still, it is interesting to note that the native peoples of the Japanese Pacific Islands empire do not seemed to have been considered as eligible candidates even by the new American administration after the war.  In 1947, the United Nations passed control over these islands formally to the US but the American Government was allowed to treat these islands as a security asset, indeed, as had Japan under a League of Nations’ mandate.  In early 1947, the future of America’s new Micronesian islands were too uncertain to be deemed eligible for the proposed regional welfare agency.

The status of its Micronesian territories was not the only decision the United States had to make regarding its dependencies in the Pacific.   The Philippines was not considered at all as it had been promised independence and, in any case, it would have been regarded as ineligible on the same grounds as the Dutch East Indies by Australia and New Zealand.  Guam had been reclaimed but was still separate from the ambit of the proposed South Seas Regional Commission by the extensive expanse of the former Japanese Micronesian islands.  Hawaii was the largest Polynesian dependency in the Pacific but the local non-Polynesian population and Washington had plans for a future that did not include separation from the US.  Initially, therefore, the American delegation to Canberra brought only one territory to the table – the small Polynesian territory of American Samoa.

Australia was the only other participant to face territorial dilemmas regarding the geographic scope of the proposed region.  As with the US decision on Hawaii, the Australian Government gave short shrift to suggestions that the Aborigines of the Northern Territory or that the Torres Strait people should be included in the operational area of the South Seas Regional Commission.  More problematic was the case of Norfolk Island.  This tiny island between Australia and New Caledonia was peopled by the descendents of the Bounty mutineers who were relocated from Pitcairn in the 1850s.  Later, many of these returned to Pitcairn with the result that Britain included this miniscule territory within the proposed Commission’s scope.  The uncertain status of Norfolk Island as Australian domestic territory and the origins of its people saw Norfolk included within the defined region but not convincingly.[10]

There was one other territorial quibble at the South Seas Regional Commission Conference regarding the scope of the proposed region but one with profound political implications for the future development of South Pacific regionalism.  The standing of Tonga was disputed.  This ancient Polynesia kingdom had never been colonised.  By treaty, Tonga was a British protected state but it remained formally independent.  Thus, the Tongans were unwilling to be defined as a “dependent people” although the UK Government wanted them included in the organisation’s work programme.  Again, early maps of the Commission’s boundaries were instructive as they drew a dotted line across the bottom of the Tongan “enclave” to show that it was included in the SPC’s work programme while the solid line on the other three sides indicated Tonga was, to some extent, apart from the rest of the region.  The significance of this was not so much that Tonga was not being regarded as part of the region.  Rather, it was that Tonga was in the region.  Being eligible as a beneficiary of the SPC’s work programme, Tonga was deemed ineligible from ownership of the SPC’s region.[11]


The SPC Defines the Region – Ultimately?

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Although the ANZAC states did not achieve all their aims, the South Seas Regional Commission Conference did reach a successful conclusion from their perspective.  The six participating states signed a treaty (the Canberra Agreement) to establish the South Pacific Commission (SPC)[12] but without the mandate for political development that the two sponsoring states had wanted.  Thus, for the first time, the most of the Pacific Islands were united in a region-defining cooperative enterprise yet not one of their making. The 1947 Canberra Agreement delineated a region but it had not yet defined the Pacific Islands region.  This point may have come in 1951 when the SPC reached its greatest extent following the successful bid by the United States to add Guam and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) to the SPC’s ambit.[13] At this point, the South Pacific region stretched from the Northern Marianas to Norfolk Island along one axis and from the Pitcairn Islands to West New Guinea on the other.

This geographic span lasted scarcely more than a decade.  In 1962, the Dutch were expelled from West New Guinea and withdrew from the SPC.  The Indonesians were not of a mind to succeed the Dutch vacancy in the SPC on behalf of West New Guinea (renamed West Irian) nor did any SPC member encourage Jakarta to pursue the possibility.  Nonetheless, the loss of the Dutch territory profoundly influenced the course of Pacific Islands regionalism.  The idea that external decisions could decide who was or was not a Pacific Islander shocked some Island elites who were becoming more self-conscious of a regional identity due to both the interactions available through the SPC and the ‘winds of change” beginning to stir across the South Pacific.  The SPC had made provision for a triennial advisory meeting of Islanders through an organ called the South Pacific Conference.  The first of these met in 1950 and there were five including the ill-fated 1962 Conference in Pago Pago, American Samoa where the West New Guinea delegates wept bitter tears in the knowledge they would never sit together with those that they had come to regard as fellow Pacific Islanders.

The second critical definitional influence on South Pacific regionalism in 1962 was the independence of Western Samoa.[14] As the first dependent territory to reclaim its sovereignty, Samoa opened a number of problematic issues about the nature of the SPC as a regional organisation.  The capacity of a “non-dependent” people to continue to benefit from the work programme of the SPC was fairly easily resolved in Samoa’s favour.  Apia’s unexpected desire to accede to the Canberra Agreement, however, provoked a three-year test of wills that transformed the concept of ownership of the region.  When Samoa succeeded in joining the Commission in 1965, the entire exclusionary approach to membership in the SPC and, with it, external ownership of the regional identity, was overturned.

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From 1965, the SPC’s Western members were confronted with a two-pronged challenge to their control of South Pacific regionalism.  Decolonisation would increasingly add to the number of states with the eligibility to follow Samoa’s path into formal Commission membership through accession to the Canberra Agreement.  The second prong led to reform of the Conference to allow the dependent territories to have a greater say over the organisation’s work programme through this organ.  Regionalism and regional identity would never again be the preserve of extra-regional states.  The authentic boundaries of the Pacific Islands region would only be drawn by the inhabitants of the region not by those outside who claimed to know what was best for them.

 

The Forum and the SRO – A Need to Redraw the Regional Boundaries?

The dramatic failure to reform the SPC at the South Pacific Conference meeting in Suva in late 1970 was a critical turning point in regional affairs.  It forced a fundamental shift in Pacific Islander attitudes toward the nature of South Pacific regionalism but, critically, not the definition of the region’s boundaries.  In this regard, the Pacific Islands pursued a different regional path than that taken by the Caribbean Islands when confronted with the same political crossroads the Pacific Islands faced in 1970.  In the process of morphing from the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission into the Caribbean Commission the concept of the region shrank in the minds of the “owners” of the regional identity.  Its boundaries were redrawn.  The perceived boundaries of the Caribbean region were diminished in scope by the exclusion of non-independent territories.  The concept of an integrated Caribbean regional system has never recovered the breadth of the Commission had in the 1950s.[15]

Pacific Islands’ regionalism could have opted for the exclusionary road taken by the Caribbean states but it did not.  There were strands of development that might have taken it down the Caribbean path.  Five countries within the SPC region became independent or self-governing by the time of the 1970 South Pacific Conference – Western Samoa, Cook Islands, Nauru, Tonga and Fiji.  Four of these countries established a body in 1964, outside the SPC framework, called the Pacific Islands Producers Association (PIPA), which served as a minor marketing arrangement mainly with New Zealand.[16] PIPA provided a mechanism to regroup after the disappointment of the Suva Conference.  Had it become the vehicle for herr5independent political cooperation, the Pacific may well have followed the Caribbean path.[17] A second important influence was the desire to exclude the colonial powers that had blocked political reform in the SPC.  This attitude toward the colonial powers in the Caribbean was a significant factor in the exclusionary approach taken by the independent states there.

However, the four independent members of PIPA members in consultation with Nauru recognised their very real limitations as international powers, and so adopted a more pragmatic approach to creating regional capacity.  Australia and New Zealand were invited to join the five independent and self-governing states in a new political association.  This pragmatism went so far as to ask New Zealand to host what was to be the first meeting of the South Pacific Forum in Wellington in August 1971.  Clearly, the Pacific Island states did not want to exclude all the metropolitan powers from their next stage in South Pacific regionalism even though a significant rationale for the initiative was to exclude some; those powers – France, the United Kingdom and the United States – perceived to be obstructionist.  More importantly, the Island member of the South Pacific Forum (or “FICs” as an acronym for Forum Island countries) did not want to exclude the territories that were ineligible for membership in the Forum even, or perhaps more correctly, especially those territories under the administration of the metropolitan powers that were excluded.  Moreover, none of the members of the new South Pacific Forum members resigned from the Commission or the Conference subsequently.  Thus, from the very outset of the Forum arrangement, the conceptual boundaries of the region remained the geographic scope of the SPC.

There were several reasons why the operational scope of the South Pacific region was not redefined with the advent of the Forum.  Perhaps the most important reason was that even the Forum’s Island members had not given up on reforming the SPC.   Just how this long-term aspiration for reform was to be expressed in the context of the new Forum relations was rather inchoate for several years. In part, this stemmed from some initial confusion as to the Forum’s real purpose as demonstrated by Australia’s faux pas in sending Charles Barnes, the Minister for External Territories, to the first Forum meeting in Wellington as its representative.  Canberra appeared to inadvertently reveal a colonial bias contrary to the new direction that Pacific Islands’ regionalism was taking.   On the other hand the three excluded metropoles were generally relaxed regarding the political initiative.  They tended to see the regional scheme as a localised development that was largely irrelevant to the future of their territories in the South Pacific.  This attitude might have been expected from France and the US but is less explicable in the case of the UK since the Forum, in 1971, was made up entire of FICs with Commonwealth connections.  The developments at the next meeting of the Forum, however, clarified some of the risks and challenges posed to the established pattern of regional relations by the establishment of the Forum.

Australia convened the second meeting of the Forum in Canberra and, correcting the error in Wellington, Prime Minister William McMahon hosted his fellow Heads of Government.  A number of questions were resolved at the Canberra meeting that bore significantly on the future of regionalism in the Pacific Islands.  The first was a decision not to create the Forum as a legal entity in its own right.  The model chosen was a direct crib from the Commonwealth of Nations’ Heads of Government Meetings.  It was to be a club that operated on club rules rather than international legal obligations.  So, what were the rules for entry to this rather exclusive regional club?  An Australian proposal to invite Papua New Guinea (PNG) to join the Forum at its next meeting resulted in a “full and frank” debate on membership.  PNG was on the verge of self-government[18] and, Australia argued that this would the same status as the Cook Islands, which was a founding member of the Forum.  Fiji argued against the nomination on the grounds that, unlike the Cooks, self-government was not the “final” status for PNG and so there would be many uncertainties as to PNG’s capacity within the Forum until it settled its independence issues.  A compromise was reached that offered PNG observer status in the Forum until independence when it would be eligible for full membership.

The ambiguities in concept of “eligibility” for membership in the Forum were also apparent in the criteria for the intergovernmental organisation (IGO) established at the second Forum.[19] Despite having PIPA, at least potentially, available as an economic IGO to be revamped to suit the Forum’s needs, the second Forum agreed to establish a new, OECD-style economic advisory body to be known as the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Cooperation (SPEC).[20] Article XI (2) of the SPEC Agreement states:

The signature of a member government shall not be taken as extending the rights and obligations set forth in this Agreement to the territories for whose international relations the member government is responsible.

The intention was to ensure the compromise with regard to PNG’s membership would not be undone in SPEC.  Significantly, nothing in the SPEC Agreement specified the operational scope of SPEC; only that its membership would be determined by the Forum.[21] Yet, it was commonly understood at time that recruitment into the Forum and into SPEC would only be from the Pacific Island countries (PICs) of the SPC.  This “understanding” soon set in train a contest for ownership of the agreed concept of the region – an extended debate that was to become known as the “single regional organisation” (SRO) issue.

A confluence of interests following the formation of the Forum merged the ANZAC powers’ desire for greater economic efficiencies in aid to a region that absorbed very large shares of their overseas assistance and the FICs’ desire for greater control of the regional agenda.  However, the locking of horns over where ultimate control of the Pacific Islands region rested – SPC or Forum – was only possible because proponents on both sides agreed there was only one region.   SPEC provided the catalyst for the first shots in the debate.  SPEC’s inaugural Executive Secretary, Mahe Tupouniua, had been only the second “commoner” to attain ministerial office in the Kingdom of Tonga.  He applied his redoubtable energy, intellect and drive to making a success of SPEC.  In March 1974, less than a year after SPEC was established, it absorbed PIPA’s functions and PIPA itself was terminated.[22] The realisation that the functions of one regional organisation could be transferred to another was undoubtedly a critical inspiration for the SRO.  The report of SPEC’s 1976 review of regional aid delivery found that better coordination of aid would produce more effective aid enabling the donors to achieve the efficacy they desired and the Island polities would secure improved outcomes.[23] The perceived duplication of effort between SPEC and the SPC interfered with achieving these efficiencies.  Thus, it was argued, aid impacts could be enhanced if the two organisations were merged.

The SRO issue did not influence in any material way the contours of the Pacific Islands regional borders since it was predicated on keeping those of the SPC as they were.   Rather, it was the fact that the Forum accepted these boundaries as valid that is important for the present argument.  Basically, the FICs sought to use the Forum as a parallel vehicle to pursue the decolonisation of the SPC in order to preserve the integrity of the region as defined by the SPC.  Yet confusion regarding the SRO concept and, perhaps, a lack of a real commitment to the objective were evident almost immediately the debate was joined.  In 1978, the Forum members established the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) as an independent IGO despite officially maintaining a need for a single regional organisation.  The contradiction was not lost on critics of the SRO proposal but there was no slackening in the efforts by the proponents of an SRO for another decade.[24]

While the SRO imbroglio did not involve a reconsideration of the outer boundaries of the Pacific Islands’ region it did throw up some interesting conundrums relating to internal stakeholders and ownership of the concept of the region.  Perhaps the first test of ownership versus being a legitimate stakeholder after the decision regarding PNG’s eligibility for Forum membership arose in connection with Guam in 1984.  Guam was a participant in a project searching for hydrocarbons amongst the Pacific's atolls managed by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) through a Committee for the Coordination of Offshore Prospecting/South Pacific (CCOP/SOPAC).  Despite the SRO issue, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 1984 to commission CCOP/SOPAC as a regional IGO.  All of the body's members were Forum members except for Guam yet none of the other participants wanted Guam excluded under the new arrangements.[25] A bit of legal legerdemain and a willingness of member states to look the other way allowed Guam to remain a stakeholder in, albeit not a co-owner of, the regional organisation.  Guam was included in the MOU’s preamble as a participating member but not listed amongst the signatories to the MOU.[26]

The membership complications of the SRO issue were perhaps most spectacularly revealed in the resolution of the status of SPREP.  A South Pacific “Regional Seas” project of the United Nations Environment Program became a subject of the SRO rivalry.  The compromise was a hybrid inter-institutional administrative arrangement to manage the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP).  The SPC housed the program and provided the secretariat services while SPEC chaired the SPREP executive.  Spurred by the increasing funding available for environmental projects in the 1980s, the Forum sought exclusive control of SPREP.  However, as an SPC based program its activities reached across the entire ambit of the SPC region.  If the Forum were to incorporate SPREP as an IGO within its family of agencies, this would alienate the non-FIC Islands from its work.  Such exclusion was unacceptable to these territories. The Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region [1986] accentuated the challenge posed by the non-FIC Island participants in SPREP by including all the PICs within the scope of the Convention.[27] Additionally there would be the probable loss of financial support from those metropolitan SPC members (France, UK and US) that would not be in the Forum arrangement.  Finally the international community would have had some doubts about a regional program that defined the Pacific Islands region more narrowly than SPREP's original area of coverage.  Yet again, another compromise proved necessary and, again, inclusiveness at the regional level won out.  A 1991 ministerial meeting of SPREP participants agreed to reconstitute SPREP as an IGO with a headquarters in Samoa and retaining a membership essentially the same as the SPC’s South Pacific Conference.[28]

The SRO debate ended essentially with the creation of the South Pacific Organisations Coordinating Committee (SPOCC) in 1988.  Establishment of SPOCC was intended to achieve greater technical and administrative efficiencies through easier collaboration between member agencies and, hopefully, to avoid the charge of duplication and waste, which was the ostensible rationale for the SRO proposal.  SPOCC was misnamed, however, to some extent since it did not have the power to coordinate the affairs of its member agencies.[29] Rather it served as an advisory arrangement to the parent bodies through their secretariats.   Further evidence of the commitment to inclusiveness within the boundaries of the region regardless of political status was given when SPOCC changed its name to the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) in 1999.  This was, in part, a consequence of a couple of important name changes to delete "South Pacific" from some regional agency names.  “South Pacific" was seen by some as inappropriate because the region's ambit included islands above the Equator and so was a slight to them.  This issue had proved a challenge to the SPC from the early 1960s but no consensus could be found as an alternative until Dr Bob Dun, then Secretary-General of the SPC, forced renaming the South Pacific Commission as the "Pacific Community" in 1997.[30]

Resolving the SRO issue may have helped to promote some more liberal inclusiveness within the Forum.  New Caledonia (1999) and French Polynesia (2004) were admitted into the Forum as observers despite no general acceptance that they were clearly on a path to a final political status that achieved at least effective internal self-government if not full independence. France that had lobbied long along with these territories for their inclusion and, in part, this was a reward to Paris for finally ending nuclear testing in the Pacific in 1996 and the accords setting out the options for New Caledonia’s future.[31] The two French territories were given a closer relationship with the Forum in 2006 through the creation of an “Associate Member” status.  At the same Forum, another French territory, Wallis and Futuna, was given admission as an Observer.[32] This tranche of expansion in the Forum’s participation provided the first partial, but very minor, tweaking of the regional boundaries since the SPC’s boundaries reached their zenith in the early 1950s.  Essentially at Canberra’s insistence, the Forum granted Timor-Leste “special observer status” in 2002, which was subsequently confirmed as an Observer under the new rules.


Security and the Future of Pacific Islands Regionalism

What security gave in creating the contours of the contemporary Pacific Islands region it may someday take away.  As has been argued, the pursuit of security played an integral part in creating the Pacific Islands region albeit not directly.  The ANZAC Pact of 1944 proposed two differently configured regions for the South Pacific.  The military alliance advanced in the 1944 treaty did not eventuate but the participation of the other four Western powers in the SPC in 1947 was intended to reassure Australia and New Zealand of their cooperation in regional affairs with the ANZACs despite the absence of a formal defence arrangement.  The value of the SPC for Australian and New Zealand security ambitions proved inadequate and the US had to find a more direct defence association with the deepening of the Cold War in the early 1950s.  In order to secure ANZAC support for a “soft” peace treaty with Japan to strengthen Cold War containment aims, the United States negotiated a defence alliance with Australia and New Zealand in 1951.[33] The ANZUS Pact was neither as regionally comprehensive as the arrangement proposed in the 1944 ANZAC Pact nor was it as strong as the NATO structure for which Australia argued.  Nevertheless, it was a defence alliance and it did provide a regional coverage.[34] The requirement to consult amongst the treaty parties was activated by Article V of the ANZUS Treaty, which held:

an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.”

By the terms of the treaty, the geographic reach of its operation was potentially anywhere in the Pacific where troops or any vessel with an ANZUS member state flag might be.  However, the practical geographic extent was the homelands and Pacific dependencies of the three member states.  This was underscored when Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies apparently asked the US Administration of John Kennedy in the early 1960s if the ANZUS provision for military assistance would be triggered should Canberra go to the aid of the embattled Netherlands in West New Guinea.  The response did not encourage any expectation of help if Australian troops came under fire in an engagement outside Australian territory.[35]

The American commitment to ANZUS really only became more than minor and largely ceremonial with the advent of the US intervention in Viet Nam in the mid 1960s.  Annual ministerial consultations, shared defence facilities and joint manoeuvres emerged to draw the three states parties together for perceived mutual security but the ANZUS focus was in Southeast Asia rather than the Pacific Islands.  It was not until 1976 that ANZUS discovered a need for a regional string to its Pacific security planning.  The number of territories achieving independence had reached a critical mass as evidenced by the creation of the South Pacific Forum in 1971.  The significance of this continuing wave of independence for Western security interests struck home rather dramatically (some might argue, over dramatically) in April 1976 when the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Tonga.  The ANZUS Council of Ministers meeting in June of that year proposed inter alia to address the Soviet challenge by promoting regional solidarity amongst the generally pro-Western FICs.  Regional coherence was made a critical plank in what came to be known “strategic denial”, an approach that was basically an extension of the general American policy of containment against the Soviet Union.[36] Whether strategic denial actually worked can be debated but there was every expectation at the time in the three ANZUS capitals that regional solidarity was the key to preventing the USSR from exploiting the individual weaknesses of the Pacific microstates.

Significantly, while the ANZUS regional strategy did not depend on the SPC’s regional boundaries, broader Western security interests for the entire region did interlock to some extent within the SPC’s operational ambit.  NATO linked the security interests of the three non-Forum metropolitan powers in the region – France, United Kingdom and United States – although not directly the mutual protection of their Pacific possessions.  France and the UK were individually responsible for their territories but the US enjoyed some shared alliance support through the ANZUS Treaty.  However, the critical issue at the time was not the dependencies but the independent FICs that had the capacity to act self-interestedly and autonomously with any extra-regional power they might choose.  Thus, the ANZUS regional approach to strategic denial relied on the privileged position that Australia and New Zealand occupied in the Forum as something more than just key stakeholders.[37] Their hegemony in this powerful regional association and the application of soft power rather than military-based relations were meant to reduce the sort of aberrant behaviour amongst the FICs that could lead to a Pacific “Cuba”.

Not without irony, the assumption of ANZAC hegemony and the coincidence of Western security interests was challenged in following decade by the same division that provoked the split within the SPC leading to the creation of the Forum.  This was the cleavage separating the nuclear powers and the non-nuclear powers.  By the mid 1980s, Labour parties beset by intra-party divisions over security participation with nuclear capable states governed both Australia and New Zealand.  Partially as a response to these pressures the two agreed to promote a regional nuclear weapons free zone in the South Pacific.  The FICs were happy to embrace the resurrection of a concept that enjoyed their support at the very instigation of the Forum.  The Forum states signed the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (SPNFZ or Treaty of Rarotonga) in August 1985 at their annual leaders meeting.[38] The ANZAC powers found to their chagrin that they had miscalculated the effect of SPNFZ on the permanent five members of the UN Security Council.  The two had hoped that SPNFZ would eliminate any non-Western nuclear interest in the region while cementing the conventional weapons predominance of the West in the Pacific Islands.  In the event, the PRC and the USSR quickly associated themselves with SPNFZ by signing the appropriate protocols to the treaty but the three Western powers rejected the treaty and its protocols.[39]

Tensions within ANZUS over regional policy were intensified at this time by other factors.  New Zealand’s domestic anti-nuclear weapons policy alienated the US when Wellington insisted that Washington identify nuclear equipped vessels before allowing port access.  The breach had New Zealand suspended from ANZUS activities when Australia supported the US against New Zealand.[40] Unrelated but paralleling these developments, Kiribati lost patience with the US over its refusal to accept coastal state management of the highly migratory species of tuna, which constituted a principal known natural resource.  In August 1985, it signed a fisheries access agreement with the USSR.  The agreement only lasted a year and was not renewed due to a Soviet Oceanic Fisheries Department demand for reduced fees.  Vanuatu had acquired reputation as a somewhat aberrant actor within the region following its independence in 1980.  It accepted relations with Cuba and Libya, presumed Soviet surrogates, and the ni-Vanuatu Government signed a fisheries access arrangement with the USSR shortly after the i-Kiribati agreement lapsed.  Vanuatu took a leading role in the region opposing colonialism and nuclear weapons, especially testing by one of its erstwhile administering powers – France.  Thus, even as the Cold War was on the verge of collapse, the value of the regional security consensus within the Forum was being sorely tested.  Whether it would have been viable had Cold War tensions continued is moot but the Western powers were making adjustments in aid, fisheries policy and the like to maintain a soft power capacity for significant influence within the Pacific Islands region to maintain influence.

The perceived security value of Pacific Islands’ regionalism changed with the end of the Cold War.  From 1976 to the end of the 1980s, regionalism served as a vehicle to help maintain some Western security interests.  This is not to say that no FIC security interests were served.  There was some mutuality; some perceived physical security benefits for the FICs as in SPNFZ; and, most importantly for the Islands, some benefits with economic and human security through agencies such as the FFA.  Nevertheless, for nearly a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a decline in external security interest as Western powers such as the US and UK began reducing their effort in the region.  Even Russia, which had finally secured a diplomatic mission (in Port Moresby) just before the collapse of the USSR, found little reason to stay.  There were security issues such as money laundering, the sale of passports, resource poaching, flags of convenience and the like but the international community generally left such issues to bilateral or intra-regional action.  The Forum approved programs to strengthen policing capacity, cooperation on information and intelligence sharing; transport and communications security and the like from the early 1990s.  A Forum Regional Security Committee was formed in 1992 essentially to coordinate the efforts against transnational crime.  Throughout the decade of the 1990s, a series of declarations were drafted by the Forum to strengthen the rule of law and security established a political framework for enhancing the collective regional capacity to assist individual FIC members to meet their sovereign responsibilities with regard to internal security.[41]

A fundamental change occurred following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.  International perceptions of the risks posed by fragile and failing states rewrote security analysts’ assessments of the potential exploitation of the vulnerabilities of the Pacific Islands.[42] A regional response regained favour with the two ANZAC powers – this time to deal the non-state threat of terrorism.  Again, the Forum was the principal instrument.  At the urging of its Australasian members, the Forum responded with the 2002 Nasonini Declaration on regional security and terrorism and expanded the work of the Forum Regional Security Committee to include terrorism within its remit.  The Australian and New Zealand Governments also strongly supported relevant action through other regional agencies.  This included the SPC’s Regional Maritime Programme, which aided the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.  Through chairing CROP, the Forum was able to influence the entire region but this was enhanced from 2005 with the adoption of the “Pacific Plan”.[43] The Plan was endorsed by all agencies and their members (more or less) to rationalise regional institutional architecture and to promote regional integration in order to strengthen state capacity across the region.  The strengthening of the role of the Forum would also further entrench the position of Australia and New Zealand in the regional system as non-resident co-owners.

 

It is beyond the scope of the present paper to detail in full the speculation presently circulating regarding the pressures within the Forum arising from internal security concerns.  Yet, it is possible that the new tensions could actually redraw the boundaries of the Pacific Islands region.  The Pacific Plan’s roadmap to closer regional integration has provoked concerns as to the hegemonic role that Australia and New Zealand play within the present regional architecture. However, it is the 2000 Biketawa Declaration that has raised the spectre of a serious pushing these concerns to the level of being a threat to the Forum as a “regional” organisation.[44] The Biketawa Declaration was a Forum response to coups in both Fiji and the Solomon Islands in 2000.  By it, the Forum leaders committed themselves inter alia to, “upholding democratic processes and institutions”. The Declaration also included options for sanctions including “if necessary, targeted measures.”[45] The application of sanctions in support of the principles of the Biketawa Declaration against the post-2006 coup Government in Fiji has become increasingly controversial. The Government of Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, in power since a military coup in December 2006, has taken particular exception to the use of the Forum to impose sanctions against it seeing Australia and New Zealand as the principal instigators of these sanctions.[46] Bainimarama therefore has appealed increasingly to regional neighbours to resist the ANZAC influence in the Forum.

 

Bainimarama has turned to the sub-regional association, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), as the mechanism for his regional fight back.   The MSG was formed in 1988 by three Melanesian states to express solidarity for the decolonisation of the French territory of New Caledonia.[47] Fiji joined the MSG in 1996[48] and, in 1988, the four states signed the Agreement Establishing The Melanesian Spearhead Group association, which gave the group legal personality and so transformed it into an IGO.  There is an historical irony in contemporary Fiji’s use of the MSG against the Forum. Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Fiji’s first Prime Minister and the acknowledged architect of PIC regionalism, feared that sub-regionalism might destroy the broader regional system.  This fear looms much larger now as a real prospect with the divide between the Forum and MSG over Fiji driving the wedge between the two levels of association.[49] Bainimarama’s appeals to the MSG appear to have elicited some very positive responses.  For example, all the MSG leaders visited Fiji shortly after the 2009 Forum and expressed their support for Bainimarama despite having endorsed the decision at the Forum to continue the sanctions against Fiji.  There have been a number of similar and important gestures since.[50]

Fiji’s Prime Minister may have recently pushed the MSG wedge to the point where it may actually fracture the region.   In preparing to host the 2010 MSG meeting, where he would become MSG Chair, Bainimarama indicated that he would invite FICs not members of the MSG to attend as observers, the “MSG Plus” arrangement.[51] The prospect that, as Chair, he would be able to use the MSG as a vehicle to re-create the Forum without Australia and New Zealand raised such concern in Canberra and Wellington that steps were taken to prevent Fiji from taking over the Chair.  Whatever the actual involvement in the decision by then ni-Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei’s decision to cancel the 2010 MSG leaders meeting, Bainimarama reacted strongly to perceived Australian and New Zealand involvement by expelling their senior representatives in Suva.  Natapei’s decision was repudiated by other MSG countries soon afterwards and, when Natapei lost the prime ministership, arrangements were made within the MSG to apologise and return the Chair to Fiji.  The Solomon Islands hosted a ceremony of apology where the Chair was passed the Solomon Islands, which then immediately passed it on to Fiji.  Whether Bainimarama will now continue to pursue the  ”MSG Plus” option is open but, if he does, the older concept of the Pacific Islands region may not survive the challenge.  It seems unlikely that “MSG Plus” could replace the Pacific Islands Forum even though it could preserve the long-standing boundaries of the Pacific Islands region.  Nevertheless, there could little doubt that a viable MSG Plus and an attempt to retain the Forum intact would revive many of the features of the older SRO issue.

herr8


Conclusion

Mapping the boundaries of the Pacific Islands region has been a long odyssey and one that continues today.  This cartographic exercise is interesting not so much because the boundaries have been in dispute.  They have not been for sometime.  Indeed, the only real change in the last 60 years has been the exclusion of West New Guinea (1962) and the very recent, and very limited, attempt to include Timor-Leste.  Rather the tensions have risen from defending the agreed boundaries.  Initially, these stemmed from disputed ownership of the region.  Extra-regional colonial powers created the region but the residents of the region wanted to take possession of it through a process of decolonisation.  The desire for complete ownership of the region was so strong amongst the Island peoples that, even when it became clear that decolonisation would not deliver absolute ownership of the region to them, they refused to redefine the boundaries of the Pacific Islands region in the way the Caribbean peoples had Caribbean regionalism.

Creation of the South Pacific Forum became a significant test of what was the authentic Pacific Islands region.  The inclusion of Australia and New Zealand created an anomaly in the distinction between owners and stakeholders.  The two Western states clearly constituted a special category of stakeholders but, without changing the region’s boundaries, they became owners as well. This imposes a sort of political schizophrenia on Pacific Islands regionalism since in the case of the FFA and SPNFZ boundaries; for example, parts of the two are included within the region’s operational ambit.  The single regional organisation row both demonstrated that the SPC’s boundaries were the region and that the FICs were not prepared to concede ownership rights even to those PICs that had not yet secured control of their own destinies.  Since the FICs were unable to relax their commitment to either tenet, they had to temporise, which they did through the establishment of SPOCC (now CROP).  This has allowed the continuation of “two speed” regional integration across the expanse of the Pacific Islands.

Recently, issues of internal security (as opposed to the external security concerns that served as a catalyst for creating the region) have threatened the coherence and, possibly, the regional system itself.  The attempt to strengthen state capacity through regional mechanisms, especially the Pacific Plan, has generated increasing tensions with regard to Fiji since the December 2006 military coup.  Never before had regional machinery been used punitively against a member and Fiji, not alone, has felt this to be a misuse of the regional system.  The Government of Frank Bainimarama has been resisting this pressure by accentuating the anomalous role that Australia and New Zealand have in the Pacific Islands regional system.  Fiji’s attempt to reinvent a Forum without the participation of the two Western powers was only partially successful but the contest of wills over the MSG Plus proposal seems destined to leave serious scars regionally.  Being supplemented by closer ties with Asia and the promotion of other exclusionary mechanisms such as the Pacific Small Islands Developing States group (PSIDS) at the United Nations, Fiji has thrown down a diplomatic gauntlet that might appear to be only an ownership/stakeholder issue.  However, the MSG is an ethnically based association, which cannot remain true to its origins and provide a comfortable home to Polynesian states such as Samoa.  Should the current divisions intensify, one option may well be for the MSG to abandon its “sub-regional” status and claim full regional standing.  Where this would leave the Pacific Islands region is anyone’s guess but it would force a very serious redrafting of the regional atlas of the Pacific Islands.



[1] Bruce M. Russett, International Regions and the International System: A Study in Political Ecology (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1967)

[2] Joseph Nye (ed.) International Regionalism, (Boston: Little Brown and Co. 1968), xii.

[3] As will be addressed below, the membership of the Pacific Islands Forum and other agencies are not conterminous with the functional scope of the Pacific Islands region but they are not regarded as sub-regional since their potential membership pool is all within the region.

[4] This was a common theme in the early years.  See, for examples: “Twenty-fifth Anniversary Messages”, South Pacific Bulletin, XXII (October 2, 1972), p 19.

[5] Gordon R. Lewthwaite, “Geographic Knowledge of the Pacific Peoples” in Herman R. Friis (ed), The Pacific Basin (New York: American Geographical Society, 1967), pp 51-86.

[6] Naming the region has been somewhat more difficult than identifying its reach.  The “South Seas” was in common use from the advent of extensive European contact until the early/mid 20th Century.   From the end of WW II until the late 1990s, the region was generally referred to as the “South Pacific” when the term “Pacific Islands” became the preferred usage.  “Oceania” was once popular in anthropological circles but not in general use.

[7] W.D. Forsyth, “South Pacific”, New Guinea and Australia, the Pacific and South-East Asia, VI (September-October, 1971), p 8.

[8] This organisation, founded in 1942, was expanded in 1946 to include the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and so comprised four of the SPC’s six member states.  See: Herbert Corkran, Patterns of International Cooperation in the Caribbean, 1942-1969 (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1970).

[9] This was an extraordinary political concession at the time since the Dutch were still fighting to preserve their hold over the entire colony.

[10] Early maps of the scope of the South Pacific Commission show Norfolk Island as included but this was later disputed by Australia when the Norfolk Government attempted to use this as a lever for greater autonomy from Australia.

[11] T.R. Smith, South Pacific Commission (Wellington: Price Milburn, 1972), p 46.

[12] In 1997, the SPC was renamed the Pacific Community but retained the familiar SPC acronym.

[13] The TTPI, the former Japanese mandated islands that were ceded by the UN to the US as a security trust in 1947, but could not be added to the SPC until control was transferred to civilian authority in 1951.

[14] Western Samoa renamed itself as Samoa in 1997 over the protests of American Samoa.

[15] For a useful review of the transition from colonial regional cooperation to post independence arrangements see:  Herbert Corkran, Patterns of International Cooperation in the Caribbean, 1942-1969 (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1970)

[16] Nauru did not join PIPA, as its only export commodity was phosphate.

[17] There would have been an internal complication with PIPA as constituted in 1971, however.  Niue and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (GEIC) had associated themselves with PIPA’s Constitution although they were not independent or self-governing.

[18] PNG did not achieve full internal self-governing status until 1 December 1972.

[19] Agreement Establishing The South Pacific Bureau For Economic Co-Operation (With Annex) [1973]. The treat can be accessed at: http://www.paclii.org/pits/en/treaty_database/1973/2.html#fn1

[20] By 1971, PIPA included Niue and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony as members and by the February 1972 decisions of the Forum they were ineligible for membership in the Forum at that time.  Moreover Nauru had never been a member of PIPA.

[21] Article XI (4) of the SPEC Agreement:  “Other governments may, with the approval of the Forum, accede to this Agreement.”

[22] http://untreaty.un.org/unts/60001_120000/8/2/00014075.pdf

[23] South Pacific Bureau for Economic Cooperation, ‘More Effective Aid: A Report to the South Pacific Forum’, 1976, unpublished consultants’ report.

[24] I have dealt with some of the inconsistencies and complexities of the SRO issue in my "Regionalism and Nationalism", in K.R. Howe, Robert C. Kiste and Brij V. Lal (eds.), Tides of History: The Pacific Islands in the Twentieth Century, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1994.

[25] The MOU served the purpose of doubts removal legislation in municipal law so that it confirmed that the original intention of CCOP/SOPAC's regional members to constitute it as an IGO.  Thus, CCOP/SOPAC was deemed technically not to be a "new" regional organisation and so not contrary to the SRO aspirations of the Forum.  The 1984 MOU and CCOP/SOPAC's existing Terms of Reference served as the body's foundation documents until a full treaty was drafted in 1989.

[26] The same approach was taken in 1989 when the 1984 MOU was replaced by a full treaty.  See: Agreement Establishing the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission [1990] at

http://www.paclii.org/pits/en/treaty_database/1990/7.html.  The 1989 review process renamed CCOP/SOPAC the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC).

[27] http://www.paclii.org/pits/en/treaty_database/1986/15.html.  However, the Convention’s scope also included Australia and New Zealand but none of the three metropolitan powers excluded from the Forum thus blending elements of the SPC and the Forum.  These decisions may well have been essential precursors to the compromises that led to SPOCC in 1988.

[28] SPREP therefore includes all the 22 Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) that are members of the SPC.  However, only four of the five metropolitan states of the SPC – Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States – joined the new IGO.  The United Kingdom, which then was restructuring its Pacific interests, decided to remain outside SPREP.

[29] These are currently listed as: the Forum Secretariat (formerly SPEC), the Pacific Community (formerly the SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), the Pacific Island Development Program (PIDP), the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the University of the South Pacific (USP), the Fiji School of Medicine (FSchM), the South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment (SPBEA) and Pacific Power Association.  However, this list may no longer be accurate due to some national and regional institutional changes.

[30] The South Pacific Forum changed its name in October 2000 to the Pacific Islands Forum.

[31] Nic Maclellan, “New Caledonia Pursues Full Forum Membership”, Island Business, Vol. 36 (May 2010), pp 25-6.

[32] The 2005 Forum created the new category but its communiqué does not offer much on the distinctions between the new categories of Observer and Associate Member.  See: Thirty-Sixth Pacific Islands Forum Communiqué at: http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/spacific/regional_orgs/pif36_communique.html

[33] Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America [1951]; http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/new_zealand/anzus.pdf

[34] For an assessment of the linkage between ANZUS and the South Pacific region, see: R.A. Herr, "The Changing Geo-Politics of ANZUS: The Place of the South Pacific", World Review, March 1984, pp. 21-42.

[35] Ibid.

[36] The details and consequences of the 1976 ANZUS ministerial meeting are addressed in my "Regionalism, Strategic Denial and South Pacific Security", Journal of Pacific History, XXI (1986), pp. 170-182.

[37] The role of the two ANZAC states has always been ambiguous since they are outside the SPC’s operational ambit yet they as much bound by Forum decisions as the FICs.  Thus, have both the characteristics of owners (without being resident in the region) and stakeholders (as outsiders/donors).

[38] Michael Hamel-Green, The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty: a critical assessment, (Canberra: Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1990).

[39] The end of the Cold War changed strategic attitudes, however, and so, a decade later, France, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the three protocols that applied to them in a joint ceremony in March 1996.

[40] For the history of this dispute see: Stuart McMillan, Neither Confirm Nor Deny (Wellington, Allen & Unwin, 1987).

[41] These are the 1992 Honiara Declaration on Law Enforcement Cooperation, the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration on regional security, the 2000 Biketawa Declaration.

[42] See for example: Elsina Wainwright and Australian Strategic Policy Institute.  Our failing neighbour: Australia and the future of Solomon Islands, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Barton, A.C.T., 2003

[43] The Pacific Plan and details concerning it can be accessed at: http://www.forumsec.org.fj/pages.cfm/about-us/the-pacific-plan/

[44] Laisa Taga, “Forum’s Fiji ‘Plan’ Causing New Split”, Island Business, June 2009, p. 5

[45] http://www.forumsec.org/_resources/article/files/Biketawa%20Declaration.pdf

[46] See for example: Rowan Callick, “Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama orders Australian professor out”, The Australian, 5 November 2009.  Accessed at: http://www.news.com.au/world/fijian-prime-minister-frank-bainimarama-orders-australian-professor-out/story-e6frfkyi-1225794505333

[47] The “Agreed Principles of Co-operation among Independent Melanesian Countries signed in 1988 by Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as founding states members and the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste, (FLNKS) of New Caledonia as an observer self-identified their association as “sub-regional”.

[48] Fiji became an observer in the MSG from 1993.

[49] The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi, repeated these concerns in 2006 before the coup in Fiji later that year.  See: “MSG: trading on political capital and Melanesian solidarity”, Pacific Institute of Public Policy, Briefing Paper 02, July 2008, p.3.

http://www.google.com.au/search?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=MSG:+trading+on++political+capital+and++Melanesian+solidarity+Pacific+Institute&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&redir_esc=&ei=MuoiTajtGYqmcPzf-dgK

[50] See for example: “PNG urges Australia, NZ to support Fiji”, http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/png-urges-australia-nz-to-support-fiji-20091014-gxbt.html

[51] “Fiji PM says Pacific grouping to strengthen” Radio Australia, 30 October 2009, http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/200910/s2728299.htm


Thursday, 24 March 2011 22:39

A Möbius Strip of knowledge

This article below is Grant McCall's full paper: Mapping and unmapping the Pacific –nesias. Thoughts to turn over on a flowing Möbius Strip of knowledge. The paper was prepared to accompany the speech he gave on Feb.16th at National Central Library, Taiwan.


Thursday, 24 March 2011 22:10

Locating a promise land: from Taiwan to Oceania, from History to Literature

The young scholars session at the Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific conference held at the National Central Library, Taiwan gave three promising young scholars the chance to present their highly original work. Yedda Wang was part of a group of Asian students invited by Leiden University's Encompass program to study the history of Asia through Dutch colonial archives. She is a scholar trying to break through Western academic traditions and find her own way. In her speech Yedda introduced her past and current thesis projects and gave anecdotes lamenting the obstacles to her own historical direction.

Alternative (for readers in China)

Taiwan and Oceanian islands share quite a few things in common. In text-based fields such as history (archives) and literature (literary works), one is provided with ample examples of such points of convergence. Islands from both regions are plagued with colonial memories, though of different spans and under different powers; indigenous peoples from both regions consisting of many languages and cultures are mostly non-literate and thereby represented by others but themselves in written materials; and since mid-20th century, locally-born scholars, writers, activists et al. start to challenge in multiple ways the danger of stories produced not entirely from within but undoubtedly about them. The fact that these dots of land share such a diversity of both colonial and postcolonial experiences holds great promises to historical and literary studies especially on such themes as the transformation of indigenous societies, representation, identity, agency, the other, the writing of history et cetera. In other words, there is a promise land of convergence to be located. Based upon the same author’s previous studies in Leiden, this essay intends to show how history and literature in combination may contribute to the understanding Taiwan and Oceania, and how this understanding of Taiwan and Oceania, either taken as separately or symbiotically, may further enlighten about certain abovementioned themes.

The Stranger-King

In history, Wang’s research into Indigenous-Dutch relationships on 17th-century Formosa invites readers to reconsider a concept as the Stranger-King, developed in Oceania, for the explanation of colonial relationships:

Alternative (for readers in China)

Notions of time

Alternative (for readers in China)

In literature, Wang’s study of Patricia Grace (Maori) and Syaman Rapogang (Tao) stresses how contemporary indigenous writers, with their eyes on present post-colonial indigenous societies, have provided insights into the study as well as the writing and rewriting of the other. Their craft is worthy of consideration and their products can very well be the sources for historical studies. For an indigenous society, the past is never far from the present. A dialogue between colonial history and contemporary indigenous literature will therefore help us locate the promise land.

Photo: Lee Tian-hsiang



See Yedda's article about Lanyu author Syaman Rapongan, A subaqueous loner

Thursday, 24 March 2011 21:54

The role of the Inbetweeners

The young scholars session at the Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific conference held at the National Central Library, Taiwan gave three promising young scholars the chance to present their work. Nakao, a PhD candidate in history at Leiden University, is one of these young scholars trying to break the academic boundaries, to produce experimental writing of Eastern Taiwan history from a new historical narrative, an Amis perspective and in doing this foster real cross-cultural dialogue. In her speech she presented the foundations of her groundbreaking research:

Alternative (for readers in China)

Working on Eastern Taiwan history, I found interesting similarity and difference between the historical writing of Eastern Taiwan and that of the Pacific world: Both have to do with the writing of the indigenous past; both face the dominant Western historical tradition which per se is a specific value system that is often incommensurable with the local ones. Today, many Pacific writers insist on their traditional way of writing about their Self, more or less at the price of isolating their writing from the rest of the world. In contrast, many Taiwanese historians (Han Taiwanese or Austronesian alike) attempting to write Eastern Taiwan history work within the Western historical tradition, with or without a clear awareness of the underlying cultural differences and conflicts that may eventually affect the written presentation of “history.”

As an Austronesian (Amis) yet Western-trained historian, I'm most concerned with the possibility of bridging the incommensurable: Is it possible to go beyond the debates of academic Westernism and Indigenism, decolonization and postcolonialism etc. and bring up something that is not conflictive in nature but that emphasizes mutual acknowledgement and respect in practice? It requires, I believe, a certain kind of “inbetweenness,” born (usually but not exclusively) by the “cultural inbetweeners.” At the first glance this “inbetween” position seems academically unpopular and disadvantageous, yet eventually it may prove to be promising in creating a real cross-cultural dialogue, which, amidst cultural confrontations, deconstructs none of the participating cultural traditions and remains constructive to all parties.

Photo: Cathy Chuang


Wednesday, 23 March 2011 17:17

Celebrating Connections among our Sea of Islands

Noai e mauri:  Noaia e mauri is how we greet each other on Rotuma, a Polynesian island 300 miles north of Fiji, and my original homeland. This greeting literally translates as “Thank you for your life.” Let me change that to “Thank you for your lives”, all of you attending this important conference. Your presence brings much prestige, and your knowledge has enriched, and will continue to enrich, our discussions at this conference.

I want to thank the organizers and funders for bringing us all together, from far and near, and for all their hard work in putting together this landmark event. I also want to thank June Lee in particular. She has been in touch with me over several months now, and I must admit to being impressed by her negotiation skills. Without her tenacity, efficiency and diplomatic skills, I wouldn’t be here. June – Faiaksia, which means thank you, in the Rotuman language.

In this short presentation, I want to reflect upon the work and the words of the late Professor Epeli Hau`ofa of Tonga, the man whose job I have now inherited. In my opinion, Epeli was, and still is, the most influential thinker in the field of Pacific Studies for the past twenty years or so. He didn’t write all that much – a comic novel, a collection of satirical short stories, a slim volume on his research, and a number of essays – but whatever he wrote was remarkable because of its perceptive and inspired visionary take on Oceanic life. Although his fiction is more entertaining than his other works, I want to highlight his essays, most of which have been published under the title: We are the Ocean: Selected Works.

Alternative (for readers in China)

If you are not familiar with Epeli’s writing, I would encourage you to buy yourself a copy of We are the Ocean and read it before you go to bed at night, and as soon as you get up in the morning. I did that last night and this morning as well, and I am the better for it. But be careful, it is the kind of book that could possess you, which is what happened to me this morning. My alarm went off, I jumped out of bed, showered, and got ready for breakfast, only to realize that my iphone was still in Fiji time, and that the correct time in Taiwan was 1 a.m. Yes, one in the morning. So what was I to do? All dressed up and nowhere to go. I took out my speech, and in rereading it, found myself rewriting it like a man possessed by Epeli’s spirit. Well, they say in parts of Polynesia that around two or three in the morning is when the spirit world is most active, and I can vouch for that. According to my abstract, I was supposed to talk more about the arts, but Epeli wanted me to talk more about himself (how could I refuse the man?) Epeli took me in a different direction. But being a spirit he knows more about what our needs are in this conference than I do and I am quite happy to be guided by him.

I should remind you that Epeli passed away about two years ago now, and that I get no royalties for recommending his book. Just in case you are wondering . . .

In 1997, Epeli founded the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. Epeli’s vision for the Centre is that it would become a safe and protected space where artists – painters, dancers, woodcarvers, sculptors, and musicians particularly – could come together to create original works of art without fear or prejudice. Thirteen years later, the Centre has acquired a reputation for the development, creation, and promotion of innovative and original art, particularly in the area of contemporary dance, music, and painting. It has also grown in terms of its physical and human resources, and now it has become a vital and dynamic Centre, not just at USP but increasingly for the rest of Oceania as well.

Owned by 12 nations within our Sea of Islands, a phrase made popular by Hau`ofa in his influential essay of the same title, USP is one of only two universities in the world (the other being the University of the West Indies) that can be said to be truly regional, with 14 campuses spread out over an ocean that covers one-third of the earth’s surface. Students at USP are drawn mainly from USP’s owner countries -- Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu – and the result is a very diverse student body.

It is no surprise then that since its humble beginnings in 1968, the creation of a regional identity at USP, instead of a narrow and nationalistic one, has always been a challenge. Ugly incidents of brawls between certain ethnic groups, such as Tongans versus Samoans, ultimately led to USP’s leaders abolishing its once popular Pacific Week when cultural groups on campus performed their dances and demonstrated aspects of their cultures with pride and sometimes with defiance. Today, although ethnic dances can still be seen on campus and students still tend to hang out and socialize according to their own cultural groups, the ugly brawls of former years seem to have disappeared. Instead, what has emerged is a regional identity, based firmly on traditional cultures of our ancestors, but free of their shackles, as well as those of former colonial powers. This has come about mainly because of efforts to encourage students to form social groups according to interests rather than culture.

Leading the creation of this regional identity was, and is, the Oceania Centre where students from different ethnic backgrounds can be seen working and playing together. The Oceania Centre therefore provides a model for the creation of identities that are open and fluid, instead of closed and unchanging.

Taking its cue from the vast and ever flowing Pacific Ocean whose waters wash and crash “on the whole Pacific Rim from Antarctica to New Zealand, Australia, South East and East Asia, and right around to the Americas,” the Oceania Centre in Fiji draws its inspiration not just from within Oceania, but also from East and West. In Hau`ofa’s words, the Oceania Centre promotes the kind of identity “that transcends all forms of insularity島國性質, to become one that is openly searching, inventing, and welcoming.”

Hauofa’s vision focuses on the vast ocean, and not on the small islands that our colonizers and our detractors tell us are too small and will always be dependent on the largesse of larger nations. By encouraging us to mentally shift our perspective, Epeli liberates our minds to recognize that the world of our ancestors was as vast as the Pacific ocean and that Oceanians traversed its highways long before the arrival of Captain Cook.

It is in this spirit of expansion that we welcome and launch the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies, the newest Pacific Studies organization in the world. Like a new canoe that has taken years to build and has just been completed, the Taiwan Society for Pacific Studies is about to leave the safety of land and venture out into the wide open ocean, where seas can be rough, and the weather stormy. This, however, is a journey that our ancestors took thousands of years ago when they left these shores and ventured out to find new and unknown lands in what we call today the Pacific Ocean. Our ancestors must have been brave men and women, for there was so much more that was unknown then than is the case today. But this doesn’t mean that this new journey is going to be less difficult, because like all long canoe journeys, successful arrival at destination will depend on careful preparation and planning, physical and intellectual prowess, and when necessary, sheer determination and tenacity when the seas become rough and hurricanes or cyclones threaten to destroy the canoe and every brave person on it.

On the eve of your departure into the blue continent, may I make a few suggestions that might help you on your maiden voyage. Please take whatever you feel might be useful, and discard whatever you feel will only burden and weigh you down. And since you want your canoe to skip along the surface of the Ocean blue with speed and ease, let me suggest then that you take with you just three baskets of sand. I call these baskets of sand because in our mythology, it was sand poured on rock that created Rotuma.

Please fill your first basket, let’s call this the responsibility basket,  with this quote from Epeli’s essay titled “The Ocean in Us” in which he wrote: “Our most important role should be that of custodians of the ocean: as such we must reach out to similar people elsewhere in the common task of protecting the sea for the general welfare of all living things” (55). It is this feeling of responsibility toward the Ocean that led Epeli to use the term Oceania instead of Pacific for the name of his Centre. Given our sea-faring heritage, I think we would agree with Epeli’s emphasis on the importance of the ocean to all of us, particularly now that sea-level rise has become an issue of pressing concern.

In your second basket, let’s call this the inheritance basket, and this is a big one, please fill it with this quote, from Epeli’s essay titled “Pasts to Remember”: “To remove a people from their ancestral, natural surroundings or vice versa—or to destroy their lands with mining, deforestation, bombing, large scale industrial and urban developments, and the like – is to sever them not only from their traditional sources of livelihood but also, and much more importantly, from their ancestry, their history, their identity, and their ultimate claim for the legitimacy of their existence. It is the destruction of age-old rhythms of cyclical dramas that lock together familiar time, motion, and space. Such acts are therefore sacriligeous and of the same order of enormity as the complete destruction of all of a nation’s libraries (think Library of Congress), archives, museums, monuments, historic buildings, and all its books and other such documents” (75).

In your third basket, let’s call this the identity basket because it deals with the arts, this is what Epeli wrote in his essay titled “Our Place Within”:  He wrote: “We begin with what we have in common and draw inspiration from the diverse patterns that have emerged from the successes and failures in our adaptations to the influences of the sea.  From there we can range beyond the tenth horizon, secure in the knowledge of the home base to which we will always return for replenishment and revision of the purposes and directions of our journeys. We shall visit our people who have gone to the land of diaspora and tell them that we have built something: a new home for all of us. And taking a cue from the ocean’s everflowing and encircling nature, we will travel far and wide to connect with oceanic and maritime peoples elsewhere, and swap stories of voyages we have taken and those yet to be embarked on. We will show them what we have created; we will learn from them different kinds of music, dance, art, ceremonies, and other forms of cultural production. We may even together make new sounds, new rhythms, new choreographies, and new songs and verses about how wonderful and terrible the sea is, and how we cannot live without it. We will talk about the good things the ocean has bestowed on us, the damaging things we have done to them, and how we must together try to heal their wounds and protect them forever.”

These three baskets-- baskets of responsibility, inheritance, and identity-- will be enormously helpful as you carry out research in Oceania and among Oceanians, people of the sea. When you make landfall, pour these baskets liberally on the rocks along the coastline, and new islands will form.

Let me conclude then with Epeli’s observation that the ocean connects us all, you here in Taiwan, to the rest of us in the Pacific, and that at one time, before our colonizers arrived and carved up the Pacific into Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia (leaving out Taiwan altogether), and required us to have passports and visas before we travelled among our sea of islands, our ancestors traversed the seascapes like highways that connected one island to another.

Epeli exhorts us to free ourselves from colonial thinking, and reconnect with the larger reality of our seafaring ancestors whose world was anything but small: This is his conclusion to the most influential essay in Pacific Studies ever written. Titled “Our Sea of Islands”, this is what Epeli wrote in his conclusion:

“We are the sea, we are the ocean, we must wake up to this ancient truth and together use it to overturn all hegemonic views that aim ultimately to confine us again, physically and psychologically, in the tiny spaces that we have resisted as our sole appointed places and from which we have recently liberated ourselves. We must not allow anyone to belittle us again, and take away our freedom.”

Thank You again for your kind invitation to address this esteemed gathering tonight. I look forward to the rest of this conference, and to everything else you have planned for us during this time we have together.

Ma ta ma maria’ ma of sia. And that is the end of my speech.

 

 


Wednesday, 23 March 2011 10:09

Music as a Marker of Human Migrations

Debate on the question of how and why music varies cross-culturally was recently reawakened by the provocative claim that traces of the ancient migration of anatomically modern humans out of Africa can be heard in contemporary songs (Grauer 2006). Grauer‟s claim drew on data from the landmark Cantometrics Project (Lomax 1968), which remains the only global scientific study of human song. At the time, Lomax‟s causal interpretation of the correlation between culture and music – for example, male dominance causing nasal singing – was highly criticized even by other members of the Cantometrics Project (e.g., Erickson 1976).

While Grauer‟s recent migratory interpretation avoids Lomax‟s pitfall, many of the original criticisms of the Cantometrics Project resurfaced in skepticism about music‟s time-depth as a migration marker (e.g., Stock 2006). Could the acoustic surface of music really reflect ancient connections between cultures? If so, are these reflected in performance features (“singing”) or in the structural features (“song”) traditionally emphasized in Western musicology?

Lomax himself was highly critical of the use of Western musical notation in ethnomusicology, which he saw as emphasizing surface structural features at the expense of deeper performance features. He spent his life developing a performance-oriented approach that was concerned “not with songs abstracted from the stream of vocalizing we encountered on the tapes, but with the stream itself, with „singing‟” (Lomax 1980). Nevertheless, the Cantometric classification scheme that Lomax and Grauer (1968) developed contained roughly equal numbers of features devoted to “songs” and “singing”.

Our own view differs from both Lomax‟s and his critics‟ in that we propose that the structural features of song should have the greatest time-depth to track migrations, especially when applied to group performance in choral songs. Our reasoning is that structural features such as melody, texture and form require greater consensus among singers than the more idiosyncratic variation that goes into performance, such as timbre or ornamentation. Hence, features like scales and rhythms should be more stable over time than features like nasality or rubato.

These claims are testable. As a case-study to examine music‟s time-depth in the context of human migrations , we have examined the traditional choral music of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, who have been well-studied in terms of music, genetics, and migrations. (Loh 1982; Trejaut et al. 2005; Diamond 2000). Our primary aim, therefore, was to use existing information about the relative patterns of genetic and musical similarity among the Taiwanese aboriginal tribes to empirically test for the first time whether song structure or singing style has the time-depth required for studying human migrations. Our basic method was to compare music – a marker of unknown time-depth – against the best available marker with a well-established time-depth, namely mitochondrial DNA (Oppenheimer 2004).

METHOD

Participants

Of the 14 officially recognized tribes of Taiwan, eight had a sufficient number of both genetic and musical samples to permit comparative analysis: Amis, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Tao (Yami), and Tsou.

Materials

Genetics: Partial mtDNA sequences for 531 individuals from these eight tribes were taken from the dataset of Trejaut et al. (2005).

Music: YW and SB obtained 364 traditional songs from these eight tribes from commercial and archival ethnomusicological recordings. Restricting our sample to adult, choral songs left 222 songs for analysis. Sample sizes were: Amis=56, Bunun=31, Paiwan=28, Puyuma=32, Rukai=33, Saisiyat=14, Tao=13, Tsou=15.

Procedure

Distances between samples: Pairwise distances between individual a) genetic, and b) musical samples were calculated based on the number of pair-wise differences between a) mtDNA nucleotide sequences, and b) Cantometric classifications. This is the simplest possible distance measurement, as it makes no evolutionary assumptions about how those differences arose. We reserve more complicated methods that incorporate models of musical and genetic evolution for future studies.

Cantometric classification of the songs was done by VG. Two separate musical distance-matrices were calculated: one using the 15 song-structure characters from Cantometrics, the other using the 14 singing-style characters (see Figure 1 for details about these features). Eight Cantometric characters related to instruments alone were excluded from this analysis.

Distances between populations: For both genetics and music, the 28 possible pairwise distances among the 8 tribes were calculated using an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) framework (Excoffier, Smouse, and Quattro 1992). These distances were measured using a statistic called FST, which represents the proportion of variability among individual samples that is due to among-population differences. Thus, it explicitly incorporates within-population heterogeneity, avoiding the assumptions of within-

population homogeneity that plagued Lomax‟s original statistical methodology (e.g., Henry 1968; Leroi and Swire 2006).

Figure 1. Organization of the 15 song-structure (red) and 14 singing-style (blue) Cantometric classification features used in this analysis. Note that our method focuses on the vocal component of the music and therefore ignores 8 classification features related to instruments.

Correlations: The statistical significance of the correlations between musical and genetic distances was tested using the permutation-based Mantel test (Mantel 1967) using 10,000 permutations, with the threshold for significance set at p < 0.05 (one-tailed). This test controls for the fact that the 28 pairwise distances among the eight tribes are not independent of one another.

RESULTS

Correlations between genetic and musical distances were highly significant (see Figure 2), suggesting that patterns of genetic similarity among the 8 tribes were matched by corresponding patterns of musical similarity. This observation makes a strong case for music having an ancient time-depth in analyses of human migrations.

To examine the “song” vs. “singing” comparison, the two panels of Figure 2 show the correlations between genetics and either song structure (Panel A) or singing style (panel B). Both correlations were significant. However, features of song structure accounted for twice as much variance in genetic distance as did features of singing style (song structure: r2=0.27, singing style: r2=0.13).

Figure 2. Scatterplots of the 28 pairwise genetic and musical distances among 8 Taiwanese aboriginal tribes. Genetic distances (y-axis) are based on an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) of 531 mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. Analagous musical distances (x-axis) were calculated from 222 traditional choral songs using Cantometric characters of either A) song structure or B) singing style (i.e., performance). Statistical significance of distance-matrix correlations is based on Mantel‟s (1967) test.

DISCUSSION

Our main finding was that musical similarities among the 8 tribes were significantly correlated with genetic similarities. This provides the first empirical support for Grauer‟s (2006) claim that music has the time-depth required for use as a marker in studying prehistoric human migrations. Consistent with our predictions, the correlations with genetics were stronger when calculated using features of song structure compared to singing style, contrary to Lomax. However, the differences between these features were not nearly as striking as we had predicted. The simplest interpretation is that both singing and songs are useful as migration markers, which makes the overall case for using music as a marker even more persuasive. It allows for a pluralism of musical features that Lomax discounted, most especially with regard to structural features.

Our findings in Taiwan lend strong provisional support for music‟s time-depth in the case of a relatively recent (~6,000 years ago) migration. Whether music‟s time-depth reaches as far back as Grauer‟s Out-of-Africa claim, however, remains an open empirical question.

 

References

Diamond J. (2000). Taiwan‟s gift to the world. Nature, 403, pp. 709-710.
Erickson E.E. (1976). Tradition and evolution in song style: A reanalysis of Cantometric data. Cross-Cultural Research, 11, pp. 277-308.
Excoffier L., Smouse P.E., and Quattro J.M. (1992). Analysis of molecular variance inferred from metric distances among DNA haplotypes: Application to human mitochondrial DNA restriction data. Genetics, 131, pp. 479-491.
Grauer V. (2006). Echoes of our forgotten ancestors. The World of Music, 48, pp. 5-59.
Henry E.O. (1976). The variety of music in a North Indian village: Reassessing Cantometrics. Ethnomusicology, 20, pp. 49-66.
Leroi A.M. and Swire J. (2006). The recovery of the past. The World of Music, 48, pp. 43-54.
Loh I. (1982). The tribal music of Taiwan: With special reference to the Ami and Puyuma tribes. Ph.D. dissertation: University of California Los Angeles
Lomax A. (1980). Factors of musical style. In S. Diamond (ed.), Theory & practice: Essays presented to Gene Weltfish (pp. 29-58). The Hague: Mouton.
Lomax A. (ed.) (1968). Folk song style and culture. New Brunswick: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Lomax A. and Grauer V. (1968). The Cantometric coding book. In A. Lomax (ed.), Folk song style and culture (pp. 34-74). New Brunswick: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mantel N. (1967). The detection of disease clustering and a generalized regression approach. Cancer Research, 27, pp. 209-220.
Oppenheimer S. (2004) The "express train from Taiwan to Polynesia": On the congruence of proxy lines of evidence. World Archaeology, 36, pp. 591-600.
Stock J.P.J. (2006). Clues from our present peers? A response to Victor Grauer. The World of Music, 48, pp. 73-91.
Trejaut J.A., Kivisild T., Loo J.H., Lee C.L., et al. (2005). Traces of archaic mitochondrial lineages persist in Austronesian-speaking Formosan populations. PLoS Biology, 3, pp. 1362-1372.

 

Patrick Savage(1), Tom Rzeszutek(1), Victor Grauer(2), Ying-fen Wang(3), Jean Trejaut(4), Marie Lin(4), and Steven Brown(1)

(1) Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Canada
(2) Independent scholar, Pittsburgh, USA
(3) Graduate Institute of Musicology, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
(4) Transfusion Medicine Laboratory, Mackay Memorial Hospital, Taiwan

Photo: Cathy Chuang


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