Fabrizio Bozzato (杜允士)

Fabrizio Bozzato (杜允士)

Fabrizio Bozzato, born in 1973 in the Veneto Region (Italy), is a political analyst with a double expertise in Pacific Studies and China-Holy See relations. He holds an M.A. in International Relations (University of Tasmania, Australia) and a Master in Political Science (Milan State University, Italy). He also attained a Grad. Dip. in International Politics with high distinction (University of Tasmania, Australia). He has worked with the Centre for International and Regional Affairs at the University of Fiji (Fiji Islands) and is currently living in Taiwan, where he is an Associate Researcher at the Institute. Fabrizio is presently pursuing a PhD in International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University. He believes that "the currents of the global ocean are shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific Rim, and especially Asia." [Langi Kavaliku].

Wednesday, 02 July 2014 00:00

The Red Side of the Moon: China's Pursuit of Lunar Helium 3

This paper was presented at the "Tamkang School of Strategic Studies 2014 Annual Events" (4/25-4/27), and is going to be published by Tamkang University Press as a book chapter by the end of 2014. Two abridged versions of this paper have been published as articles on The Diplomat and The Eurasia Review, but here the paper appears in its entirety.

舉頭望明月 "Upwards the glorious Moon I raise my head." [ 李白 "Li Bai", 701-762]


When poets and lovers gaze at the Moon, they might also be looking at a clean and abundant resource that could meet the bulk of the global energy demand. In a world where energy requirements are bound to increase and fossil fuels are finite resources, the cratered satellite may offer mankind a way out of the energy conundrum: Helium-3. This element is a light, non-radioactive, and extremely rare on Earth isotope of helium that is mooted as the fuel of the future to enable nuclear fusion as a power source. It has been calculated that there are over one million tonnes of helium-3 on the lunar surface down to a depth of a few metres. Mining the Moon for the precious isotope, shipping it to our planet - and developing suitable fusion reactors - would provide clean energy for the next millennia. Alas, the costs and scientific challenges of such an enterprise would be phenomenal. Nonetheless, China - which allocates a stable and expectedly growing budget for space activities - appears determined to make it a reality of tomorrow. For years, Beijing has been systematically and patiently building up the key competence and platforms needed for an advanced lunar exploration program, under the conviction that 'walking on the Moon' is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power. China stresses that its space program is for peaceful purposes and maintains its lunar mining would be for the benefit of all humanity. However, given the absence of wilful competitors, it is also speculated that the Chinese intend to lock up the resources of the Moon and establish a helium-3 monopoly. Thus, the question of whether China will act as a benevolent lunar dragon or create a helium-3 'hydraulic empire' might become one of immense relevance in the next decade.

Keywords: Moon, China, Helium-3, Nuclear Fusion, Lunar Exploration

1. Introduction

"Secure, reliable, affordable, clean and equitable energy supply is fundamental to global economic growth and human development and presents huge challenges for us." [World Energy Council, World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050, 2013]

According to a 2013 United Nations report, the world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 20501. Of those future earthlings, 1.6 billion will live in India, and 1.3 billion in China2. By then, Nigeria's population is expected to surpass that of the United States3. Also, the forty-nine least developed countries are going to double in size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion4. In light of these figures, it is not difficult to understand that humanity is going to face an increasingly acute energy trilemma - how to simultaneously achieve and balance energy security, energy equity (access and affordability) and environmental sustainability - in the coming decades5. "Conservatively, [...] more than a nine-fold increase in annual energy production needs to be made available by middle of the 21st Century"6 and, in the not so distant future "we have to replace oil, and in the next century we have to replace natural gas - and these two, taken together, represent sixty per cent of the total energy use of every country today."7 By factoring in that, as the Chinese government's white paper China's Energy Policy 2012 states, "energy is the material basis for the progress of human civilization and an indispensable basic condition for the development of modern society,"8 it is then easy to see that the trilemma poses a really formidable and frightening challenge.

As the world's second largest energy consumer, China is paying every effort to develop clean and unconventional energy in order to quench its thirst for energy.9 Beijing is profoundly aware of the imperative of addressing the trilemma.10 In fact, powering an economy the size of China's, especially the size it will be in three decades, only by burning massive quantities of finite fossil fuels and relying on conventional nuclear power is not an option.11 Besides making China unsustainably energy insecure and growingly politically unstable, this would eventually result into the country's environmental, socio-economic and political collapse, and destructively impact the rest of the world.12 Also, the rampaging competition for fossil fuels in the international arena would generate intense geopolitical frictions, fuel regional tensions and breed armed conflicts that would make the international system savagely Hobbesian and highly flammable.13 For all these reasons, apart from investing in conventional energy sources, China is also focusing on renewable and unconventional energy, and has made it a strategic priority.14 Beijing has even officially declared war on pollution,15 and is not going to leave any stone unturned in the search for a long-term, stable, and biosphere-friendly energy source.16

China's energy policies are in a state of rapid flux, but coal and other fossil fuels are still the source of the vast majority of China's energy consumption today. Currently, coal accounts for 67 percent of the energy consumed in the Asian giant, oil is the second largest source (17 percent).17 This situation cannot be changed overnight and, as a popular Chinese saying reminds us "water from afar cannot put out a fire close at hand" [遠水救不了近火], id est a slow remedy cannot meet an urgency. For this reason, the Chinese are pouring substantial resources into and placing their bet on the most futuristic and elusive of unconventional energies: nuclear fusion. In essence, developing nuclear fusion means to develop "what has been labelled 'unconventional nuclear technologies' in order to solve the world's impending energy crisis."18 Achieving fusion requires sparking and controlling a self-sustaining 'star in a bottle', "using temperatures of 200 million degrees Celsius to get atoms [...] to fuse together, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process."19 Beijing is also actively fostering conventional nuclear power as a source of electricity generation, although it makes up only a very small percentage of generating capacity at present - a fraction that is expected to grow to 6 percent by 2035.20 However, nuclear fission power plants produce vast quantities of radioactive waste to store, have catastrophic incidents on their record, and are limited by the fact the world's uranium stocks may run out in a couple of hundred years.21 "Fusion on the other hand," as Steven Cowley - director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and chief executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority - points out, "gets its fuels, deuterium and lithium, from seawater - not only in plentiful supply but easily accessed, a definite bonus for an increasingly energy-insecure China. Moreover, fusion produces no significant waste. Against the background of a global struggle to dispose of toxic waste piles, this is a weighty advantage."22

Yet, while other scientific challenges have been overcome, a breakthrough in controlled thermonuclear energy (fusion power) seems to be always 'thirty years away'. Notably, The US National Academy of Engineering regards the construction of a commercial thermonuclear reactor, as one of the top engineering challenges of the twenty-first century.23 Most fusion research has focused on deuterium and/or tritium (heavy isotopes of hydrogen) as fuel for generating fusion. Deuterium is found in abundance in all water on earth while tritium is not found in nature but can be produced by the neutron bombardment of lithium.24 However, the nuclear fusion Gordian knot could be untied by shifting to another isotope on the periodic table of elements: helium-3.

2. Helium-3: Rare under Heaven

"But when the black gold's in doubt There's none left for you or for me Fusing helium-3 Our last hope." [Muse, Explorers, The 2nd Law, 2012]

Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. Even though this gas is found naturally as a trace component in reservoirs of natural gas and also as a decay product of tritium - one of the elements used in making the hydrogen bomb - there is extremely little helium-3 on our planet.25 In 2010, University of Wisconsin-Madison's nuclear chemist Layton J. Wittenberg calculated that the potential helium-3 availability from natural and man-made resources on Earth for scientific experimentation was a mere 161 Kgs.26 The stockpile of nuclear weapons, the best current terrestrial source of the gas, provides only a supply of 15 kg circa a year. Helium-3 has applications in many domains. On the one hand, it is used in complex low temperature physical measurements as well as in certain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in hospitals. On the other hand, the gas has such valuable military applications that the US army's security services use it for the detection of dirty bombs.27 Although helium-3 is already in high demand for many reasons, it could become a universally coveted commodity thanks to its extraordinary energy properties, namely for its future use in nuclear fusion to generate electric power with no dangerous and long-lasting radioactive by-products.28

Fission power plants use a nuclear reaction to generate heat which turns water into steam which then hits a turbine to produce power. Current nuclear power plants have nuclear fission reactors in which uranium nuclei are split apart. This releases energy, but also radioactivity and spent nuclear fuel that is reprocessed into uranium, plutonium and radioactive waste which has to be safely and time-proof stored.29 For decades scientists have been working to obtain nuclear power from nuclear fusion rather than nuclear fission. In current nuclear fusion reactors, the hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium release atomic energy when their nuclei fuse to create helium and a neutron. Nuclear fusion employs the same energy source that fuels the Sun and other stars, without yielding the radioactivity and nuclear waste that is the by-product of nuclear fission power generation.30 However, the 'fast' neutrons released by nuclear fusion reactors fuelled by tritium and deuterium lead to significant energy loss and are immensely difficult to contain.31 One potential solution may be to use helium-3 and deuterium - "substituting helium-3 for tritium significantly reduces neutron production, making it safe to locate fusion plants nearer to where power is needed the most, large cities"32 - or helium-3 alone as the fuel in 'aneutronic' (power without emission of neutrons) fusion reactors. "Perhaps the most promising idea is to fuel a third-generation reactor solely with helium-3, which can directly yield an electric current - no generator required. As much as seventy percent of the energy in the fuels could be captured and put directly to work,"33 out-pacing coal and natural gas electricity generation by twenty percent.34

Nuclear fusion reactors using helium-3 could therefore provide a highly efficient form of nuclear power with virtually no waste and negligible radiation.35 In the words of Matthew Genge, lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at the Imperial College in London, "nuclear fusion using Helium-3 would be cleaner, as it doesn't produce any spare neutrons. It should produce vastly more energy than fission reactions without the problem of excessive amounts of radioactive waste."36 Moreover, eliminating the use of slightly radioactive tritium in the fusion process, by using deuterium and helium-3 for fuel, also has the benefit of simplifying the engineering to meet radiation standards. Also, tritium is not an abundant, naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen on Earth, because of its short half-life of 12.3 years. For Deuterium-Tritium fusion, the tritium would have to be bred from lithium, in a blanket surrounding the inside of the fusion reactor, which is a complication that would be eliminated with Deuterium-Helium-3 fusion.37

Actually, the Helium-3 fusion process is not simply theoretical.38 The University of Wisconsin-Madison Fusion Technology Institute successfully performed helium-3 fuelled fusion experiments. To date, scientists have only been able to sustain a fusion reaction for a few seconds, but with nothing near the scale or energy yield necessary to be released for commercial use.39 In fact, the development of commercial fusion reactors is dependent upon demonstrating 'break-even': producing as much energy as it is needed to start the reaction.40 So far, deuterium-Helium-3 or Helium3-Helium 3 fusion has not yet come close to break-even.41 However, with massive investments in nuclear fusion research, commercial fusion reactors might become a reality within the next three decades.42 At that point, the demand for Helium-3 would skyrocket. Presently, even though nuclear fusion does not even work properly yet, helium-3 is so scarce and in demand that in 2010 the US Department of Energy officially lamented a critical shortage in the global supply43 and is already worth US$16 million per kilo.44

Indeed, Helium-3 is really rare 'under Heaven'. How about 'above Heaven'? Actually, the Sun - like all stars - continuously emits helium-3 within its solar wind, which consists largely of ionized hydrogen and ionized helium. The reason why Helium 3 is so rare on the Earth is that the terrestrial atmosphere and magnetic field prevent any of the solar helium-3 from arriving on our planet. However, as the Moon does not have an atmosphere, there is nothing to stop helium-3 arriving on the surface of our satellite and being absorbed by the lunar soil.45 Given that The Moon has been bombarded for billions of years by solar wind, helium-3 is available in the dust of the lunar surface.46 It has been calculated that there are about 1,100,000 metric tonnes of helium-3 on the lunar surface down to a depth of a few metres (since the regolith - i.e. the lunar soil - has been stirred up by collisions with meteorites).47 More precisely, according to two Chinese scientists, the lunar inventory of Helium-3 is estimated as 6.50×1^8 kg, where 3.72×1^8 kg is for the lunar nearside and 2.78×1^8 kg is for the lunar far side.48 Helium-3 could potentially be extracted by heating the lunar dust to around 600 degrees C, before bringing it back to the Earth to fuel a new generation of nuclear fusion power plants.49 Professor Gerald Kulcinski, Director of the Fusion Technology Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison, maintains that about 40 tonnes of helium-3 - which equate to two fully-loaded Space Shuttle cargo bay's worth - could power the United States for a year at the current rate of energy consumption, without causing smog, acid rain and radioactive waste.50 This would require mining an area the size of Washington, D.C. Besides, several other valuable materials - such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide and dioxide - will be produced in the course of recovering the helium-3.51 It comes as no surprise, then, that the gas has a potential economic value in the order of US$ 1bn to 3bn a tonne, making it the only thing remotely economically viable to consider mining from the Moon given current and likely-near-future space travel technologies and capabilities.52

3. "Upwards the glorious moon I raise my head"

"Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful." [Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun, 1224]

A team of University of Wisconsin scientists has calculated that if the entire lunar surface were mined, and all of the helium-3 were used for fusion fuel on Earth, it could meet world energy demand for over 10,000 years. In addition, given the estimated potential energy of a ton of helium-3 (the equivalent of about 50 million barrels of crude oil),53 helium-3 fuelled fusion could free the world from fossil fuel dependency, and is likely to increase mankind's productivity by orders of magnitude.54 But to supply the planet with fusion power for centuries, humanity has first to return to the Moon. Although mining helium-3 on the cratered satellite to power the Earth has been in the minds of scientists and political deciders since the end of the Apollo program in the early 1970s, to date only China has embarked on a long-term endeavour to achieve such an ambitious goal, having established a satellite-based lunar exploration program called the Chang'e Project (Chang'e is a fairy living on the moon in a Chinese legend) in 2004.55 The question is: why China? The opinion of Michael C. Zarnstorff, deputy director of research for Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, can assist in the quest for the answer. "They [China] need a lot more energy due to their increasing population, and they really want to get rid of the pollution problems they have."56 If Beijing is able to mine the lunar helium-3 and effectively use it for fusion power, then it could avert China's environmental crisis. In addition, the People's Republic would become a major energy resource player and "offer a clean energy option to countries looking to wean themselves from oil dependency."57

Besides having "lots of cash and lots of educated people,"58 China is graced with a pervasively strategic culture, according to which thorough preparedness and long-term planning are the keys to success.59 Also, China's one-party political system, in which the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most important factor in determining the future of the country and the generational turnover at the top happens by co-optation once a decade,60 guarantees that strategic policies are consistently implemented over many years, rather than being reneged on or upturned at every budget or change of administration as it is often the case with Western democracies.61 Normally, in the 'State of the Center' long-term plans are ably enacted by highly selected practical visionaries undisturbed by democracy's glitches62 who are acutely aware that addressing the energy trilemma is vital for regime survival and that conversion to a sustainable world economy is the only way to go. Moreover, going to the Moon to harvest helium-3 is synergistically compatible with and reflective of the values and ambitions of President Xi Jinping's 'Chinese Dream'. The 'Chinese dream' slogan was launched soon after Xi's inauguration and has quickly become the new national mantra. The expression is used to describe the aspiration of individual and collective self-improvement in Chinese society and calls for patriotic unity under one-party rule. Interestingly, the 'Chinese Dream' vision also includes a space exploration élan,63 Mr. Xi having emphasized that "the space dream is an important part of the dream of a strong nation."64 Indeed, for a country like China, spacefaring and moonwalking are greatly instrumental to consolidating its legitimacy as a rising power. And many Chinese see their space program as the symbol of their once-impoverished nation's ascension to economic and technological primacy.65

As Joan Johnson-Freese, a United States Naval War College in Rhode Island professor who researches China's space activities, has pointed out: "China's getting a lot of prestige, which turns into geostrategic influence, from the fact that they are the third country to have manned spaceflight capabilities, [...] that they are going to the moon."66 Professor Ouyang Ziyuan (歐陽自遠), the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program appears to agree. "Lunar exploration is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power. It is significant for raising our international prestige and increasing our people's cohesion," he told the media. But the Moon could also become an energy cornucopia. Professor Ouyang explained that solar panels would operate far more efficiently on the airless lunar surface and believes that a "belt" of them could "support the whole world" provided the generated electricity is sent back to Earth via lasers or microwaves.67 Plus, the Moon is "so rich" in helium-3, that this could "solve human beings' energy demand for around 10,000 years at least."68 In light of the statements above, it is clear that Beijing's lunar program represents a triple-win venture. Internationally, lunar expeditions "will increase China's political influence in the world."69

Domestically, 'conquering the Moon' would bolster the consensus for the political leadership and prop up Chinese national pride. Thirdly, on the energy security side, tapping into the Moon has the potential to make China not only energy self-sufficient and secure, but also turn the Chinese into the 'helium-3 Arabs' of the 21st century, especially in case they get to enjoy the position of monopolists. China would then become not only an energy superpower able to fix its social and environmental problems, but also the center of a global helium-3 hydraulic empire.70 The "spice must flow, and he who controls the spice, controls the universe!" Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, would say.71

Officially China's lunar program has three official main goals. The first is to gain technological skill. Secondly, the Chinese scientists seek to understand the moon's evolution and compare it with Earth.72 Thirdly, "in terms of talent, China needs its own intellectual team who can explore the whole lunar and solar system." Additionally, it is acknowledged that the rationale for a long-term program is that "there are many ways humans can use the Moon,"73 and that Beijing is planning a lunar base.74 As for the exploitation of the lunar resources, on the one hand the Chinese have repeatedly declared that they are going to utilize them "to benefit the whole of mankind,"75 on the other hand, Professor Ouyang has tellingly remarked that "Whoever first conquers the Moon will benefit first."76 In order to achieve such goals and eventually 'use the Moon,' the lunar exploration program consists of three stages: 1) flying around the Moon. Respectively in 2007 and 2010, Beijing launched the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 unmanned lunar probes to circle the Moon and map its surface to get three-dimensional images of the body from space. Scientists then analyzed the information sent back by the orbiters. 2) Landing on the moon. In December 2013 the Chang'e-3 mission, incorporating a robotic lander and China's first lunar rover, reached the Moon. The wheeled rover explored the vicinity of the landing area and radar-scanned the lunar subsurface structure. The second phase of the program will be completed by the Chang'e-4 mission, incorporating a robotic lander and rover, which is scheduled for launch in 2015. 3) Returning from the moon. The Chang'e-5 mission may be launched in 2017 or 2018 to further explore the Moon and collect lunar soil, and then would return soil and rock samples to China for first-hand examination. Only after the completion of these three phases China will be finally able to land human beings on the Moon.77 According to British space scientist Richard Holdaway, China could have astronauts treading on the regolith by 2025.78

4. To the Moon (and beyond)!

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." [John F. Kennedy, Moon Speech at Rice University, 1962]

As observed by former US astronaut and geologist Harrison Schmitt, Chinese scientists and experts have framed Beijing's space program partially in terms of their nation's constant quest for energy and raw materials, "talking about ­helium-3 and solar power as potential energy sources on the moon, as well as its reserves of titanium, rare earths, uranium and thorite."79 This 'pursuit of lunar resources' theme has then been combined with a 'geopolitical competition' discourse conveying a sense of urgency. "If China doesn't explore the moon, we will have no say in international lunar exploration and can't safeguard our proper rights and interests,"80 Professor Ouyang declared in 2010, hinting that progress in the lunar program would confer an edge to China if and when the extraction of the Moon's riches turns political. The 15 December 2013 edition of the Beijing Youth Daily argued that "China can obtain a certificate to sharing lunar interests only by carrying out exploration and gaining actual results." It also contended: "How to protect China's interest in outer space has become an inevitable question."81 Dean Cheng, an expert on China's space program at the Heritage Foundation, got the message clear. "Once you start mining, and even before, questions arise as to ownership, as to profit-sharing (if any), as to who has the ability to establish and enforce claims in space," he said. "A long-term presence in space will give China political capital."82 Thirdly, the lunar program has been presented to policy makers and the general public as a cost effective investment. For example, the chief scientist of the program has stressed that the total spending of Chang'e-1 mission was about RMB 1.4 billion, the same amount as the money used to construct two kilometers of subway in Beijing.83 Similarly, the Chinese political leaders can be reminded that, according to experts in the US , the total estimated cost for fusion development, rocket development and starting lunar operations would be about US$15-20 billion over two decades.84 By comparison, another big nuclear fusion project (on Earth), the International Thermonuclear Reactor Project (ITER) has an estimated total cost of now €15 billion (US$20.5 billion),85 and going to the Moon to mine helium-3 would cost "about the same as was required for the 1970s Trans Alaska Pipeline."86 Actually, US$ 15-20 billion does not appear to be an excessive financial commitment for a country which is to spend US$ 1.7 trillion between 2011-2015 - in the form of investment, assistance for state-owned enterprises, and bank loans - for a plan aiming at covering 11.4 percent of China's energy needs by 2015, and 15 percent by 2020, from non-fossil energy.87

Finally, the seductiveness of China's lunar vision has been enhanced with two additional charms: China's technological advancement and solar system exploration. As for the first, Ouyang Ziyuan's speeches often mention the achievements of the US Apollo program (1963-1972) in order to illustrate the transformational characteristics of any lunar project. The Chinese scientist reminds his audiences that Washington spent US$25.4 billion on the Moon's exploration at that time, which has thus far yielded an output worth fourteen times the original investment, leading to the birth of several new hi-tech industries and technologies such as the rocket, radar, radio guidance and so on, which were then put into civil use.88 The implication is that China's Moon exploration and colonization are going to be the catalyst for revolutionary technological progress that can transform the country's entire industrial landscape and bring a galaxy of economic and social benefits.89 However, helium-3 remains the biggest gem on the selenitic crown. If it is postulated that the commercial value of helium-3 will be US$3 billion/ton,90 and defensively estimated that there are 1 million tons of the precious gas trapped in the regolith,91 then the whole stock of lunar helium-3 would be worth an astonishing three quadrillion dollars. That is more than enough to cover the costs and risks of extracting and shipping it back to Earth. Finally, it should be kept in mind that while rocket fuel and consumables now cost an average of $20,000 per pound to lift off Earth, resources could instead be carried off the Moon much more economically. Given that the lunar gravitational pull is inferior to the Earth's, 83.3% (or 5/6) less to be exact,92 transporting material from the moon requires just 1/14th to 1/20th of the fuel needed to lift material up from the terrestrial surface.93

Financial considerations apart, helium-3 would be crucial for what perhaps is the most ambitious goal of China's lunar program: setting up a lunar base and using the Moon as a stepping-stone for space exploration.94 In order to turn the Moon into an operational headquarters for scientific experimentation and further exploration of the solar system, a lunar base should be established first.95 Helium-3 would be crucial for achieving that. In fact, the immediately available by-products of helium-3 production include hydrogen, water, and compounds of nitrogen and carbon. Oxygen can be easily produced by electrolysis of water. Thus, by mining Helium-3 Moon settlers would be able to obtain the air and water they would need to make lunar colonization sustainable.96 In essence, extracting helium-3 produces the resources we need to gather more of it.97 Lunar helium-3 could also become the premier rocket fuel of the future, turning the Moon into the launching pad or a refueling service station for space-bound missions. It appears that in the permanently darkened craters of the Moon's polar regions there are significant reserves of water (ice) that can be melted, purified and electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen.98 One by-product would be hydrogen peroxide for rocket fuel. Hydrogen can be obtained also as a by-product of helium-3 mining. Yet, helium-3 would offer ginormous advantages over hydrogen if it is used a nuclear rocket fuel. As John Slough, a University of Washington's professor of aeronautics and astronautics explains, "Using existing rocket fuels, it is nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth."99 NASA estimates a round-trip human expedition to Mars would take more than four years using current technology, but according to Slough the same voyage could be completed in maximum-three-month expeditions on a spaceship powered by fusion.100 Helium-3 would then be the best candidate as fuel for the fusion engines because it is abundant on the Moon and would provide far more power per unit of mass than chemical rocket fuels.101 Moreover, helium-3 as fusion fuel greatly reduces neutron production and therefore would be the safest option for the crews of ships.102

In the light of all these elements, it is clear that China is not just re-enacting and repeating the past US space program, but intends to shape the future. Beijing's grand plan to mine lunar helium-3 should be understood as "the first step toward creating a scientific and economic revolution which will power global economic growth and open the entire Solar System to mankind."103

5. Game of Moons

"A trader from Quarth told me that dragons come from the Moon." [Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 2, 2011]

Two years before the Apollo 11 mission, a treaty was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. Inked even as the race to plant a flag on the lunar soil was well underway, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulated that no nation-state could ever own the Moon.104 According to the Treaty - to which 102 countries, including the People's Republic of China (which joined in 1983), are currently parties105 - Activities on the Moon may be pursued freely without any discrimination of any kind, and countries can place vehicles, personnel, stations, and facilities anywhere on or below the surface. However, as said above, neither the surface nor the subsurface of the Moon can become the property of any country or its citizens. In fact, a 2009 Statement by the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law clarifies that: "The current international legal regime is binding both on States and, through the precise wording of Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, [...] also on non-governmental entities, i.e. individuals, legal persons and private companies. [...]Since there is no territorial jurisdiction in outer space or on celestial bodies, there can be no private ownership of parts thereof, as this would presuppose the existence of a territorial sovereign competent to confer such titles of ownership."106 Also, as leading international law of space scholar Harold Bashor points out: "There are no rights of ownership for any natural resources in place. [...] This is generally interpreted to mean that a country may not claim ownership of any resources until they have been extracted. Yet, any extraction is required to be for the benefit of mankind according to the Common Heritage of Mankind principle."107 Moreover, since the Moon is to be explored and exploited for peaceful purposes, Bashor argues, states have an obligation not to interfere with the activities of any other state on the Moon, and any conflict has to be reported to the United Nations.108 Alas, the current system is predicated heavily on good faith, and whether future Moon-settling countries will behave fairly is yet to be seen. "A system lacking a clear legal framework has thus far worked for scientific ventures, such as the International Space Station. But history tells a different story when big businesses and competing nations turn their sights on a new frontier."109

This said, which states are actually going to play 'game of Moons'? As many as eleven robotic lunar missions including orbiters, rovers and sample return missions are to be launched between now and 2020.110 China (2015; 2017-18),111 Russia (2016;2019),112 India (2017),113 Japan (2018)114 and the US (2018)115 all have missions planned during this period, while new players eyeing post 2020 Moon missions may include South Korea (2020),116 while the European Space Agency's Lunar Lander project has been shelved due to budgetary constraints.117 Those states giving serious study to the launch of manned Moon missions by 2020-2030 are China,118 and Russia,119 Japan (in collaboration with the US),120 and perhaps India.121 Even though it appears that there are going to be several contenders playing the selenitic game, what is really needed in order to extract helium-3 and the other lunar resources is a lunar base. Hence, only two chess-pieces remain standing on the board: the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. Officials from both Beijing and Moscow have declared that their countries are going to build a base on the Moon. On 8 January 2014, Zhang Yuhua - Deputy General Director and Deputy General Designer of the Chang'e-3 probe system revealed that: "In addition to manned lunar landing technology, we are also working on the construction of a lunar base, which will be used for new energy development and living space expansion."122 His words echo Oyuang Ziyuan's 2002 mantic statement: "China will establish a base on the moon as we did in the South Pole and the North Pole."123 In Russia's case, the announcement has come from the upper echelons. Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin, who is in overall charge of Russia's space and defence industries, writing about the "colonisation of the moon and near-moon space" on the 10 April 2014 issue of the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta stated that Moscow plans to establish a lunar base for long-term missions to the Moon by 2040. Rogozin affirmed that that Earth's satellite is the only realistic source to obtain water, minerals and other resources for future space missions. A lunar laboratory complex will also be used for testing new space technologies. "This process has the beginning, but has no end. We are coming to the Moon forever," he promised.124 Despite Rogozin's rhetoric, it might be surmised that the Chinese are better positioned in the race for lunar helium-3. For a start, they have more money and resources, began "from a long way back but now they are catching up fast,"125 and "by the end of the decade [...] want to move from being what is classed as a major space power to being a strong space power." Tellingly, "within a little more than a decade, the only working space station in orbit could be Chinese."126 In sum, Beijing backs words with facts. For this reason, when asked if the idea of a Chinese lunar base extracting minerals was remotely plausible, the afore-mentioned Prof. Richard Holdaway: "It is perfectly plausible from the technical point of view, absolutely plausible from the finance point of view because they have great buying power."127 Buying power will be certainly needed, given that a 2009 analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that a four-person research station on the lunar surface would cost US$35 billion to build and US$7.35 billion per year to operate.128

If China wins the 'race for the Moon' and establishes a manned outpost conducting helium-3 mining operations, it would create a scenario similar that of the 2009 movie Moon. In that motion picture, a private company called Lunar Industries has built a mining base on the Moon and enjoys a helium-3 extraction and shipping monopoly - the same kind of monopoly that in the past created the fortunes of ventures like the East India Companies.129 Unlike that fictional universe, in the case of a Chinese lunar base the monopoly would be held by a state. The ramifications and consequences of such a scenario would be 'cosmic'. First, "China is what international relations scholars call a 'revisionist power,' seeking opportunities to assert its enhanced relative position in international affairs."130 Thus, establishing an automated or manned helium-3 operation on the Moon would be a spectacular statement of grandeur.131 Secondly, due to the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels on Earth, Beijing would be in a position to gradually build a helium-3 hydraulic empire in which it would control the supply of the precious gas, and become the only energy superpower. The making of such an empire would be most likely met with resistance. Plausibly, the prospect of China's energy supremacy, which would undoubtedly transubstantiate into pervasive geopolitical influence, would cause geopolitical tension, agglutinate anti-Chinese alliances, and prompt the other space-faring nations - the US in primis - to rush to the Moon to break the Dragon's monopoly. Then, a scenario similar to that described in Limit, a science and political fiction novel by Frank Schatzing set in a 2025, seeing China and the US develop a new Cold War for lunar helium-3 taking the space race of yesteryear to new heights. Thirdly, China might decide to acquire or retain control over helium-3 deposits by annexing lunar regions. International law would be neither an impassable hurdle nor an effective deterrent. Although the 1967 Outer Space Treaty asserts common ownership over everything in the universe beyond the Earth and requires all countries to share in the benefits of space,132 its article 17 permits signatory states to withdraw from the treaty with only a year's notice.133 Unilateral withdrawal by one of the major space-faring powers would undermine the existing international legal regime in space, prompting the other players to secure a piece of the pie in the sky for themselves. This would start a period of colonialism reminiscent of that in 19th century. Having established a permanent manned lunar base, China would be able to substantiate its claim by satisfying an important criterion for sovereignty: the wishes of the inhabitants. Also, claims over lunar areas beyond China's 'red side of the Moon' by other powers would legitimize Beijing's acquisition of its new selenitic dominions (where Chinese sovereignty would provide regulations and protection for private investors to operate).134 Once in control of vast helium-3 fields, China could even astutely play the 'game of Moons' by favouring the settlement and encouraging the territorial claims of non-hostile or friendly powers - for example other BRICS countries - in order to contain Western expansion and access to helium-3 on the lunar surface. Finally, China could decide to use its lunar base as a military asset "to dominate access on and off our planet Earth and determine who will extract valuable resources from the moon in the years ahead."135 More piercingly put, "the Moon could hypothetically be used as a military battle station and ballistic missiles could be launched against any military target on Earth"136 or in space. Our planet's celestial sister could also become one of the battlefields of future 'helium-3 conflicts', which would be simultaneously fought or spill-over on lunar, space and Earth domains.137 If this will turn into 'tomorrow's truth', then helium-3 will not just fuel the future, but also future rivalries and wars. The price for global energy security would then be global geopolitical insecurity.


6. Conclusion: A Call to Cooperation

"There was a time when energy was a dirty world - when turning on your lights was a hard choice. Cities in brown out, food shortages, cars burning fuel to run. But that was the past, where are we now? How did we make the world so much better, make deserts bloom? Right now we're the largest producer of fusion energy in the world. The energy of the sun, trapped in rock, harvested by machine from the far side of the moon. Today we deliver enough clean burning Helium-3 to supply the energy needs of nearly 70% of the planet. Who'd have thought, all the energy we ever needed, right above our heads. The power of the moon. The power of our future." ['Lunar Industries Commercial' in Duncan Jones, Moon, 2009]

The 'game of Moons' scenarios evoked in the previous pages are not anticipations of an inescapable future. On the contrary, lunar exploration and resources development can be international cooperation synergizers and confidence building catalysts. Consistently, the Beijing Declaration, issued at the 2008 Global Space Development Summit in Beijing, calls for international cooperation "in all the applicative fields of space [...] as the world enters a challenging period characterized by globalization, dramatic population growth, serious environmental concerns and scarcity of resources."138 By 2050 there will be a dire paucity of all the economically recoverable fossil fuels (there would still be plenty of coal, but can humankind afford to put up with greenhouse gases?). "Also, all alternative sources of energy, like water power, solar power, tidal power, wind power, geothermal power, and wood will not be sufficient to supply more than 10 percent of the energy which will be needed by the 20 billion people that will be on earth at that time. We will be out of energy and forced to seek a new source,"139 predicted a venerable scholar at the turn of the millennium. And Sister Moon, "precious and beautiful,"140 can tend the Earth its energy salvation. The helium-3 trapped in the lunar soil offers humanity about ten times the energy that could be obtained from mining all the fossil fuels on Earth, without causing apocalyptic pollution. Also by tossing all the Earth's uranium into liquid metal fast breeder reactors, we could generate about half this much energy.141 But some men will have to cross the sky and conquer the Moon, and other people will have to tame particles, to open a new future up to humanity. Indeed, the quest for helium-3 is involved with the dynamics of succumbing to or reversing the process of global collapse. Common destiny and enlightened self-interest both dictate cooperation among all space-faring nations. Two countries in particular have greater responsibilities than the others: the US and China.

In almost every area of space activity, the US has a clear technological and operational advantage over other countries, including China. For example, in 2012 NASA landed the Curiosity rover on Mars, a much more difficult task than the Chang'e 3 mission by any measure.142 However, the US star does not shine as bright as in the past due to budget cuts, and a reluctance to maintain its space leadership143 as revealed by the cancellation of the American project designed to take humans back to the Moon (Constellation Program).144 On the other hand, even though Beijing's overall budget in space programmes is still rather moderate compared with that of the US, China appears to have what Confucius would describe as "the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach its full potential" in lunar and space exploration. The Chinese are quickly developing their own space technology kung fu and are currently collaborating with other countries such as Russia, Brazil, France, Germany and, very fruitfully, with the European Space Agency145 - but not with the US. Actually, China has recently made several overtures to the US. For example, Xu Dazhe, the new chief of China's space industry, while attending the International Space Exploration Forum in Washington in January 2014 said: "We are willing to cooperate with all the countries in the world, including the United States and developing countries."146 "The US, however, is wary of entering in any type of collaborative interaction with the Chinese, primarily for national security reasons ranging from technology transfer concerns to a general mistrust of the People's Liberation Army's involvement in Beijing's space program. Consequently, in 2011 Washington "has enacted Public Law 112-10, Public Law 101-246 and Public Law 106-391 to suspend all bilateral activities between NASA and the Chinese in spaceflight projects."147 Furthermore, China was barred from participating in the current orbiting space station, largely because of US objections over political differences.148 By contrast, the Chinese said they will welcome foreign astronauts aboard their future space station, which is scheduled to become operational in 2020.149

While the US government's duty and prerogative to protect national security is not in question, the issue of collaborating with China in space activities should be considered in the light of the benefits of going back to the Moon and establishing a settlement for the production of the Helium-3 fusion fuel. Working with the Chinese as part of a global effort to solve the energy conundrum would then become "the next logical step."150 For sure, combining forces would make humanity's pursuit of helium-3 power, quicker, cheaper and more efficient. Starting a cooperative effort, inclusive of China and the US, for lunar exploration would, first of all, require each participant a change of mindset as well as adopting an approach based on the four principles indicated by the Beijing Declaration: mutual benefit, transparency, reciprocity, and cost sharing.151 Actually, the same document identifies the development of a lunar base as the ideal next project for international collaboration on space exploration.152 Creative politics and diplomacy will also play a crucial role in ensuring good governance and fair dividends to all parties. New legal regimes for exploiting helium-3 and other lunar resources could be designed and approved. A new international regime, organization or enterprise for the cooperative development and terrestrial fusion of lunar helium-3 may be needed.153 Many diverse solutions will be possible as long as a sense of common destiny will be shared by the moon-settling nations. The race for making available a safe, clean and revolutionary source of energy to all human beings should not have any loser, only winners. Thus, civilizational or national egoisms should be left back on Earth. Helium-3 power is not meant to be the flame casting deep shadows over a new Dark Age, but the glorious light of a global renaissance: an era in which people will look at the Moon through a clear unpolluted sky. In Washington as in Moscow, New Delhi or Beijing.

1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Estimates and Projection Section, "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision." 27 February 2014 (last update), http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm
2 World Bank, "Population Projection Tables by Country and Group." 2014, http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTHEALTHNUTRITIONANDPOPULATION/EXTDATASTATISTICSHNP/EXTHNPSTATS/0,,contentMDK:21737699~menuPK:3385623~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:3237118,00.html
3 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Estimates and Projection Section, "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision."
4 Ibid.
5 Christoph Frei et al., World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050, World Energy Council, 2013, p. 218.
6 Harrison H. Schmitt et al., "Lunar Helium-3 Fusion Resource Distribution," University of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011, p. 2.
7 Guenter Janeschitz as quoted in Raffi Katchadourian, "A Star in a Bottle," New Yorker, 3 March 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/03/03/140303fa_fact_khatchadourian
8 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Energy Policy 2012, October 2012, p. 2.
9 China Briefing, "China to Encourage Corporate Participation in Shale Gas Exploration", 10 October 2011, http://www.china-briefing.com/news/tag/unconventional-energy#sthash.xPnedxzY.dpufand
10 Chang Chung Young and Fabrizio Bozzato, "The Dragon is Thirsty: China's Quest for Energy," International Conference on the Making of New Asia: Migration, Identity, Interaction and Security, Fo Guang University, Taiwan, 5-6 November 2011. See also: Jenny Lin, "China's Energy Security Dilemma," Projet 2049 Institute, 13 February 2012.
11 Joseph P. Giljum, "The Future of China's Energy Security," The 
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12 See, for example, Scott Doney, "Oceans of Acid: How Fossil Fuels Could Destroy Marine Ecosystems," PBS, 12 Feb 2014, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/earth/ocean-acidification/
13 Michael T. Klare, "Fueling the Dragon: China's Strategic Energy Dilemma," Current History, Issue 150, April 2006, p. 180.
14 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Energy Policy 2012, October 2012.
15 Reuters, "China to 'declare war' on pollution, premier says," 4 March 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/05/us-china-parliament-pollution-idUSBREA2405W20140305
16 Maria Van Der Hoeven, "Strategizing for Energy Policy: China's Drive to Reduce Dependence," Harvard International Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, Summer 2013, pp. 14-25.
17 Joachim Betz, "The Reform of China's Energy Policies," German Institute of Global and Area Studies Working Papers, No. 216, February 2013, p. 6. Also, biomass and waste: 9 percent; hydro-power: 3 percent; Natural gas: 3 percent; nuclear power: 1 percent; and other renewable sources: 0.2 percent.
18 Mark Piesing, "Big nuke vs little nuke: how the nuclear establishment is stifling innovation," Wired, 21 February 2012, http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-02/21/nuclear-establishment-hinders
19 Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?," China Dialogue, 2 December 2013, https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/5699
20 Ibid, p. 8.
21 Scientific American, "How long will the world's uranium supplies last?", 26 January 2009, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-long-will-global-uranium-deposits-last/
22 Steven Cowley as quoted in Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?"
23 Raffi Katchadourian, "A Star in a Bottle."
24 Egbert Boeker and Rienk van Grondelle, Environmental Physics: Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2011, p. 66.
25 Marsha R. D'Souza, Diana M. Otalvaro and Deep Arjun Singh, Harvesting Helium-3 from the Moon, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2006, pp. 18-25.
26 Layton J. Wittenberg, "Helium-3 Resources and Acquisition for Use as Fusion Fuel in Aries III," in Farrokh Najmabadi, Robert W. Conn, et al., The ARIES-III Tokamak Fusion Reactor Study - The Final Report, University of California-San Diego, Advanced Energy Technology Group, Center for Energy Research, p. 15-5.
27 Dana A. Shea and Daniel Morgan, "The Helium-3 Shortage: Supply, Demand, and Options for Congress", Congressional Research Service, 7-5700, 22 December 2010, pp. 1-20.
28 Satish Kumar and Kopal Gupta, "Helium-3 As An Alternate Fuel Technology (for Producing Electricity)," Journal of Department of Applied Sciences & Humanities, Vol. IV, 2006, pp. 77-84
29 World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Power Reactors," November 2013, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/nuclear-fuel-cycle/power-reactors/nuclear-power-reactors/
30 World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Fusion Power," February 2014, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-fusion-power/
31 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "Nuclear Fusion Power," 9 August 2000, http://www.lbl.gov/abc/wallchart/chapters/14/2.html
32 Stefano Coledan, "Mining The Moon," Popular Mechanics, 7 December 2004, http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/moon-mars/1283056
33 Singam Jayanthu, Bhishm Tripathi and Arjun Sandeep, "Scope of Mining on the Moon - A Critical Appraisal," Golden Jubilee celebration & MineTECH'11 of The Indian Mining & Engineering Journal, Raipur, 18-19 November 2011, p. 2.
34 Keith Veronese, "Could Helium-3 really solve Earth's energy problems?" io9, 5 November 2012, http://io9.com/5908499/could-helium-3-really-solve-earths-energy-problems/all
35 Gary Pajer et al., "Modular Aneutronic Fusion Engine," Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, May 2012.
36 Matthew Genge as quoted in Henry Gass, "Plans to strip mine the moon may soon be more than just science-fiction," The Ecologist, 4 July 2011, http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/962678/plans_to_strip_mine_the_moon_may_soon_be_more_than_just_sciencefiction.html
37 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon To Power the Earth," Executive Intelligence Review, 24 January 2014, http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2014/4104moon_power_earth.html
38 Matt Treske, "Moon Power," Wisconsin Engineer, Vol. 116, No. 1, November 2011 http://old.wisconsinengineer.com/articles/191
39 National Academy of Engineering, "Provide energy from fusion," 2012, http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/cms/8996/9079.aspx
40 Bruno Maffei, "The Physics of Energy sources Nuclear Fusion," University of Manchester, 2012, p.10
41 Mohammad Mahdavi and Behnaz Kaleji, "Deuterium/helium-3 fusion reactors with lithium seeding," Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, Vol. 51, No. 8, July 2009, pp. 85003-0
42 Sergei V. Ryzhkov, "Alternative Fusion Reactors as Future Commercial Power Plants," Journal of Plasma and Fusion Research, Vol. 8, April 2009, pp. 35-38.
43 David Kramer, "DOE begins rationing helium-3," Physics Today, June 2010, http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_63/iss_6/22_1.shtml?bypassSSO=1
44 Henry Gass, "Plans to Strip Mine the Moon May Soon be More Than Just Science-Fiction," Global Research, 7 July, 2011, http://www.globalresearch.ca/plans-to-strip-mine-the-moon-may-soon-be-more-than-just-science-fiction/25542?print=1
45 Christopher Barnatt, "Helium-3 Power Generation," ExplainingTheFuture.com, 13 September 2012, http://www.explainingthefuture.com/helium3.html
46 Harrison Schmitt, Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space, Copernicus Books, New York, 2007, pp. 48-51.
47 Artemis Society International, "Lunar Helium-3 as an Energy Source, in a nutshell," 2007, http://www.asi.org/adb/02/09/he3-intro.html
48 Wenzhe Fa and Ya-Qiu Jin, "Quantitative estimation of helium-3 spatial distribution in the lunar regolith layer," Icarus, No. 190, April 2007, pp. 15-23.
49 Alfred O. Nier and Dennis J. Schlutter, "Extraction of Helium from Individual IDPs and Lunar Grains by Pulse Heating," Meteoritics, Vol. 27, No. 3, July 1992, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1992Metic..27Q.268N
50 Richard Bilder, "A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options," Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, January 2010, p. 246.
51 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
52 Christopher Barnatt, "Helium-3 Power Generation."
53 Joshua E. Keating, "Is There Money In the Moon? Maybe Someday," Foreign Policy, 18 June 2012, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/18/is_there_money_in_the_moon
54 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
55 Liu Yuanhui, "Reaching the Moon," China Radio International's English Service, 13 December 2013, http://english.cri.cn/7146/2013/12/12/2561s803034.htm
56 Michael C. Zarnstorff as quoted in Brandon Southward, "China's quest for a new energy source heads to space," CNN Money, 20 December 2013, http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2013/12/20/chinas-quest-for-a-new-energy-source-heads-to-space/
57 Brandon Southward, "China's quest for a new energy source heads to space."
58 Steven Cowley as quoted in Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?"
59 Gilbert Rozman, Chinese Strategic Thought Toward Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2012, pp. 1-6.
60 Xiaowei Zang, Elite Dualism and Leadership Selection in China, Routledge, London and New York, 2004, pp. 147-162.
61 Walter Wang, "Long Term Planning Puts China on a Different Path," CleanTechies, 16 August 2011, http://cleantechies.com/2011/08/16/long-term-planning-puts-china-on-a-different-path/
62 Robert Lawrence Kuhn, How China's Leaders Think: The Inside Story of China's Past, Current and Future Leaders, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2011, pp. 580-590.
63 The Economist, "Reaching for the Moon," 21 December 2013, http://www.economist.com/news/china/21591884-xi-jinping-has-consolidated-power-quickly-now-he-showing-it-reaching-moon
64 Xi Jinping as quoted in The Economist, "Reaching for the Moon."
65 Cole Pfeiffer, "Asia's space race: China looks to dominate the final frontier," Foreign Policy Today, 11 December 2013, http://www.fptoday.org/asias-space-race-china-looks-to-dominate-the-final-frontier/
66 Joan Johnson-Freese as quoted in Chris Buckley, "China blasts off to moon with rover mission," Seattle Times, 2 December 2013, http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2022376926_chinamoonxml.html?syndication=rss
67 Lulu Zhang, "Chief scientist chides narrow view on lunar project," China.org.cn, 17 December 2013, http://china.org.cn/china/2013-12/17/content_30917626.htm
68 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon," BBC, 29 November 2013, http://www.bbc.com/news/25141597
69 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Antoaneta Bezlova "China reaps a moon harvest," Asia Times Online, 30 October 2007, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/IJ30Ad01.html
70 Karl A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power, New York, Random House, 1957.
71 Brian Herbert, Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert, Tom Doherty Associates, New York, 2003, p. 172.
72 Julie Sullivan, "Why is China interested in the Moon? Lunar Program Secrets Revealed," Headlines and Global News, 30 November 2013, http://www.hngn.com/articles/18419/20131130/why-china-is-interested-on-the-moon-lunar-program-secrets-revealed.htm
73 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
74 Marsha Freeman, "China Takes Next Step Toward Lunar Industrial Development," Beijing Review, No. 9, 27 February 2014, http://www.bjreview.com.cn/forum/txt/2014-02/24/content_598245_2.htm
75 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Space Activities in 2011 - I. Purposes and Principles of Development, 29 December 2011, http://china.org.cn/government/whitepaper/2011-12/29/content_24280462.htm
76 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Ajey Lele, Asian Space Race: Rhetoric Or Reality?, Springer India, London, 2013, p. 170.
77 Ling Xin, "An Interview with Ouyang Ziyuan: Chang'e-3 and China's Lunar Missions," Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, vol. 27, no. 4, November 2013, pp. 26-31.
78 David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
79 Harrison Schmitt as quoted in Simon Denyer "China launches 'Jade Rabbit' rover to moon, precursor to manned mission," Washington Post, 2 December 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/china-launches-jade-rabbit-rover-to-moon-precursor-to-manned-mission/2013/12/02/87ba7d1a-5b13-11e3-801f-1f90bf692c9b_story.html
80 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Jonathan Adams, "Dragon watch: China pulls ahead in moon race," Global Post, 2 November 2010, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china/101027/space-race-moon?page=0,1
81 Beijing Youth Daily as reported in The Asahi Shimbun, "ANALYSIS: Lunar success marks China's rise as next space power," 16 December 2013, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/china/AJ201312160060
82 Dean Cheng as quoted in Jonathan Adams, "Dragon watch: China pulls ahead in moon race."
83 Ling Xin, "An Interview with Ouyang Ziyuan: Chang'e-3 and China's Lunar Missions," p. 229.
84 Steve Almasy, "Could the moon provide clean energy for Earth?" CNN, 21 July 2011, http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/07/21/mining.moon.helium3/
85 Dave Keating, "Oettinger aims to get ITER back on track," European Voice, 5 September 2013, http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/oettinger-aims-to-get-iter-back-on-track/78100.aspx
86 Harrison Smith as quoted in Cecilia Jamasmie, "Mining the Moon is Closer than Ever," Mining.com, 1 January 2010, http://www.mining.com/mining-the-moon-is-closer-than-ever/
87 Arthur Guschin, "China's Renewable Energy Opportunity," Diplomat, 3 April 2014, http://thediplomat.com/2014/04/chinas-renewable-energy-opportunity/
88 Lulu Zhang, "Chief scientist chides narrow view on lunar project."
89 South Central University for Nationalities, "Chief Scientist of CLEP Ouyang Ziyuan was Named Honor Professor of SCUN," 14 November 2012, http://en.scuec.edu.cn/s/148/t/499/a9/5a/info43354.htm
90 Steve Taranovich, "Helium-3 and Lunar power for Earth reactors," EDN Network, 15 March 2013, http://edn.com/electronics-blogs/powersource/4410034/Helium-3-and-Lunar-power-for-Earth-reactors
91 University of Wisconsin-Madison - Fusion Technology Institute, "Lunar Mining of Helium-3," 12 March 2014 (updated), http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/research/he3
92 Fabrizio Tamburini et al., "No quantum gravity signature from the farthest quasars," Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 533, A71, September 2011, p. 5.
, C. Cuofano2, M. Della Valle3,4 and R. Gilmozzi5
93 Ray Villard, "Strip Mine the Moon to Fuel Space Exploration," Discovery Communications, 13 July 2011, http://news.discovery.com/space/moon-mining-needed-to-fuel-space-exploration-110713.htm
94 Defang Kong and Qian Zhang, "Manned lunar landing under research," People's Daily Online, 8 January 2014, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/202936/8506408.html
95 Sarah Fecht, "Six Reasons NASA Should Build a Research Base on the Moon," National Geographic, 20 December 2013, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131220-lunar-research-base-mars-mission-science/
96 William A. Ambrose, James F. Reilly II and Douglas C. Peters (eds.), AAPG Memoir 101: Energy Resources for Human Settlement in the Solar System and Earth's Future in Space, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, 2013, p. 41.
97 At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Kulcinski and his colleagues have designed a ten ton regolith mining machine called the Mark 3. They predict that one of their Mark 3 robotic miners could process six million tons of regolith per year and produce 201 tons of hydrogen, 109 tons of water, 0.033 tons of helium 3 (that's 33 kg.), 102 tons of helium 4, 16.5 tons of nitrogen, 63 tons of carbon monoxide, 56 tons of CO2 and 53 tons of methane. The CO, CO2 and CH4 contain a total of 82 tons of carbon. These researchers have chosen to heat the regolith only up to 700 C. See: Gerald L. Kulcinski , A Resource Assessment and Extraction of Lunar 3He, Presented at the US-USSR Workshop on D-3He Reactor Studies, 25 September- 2 October 1991, Moscow.
98 National Space Agency, "Researchers Estimate Ice Content of Crater at Moon's South Pole," 20 June 2012, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/crater-ice.html
99 John Slough as quoted in Michelle Ma, "Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars," University of Washington News and Information, 4 April 2013, http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/04/04/rocket-powered-by-nuclear-fusion-could-send-humans-to-mars/
100 Michelle Ma, "Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars."
101 John F. Santarius, "Lunar 3He, Fusion Propulsion, and Space Development," Proceedings of the Second Conference on Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century (Houston, Texas, 5-7 Apr 1988), NASA Conference Publication 3166, Vol. 1, p. 75 (1992).
102 John F. Santarius, Role of Advanced-Fuel and, Innovative Concept Fusion in the Nuclear Renaissance, APS Division of Plasma Physics Meeting, Philadelphia, 31 October 2006
103 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
104 K.R., "Lunar property rights - Hard cheese," Economist, 16 February 2014, http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2014/02/lunar-property-rights
105 United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, http://disarmament.un.org/treaties/t/outer_space, (retrieved) 11 April 2014.
106 International Institute of Space Law, Statement of the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), 22 March 2009.
107 Harold Bashor as quoted in Leonard David, "Moon Water: A Trickle of Data and a Flood of Questions," Space.com, 06 March 2006, http://www.space.com/2120-moon-water-trickle-data-flood-questions.html
108 Ibid.
109 Joshua Philipp, "Mining the Moon: Plans Taking Off, but Rules Lacking," Epoch Times, 29 January 2014, http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/476806-mining-the-moon-plans-taking-off-but-rules-lacking/
110 Craig Covault, "The New Race for the Moon," SpaceRef, 4 October 2013, http://spaceref.com/asia/the-new-race-for-the-moon.html
111 Ningzhu Zhu, "China plans to launch Chang'e 5 in 2017," Xinhua, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-12/16/c_132971252.htm
112 Igor Mitrofanov et al., 'Luna-Glob' and 'Luna-Resurs': science goals, payload and status, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2014, Vienna, 27 April-02 May 2014.
113 The Hindu, "India to launch Chandrayaan-II by 2017," 10 January 2014, http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/india-to-launch-chandrayaanii-by-2017/article5562361.ece?ref=sliderNews
114 Kenichi Fujita, "An Overview of Japan's Planetary Probe Mission Planning," 9th International Planetary Probe Workshop, Toulouse, June 2012.
115 National Aeronautics and Space Administration, "ILN - International Lunar Network," 30 April 2013, http://science.nasa.gov/missions/iln/; See also: Irene Klotz, "NASA Planning for Mission To Mine Water on the Moon," 28 January 2014
116 Soo Bin Park, "South Korea reveals Moon-lander plans," Nature, 13 November 2013, http://www.nature.com/news/south-korea-reveals-moon-lander-plans-1.14159
117 Stephen Clark, "ESA lunar lander shelved ahead of budget conference," Astronomy Now, 8 November 2012, http://www.astronomynow.com/news/n1211/20moonlander/#.U0kPxVWSw_k
118 Shaoting Ji and Wen Wang, "China's space exploration goals before 2020," China Daily, http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-03/10/content_17336950.htm, 10 March 2014,
119 William Stewart, "Is Vlad keen on a trip? Putin eyes up cosmonaut uniform as his deputy premier sets out plans to colonise space and declares 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'," Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2602291/We-coming-Moon-FOREVER-Russia-sets-plans-conquer-colonise-space-including-permanent-manned-moon-base.html#ixzz2yfcYJrJG
120 Srinivas Laxman, "Japan SELENE-2 Lunar Mission Planned For 2017," Asian Scientist, 16 July 2012, http://www.asianscientist.com/topnews/japan-announces-selene-2-lunar-mission-2017/
121 Express News Service, "ISRO: No Manned Mission to Moon," 1 January 2014, http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/ISRO-No-Manned-Mission-to-Moon/2014/01/01/article1976540.ece#.U0kjN1WSw_k
122 Zhang Yuhua as quoted in Defang Kong and Qian Zhang, "Manned lunar landing under research," People's Daily Online, 8 January 2014, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/202936/8506408.html
123 CNN, "2010 moon mission for China," 20 May 2002, http://edition.cnn.com/2002/TECH/space/05/20/china.space/index.html?_s=PM:TECH
124 Dmitry Rogozin as quoted in The Voice of Russia, "Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon - Dmitriy Rogozin," 11 April 2014, http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_04_11/Russia-plans-to-get-a-foothold-in-the-Moon-Dmitriy-Rogozin-5452/
125 Richard Holdaway as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
126 Kevin Pollpeter as quoted in Sarah Cruddas, "Will China have an Apollo moment?", BBC, 11 December 2013, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131211-will-china-have-an-apollo-moment
127 Richard Holdaway as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
128 Vincent G. Sabathier, Johannes Weppler and Ashley Bander, "Costs of an International Lunar Base," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 24 September 2009.
129 Duane Byrge, "Firm Review: Moon", Hollywood Reporter, 26 January 2009, http://www.pastdeadline.com/hr/film-reviews/film-review-moon-1003934260.story
130 John Hickman, "Red Moon Rising: Could China's lunar ambitions scramble politics here on Earth?" Foreign Policy, 18 June 2012, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/18/red_moon_rising
131 John M. Logdson, "Lost in Space," Politico Magazine, 19 December 2013, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/12/china-moon-landing-us-space-race-101278.html#ixzz2ylcNGIYe
132 Everett C. Dolman, Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age, Frank Cass Publishers, London and Portland, 2002, pp. 84-88.
133 John Hickman, "Still crazy after four decades: The case for withdrawing from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty," Space Review, 24 September 2007, http://www.thespacereview.com/article/960/1
134 Henry Hertzfeld, "The Moon is a Land without Sovereignty: Will it be a Business Friendly Environment?," High Frontier Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 2007, Page 43.
135 Richard C. Cook, "Militarization and the Moon-Mars Program: Another Wrong Turn in Space?," Global Research, 22 January 2007, http://www.globalresearch.ca/militarization-and-the-moon-mars-program-another-wrong-turn-in-space/4554
136 Want China Times, "PLA dreams of turning moon into Death Star, says expert," 12 December 2013, http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1101&MainCatID=11&id=20131203000106
137 Metro, "How the Moon could fuel World Wars," 26 May 2009, http://metro.co.uk/2009/05/26/how-the-moon-could-fuel-world-wars-149344/
138 Beijing Declaration, Global Space Development Summit, Beijing, 24 April 2008, p. 2.
139 Wilson Greatbatch "War is not the Answer, Nuclear Fusion Power with Helium 3 is the Answer," Prometheus, No. 87, Special Issue, 2003, http://www.meaus.com/greatbatch-war-not-answer.htm
140 Francis of Assisi, "Canticle of the Sun," 1225, http://www.franciscanfriarstor.com/archive/stfrancis/stf_canticle_of_the_sun.htm
141 Satish Kumar and Kopal Gupta, "Helium-3 As An Alternate Fuel Technology (for Producing Electricity)," p. 80.
142 Keith Cowing, "Is China Really Winning a Space Race with Us?," NASA Watch, 20 December 2013, http://nasawatch.com/archives/2013/12/frank-wolf-wave.html
143 Lamont Colucci, "America Must Retake Lead in Space Exploration," US News, 11 December 2012, http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/world-report/2012/12/11/america-must-retake-lead-in-space-exploration
144 Jonathan Amos, "Obama cancels Moon return project," BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8489097.stm
145 Jane Qiu, "Head of China's space science reaches out," Nature, 6 March 2014, http://www.nature.com/news/head-of-china-s-space-science-reaches-out-1.14797
146 Xu Dazhe as quoted in PTI, "China wants space collaboration with US," Economic Times, 11 January 2014, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/28678995.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst
147 Sanford Healey, "The Future of United States-Chinese Space Relations," Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 11-13 April 2013, p. 342.
148 Peter Rakobowchuk, "Hadfield: The future of Canadian space exploration lies with China," Canadian Press, 28 December 2013, http://globalnews.ca/news/1052624/hadfield-the-future-of-canadian-space-exploration-lies-with-china/
149 Leonard David, "China Invites Foreign Astronauts to Fly On Future Space Station, Space.com, 28 September 2013, http://www.space.com/22984-china-space-station-foreign-astronauts.html
150 Chris Hadfield as quoted in Peter Rakobowchuk, "Hadfield: The future of Canadian space exploration lies with China."
151 Beijing Declaration, p. 2.
152 Vincent G. Sabathier, Johannes Weppler and Ashley Bander, "Costs of an International Lunar Base."
153 Richard Bilder, "A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options," Fordham International Law Journal, pp. 289-299.

Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:00

Crimea - The Prize and the Price

By Fabrizio Bozzato and Tatiana Komarova

Russia's takeover of Crimea represents the checkmate of a geopolitical chess game between the Kremlin and the West. The game was opened by Putin's decision to give a safe haven to US whistleblower Edward Snowden, and then continued with the Syrian crisis - seeing Moscow outsmart and outplay the Obama Administration - and culminated into l'affaire Ukraine, in which Russia has carved for itself, rather than found, the opportunity for recapturing Crimea after sixty years of separation and, by doing so, finalizing the first annexation of another country's territory in Europe since World War II. Vladimir Putin has won. Thus, now there are but two significant questions: 1) what is the prize of victory? And 2) what is the price of victory?

The most important trophy of victory is Crimea itself. Controlling the peninsula is a geostrategic essential for Russia. Leaving Crimea's sentimental value aside, the region hosts the Black Sea Fleet naval base, from which Moscow can project force into and throughout the Mediterranean. Notably, the majority of the Black Sea coastline is held by NATO allies except for Georgia, which is keenly pursuing NATO membership, on the east and Ukraine in the north.

Therefore, for Moscow, losing its naval base in Crimea would be akin to military emasculation. By incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation, Putin has thus secured Russia's enduring status as a Eurasian great power. Also, Russia's assertiveness in protecting its Crimean naval base might result in Moscow establishing a substantial military presence in a key Asian theatre. In fact, Hanoi might decide that allowing strong-willed Russia to have its navy operating permanently from Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay would be a very effective way to counterweight Beijing's increasing activism in the South China Sea.

Second, by showing uncompromising determination and effectively rattling his saber in Crimea, Putin has conveyed a sturdy message both to the West and to the former Soviet republics seeking to join NATO or other 'Western arrangements'. Namely, Russia has geopolitical imperatives and is going to affirm and defend them with any means it will deem necessary.

The Kremlin has also made clear that it considers any intrusion in the Federation's near abroad a strategic threat to Russian independence. Simply put, Russia means business. In addition, Putin has exposed Western impotence in a Europe still on holiday from strategy and further questioned the diplomatic resolve and martial credibility of the Obama Administration. From now on, Europeans would be better off to think strategically and be aware of their vulnerabilities when dealing with Moscow. Washington, for its part, must realize that Russia has learned to use the democracy and 'responsibility to protect' rhetoric in as Machiavellic a way as the US - and that the Russian President is a leader that thrives in confrontation, is now widely popular at home and, in a growingly multipolar world, has several supportive friends. Especially in Asia.

Third, on the domestic front the retaking of Crimea in spite of Western opposition has boosted Russian pride and nationalism. As a result, Russians are going to weather sanctions and diplomatic retaliation with their chins up. Actually, the US and the EU governments might find it difficult to put together - and cogently implement and sustain - a cohesive sanctions package. Because of their energy dependence on Russia and concern about losing contracts and economic links with Moscow, the Europeans are inclined not to be too heavy-handed with the Kremlin. Economic sanctions might end up hurting both ways, as people in Europe need to stay warm in winter. Besides, the Russian Federation is a large country with extensive resources and diversified trade partners. So, in key EU countries, the industry is lobbying vehemently against imposing sanctions on Russia. As for political-diplomatic sanctions, they are probably going to be generally ineffective. No doubt, Putin is going to wear the exclusion from G8 as a badge of honor at the next BRICS summit.

However, acquiring Crimea comes at a price, one that is both economic and diplomatic. The peninsula used to be umbilically reliant on Ukraine and the Russian government has acknowledged that the Crimean economy "looks no better than Palestine." Therefore, bringing the region in would require massive financial and infrastructural investments from Moscow. Anyway, even if all of these investments added up to US$ 20 or 25 billion, it would still be small change for the cash-rich Russian government. This said, the combination of international enmity and punitive decisions might significantly impact on Russia's economy and international standing. For example, Moscow will not be invited to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development any time soon, and will have to abandon any hope of including Ukraine - which has just signed an association agreement with the European Union - in the Russo-centric Eurasian Economic Union. Also, foreign investors could become more hesitant about risking capital in Russia and Russian companies could find it more difficult to obtain credit from Western lenders.

More importantly, Russia's relations with the West are going to enter in a new phase marked by mutual distrust and confrontation. "If it is the price of greatness regained" might remark the Kremlin, "we are ready to pay it." To Moscow's advantage, the Cold War era is unlikely to return. History does not repeat itself. Today's global political and economic ecosystem is one characterized by polycentricity and the tyranny of interdependence. Thus, envisaging a world which is once again neatly divided into two monadic blocks would be nothing short of unrealistic. Equally, to keep pursuing a vision of unilateralism in Europe would be detrimental both to the West and Russia. Time will tell whether the seizure of Crimea has been a masterstroke or a counterproductive move for Russia. If Moscow will be able to develop Crimea and turn it into a success story, it will prove that Russia is as responsible as it is resolute, and shift the burden of proof to the West, which has now the moral obligation to stabilize Ukraine and make it prosperous. Such is the price of Europe being geopolitically fluid again.


Map source: Wikimedia Commons

First published on The World Security Network

Fabrizio Bozzato ( 杜允士 ) is a political analyst with a keen interest in Pacific Studies. He holds an M.A. in International Relations (University of Tasmania, Australia) and a Master in Political Science (University of Milan, Italy). He also attained a Grad. Dip. in International Politics with high distinction (University of Tasmania, Australia). Fabrizio lives in Taiwan, where he is an Associate Researcher at the Taipei Ricci Institute. He has also worked at the Centre for International and Regional Affairs at the University of Fiji (Fiji Islands), where he served as Adjunct Lecturer. He is presently pursuing a Ph.D. in International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University (Taiwan) and is an editor for the World Security Network Foundation. Fabrizio believes that the currents of the global ocean are shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific Rim, and especially Asia. He is trying his best to follow Lao Tzu's advice about knowing honor, yet keeping humility.

Tatiana Komarova is a PhD Candidate and Research Fellow at GIIASS, Tamkang University (Taiwan). Tatiana is specializing in international politics, strategy, and Russia-Taiwan-China relations. She has worked as research assistant at Eurasia Studies, Chien Hsin University (Taiwan); and as teaching assistant at GIIASS. She holds a MA in International Politics and Graduate Diploma with Honors in International Affairs from the State University of Nizhny Novgorod (Russia). Her MA thesis is entitled "Pros and cons of the 'Cultural Revolution' in China."


Tuesday, 12 March 2013 11:54

Beyond the "Taiwan Paradox": Expanding Taiwan’s International Participation

Taiwan is one of the world's most dynamic economies and a consolidated democracy. Even though Taipei has economic and cultural offices in 60 countries, memberships in 32 IGOs (including the WTO, APEC and ADB) and another 22 quasi-memberships, the Republic of China (ROC) has diplomatic relations with only twenty-three states and is often prevented from accessing international bodies. This situation of diplomatic marginalization of a success story can be described as "Taiwan paradox", and is due to the People's Republic of China's (PRC) curtailing of Taiwan's possibilities of becoming a normal member of the international community. International participation is vital for Taiwan's security and economic competitiveness. Ranging from realism to constructivism, there are diverse ways in which Taipei can overcome the "Taiwan paradox".

1) Leveraging on Taiwan's strategic relevance: Taiwan's continued geopolitical separation from the Chinese mainland represents a vital strategic value for U.S. interests in the western Pacific. In addition, all states that rely upon either Asian sea-lanes or continued U.S. presence in support of strategic order (thus avoiding Chinese regional hegemony) have important interests at stake in the future of Taiwan, even if some do not admit it. If Taiwan were to become part of the PRC, Beijing's navy would no longer be hemmed in. As a matter of fact, it would be able to extend its reach to the "second island chain" - Guam, the Marianas and some other small islands in the central Pacific - not exactly a "Great Wall". Thus, Taiwan's economic integration with / dependence from the Mainland is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the absorption of the island by the PRC. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with the Mainland is not a geopolitical event horizon, provided that Taiwan shows commitment to national defense and willingness to reaffirm its statehood. The ROC government should constantly remind its interlocutors of the critical strategic importance of Taiwan in order to garner diplomatic support and sympathy.

2) Improving Taiwan's political status through economic engagement: There is a synergic relationship between Taiwan's global economic significance and international stand. Taiwan is ideally positioned to become a regional center and a global node for trade, commerce and finance. Especially after the inking of ECFA. Thus, it would make a positive difference if the Taiwanese government could attract more international businesses to the island. Notably, that requires further economic liberalization and reform. According to Paul Wolfowitz, convincing one major international corporation to make Taiwan the base for its regional operations would perhaps be worth more than attaining new membership and participation in international organizations. Also, economic contacts with other countries strengthen Taipei's international visibility and political status. Therefore, Taipei should pursue closer economic relations / integration with the United States, Japan, the European Union, Singapore and other ASEAN countries, and Pacific countries. Economy put Taiwan on the map. Being wired to the global economy is the best way to keep Taiwan there.

3) Avoiding "deal with the devil" shortcuts: With the consolidation of the cross-Strait "diplomatic truce" the PRC is showing some willingness to accord Taiwan specks of international space. Therefore, as in Taipei's quest for observer status in the WHO's World Health Assembly (WHA), Taiwan can talk directly to the Mainland in bilateral consultations behind closed doors and work a solution out. However, this modus operandi sets dangerous precedents for Taiwan's participation in international organizations, especially for organizations anchored in the UN framework. Given that China's goodwill is contingent on the quality of cross-Strait relations, the issue of Taiwan's accession to international organizations should not be confined into an internal cross-Strait framework. On the contrary, Taiwan should always try to internationalize its bids for participation and solicit the involvement (and support) of the international community, particularly of major powers. This option, of course, does not exclude negotiations with Beijing. In essence, for Taipei is more beneficial to present Taiwan's inclusion in international organizations as a highly sensitive international issue rather than relegating it to the cross-Strait dimension.

4) "As-if participation": There is a further strategy available to Taiwan to seek greater engagement with international organizations, including especially those of the impervious U.N. system. Taipei should not necessarily pursue membership or participation, but what Jacques deLisle labels "as-if participation." Taiwan should commit "unilaterally but publicly and solemnly to acting as if it is (or as if it were) a member of an international organization or regime, pledging to live up to all relevant standards." A high level of compliance with the obligations entailed in membership can strengthen Taiwan's case for inclusion in institutions and regimes from which it has been kept out. Borrowing the words of Jacques deLisle again: "The more Taiwan can walk and talk and act like a member of a regime that is open primarily or exclusively to states, the more hope it has of securing the benefits of state (or nearly state-like) status in the international system."

5) "Letting Taiwan go to the world, letting the world see Taiwan": Continuing and diversifying Taiwan's assistance projects in developing countries shows Taipei's commitment to the global community. Through its development aid, Taiwan reaches out to the world, enhances its international visibility and prestige, and legitimizes its aspirations to be a full-fledged international actor. However, Taipei should also intelligently play the cultural card in order to "let Taiwan go to the world, and let the world see Taiwan." Taiwan needs to pool its resources to create a joint strike capability in soft power. To such aim, the government should institute a Ministry of Soft Power that would combine and multiply the national initiatives in cultural relations, public diplomacy, and other forms of attractive power. Furthering Taiwan's image as an "island of creativity and pluralism" is a very effective way to heed Benoit Vermander's exhortation that while Taiwan strives to become a "normal (ordinary) member", it can transform itself into an "outstanding (extraordinary) member" of the international community.

Paolo Sarpi, the greatest Venetian political thinker, argued that sovereignty (and statehood) should not be claimed, but professed as a creed. Taiwan can successfully participate in the international community only if it believes in itself. To believe in itself, Taiwan should first of all see itself as a pluralistic society rather than a politically divided community. Finally, Taiwan should realize that time is not working against its international participation. In the Asia-Pacific Century, the possibilities are not "to the strong alone;" they are "to the vigilant, the active, the brave."

This speech was first presented at the "Taiwan 3.0 Symposium" (TAIWAN 3.0:我心目中總統候選人的條件) on March 8th, 2013 in Taipei
Image source: WebProNews


Tuesday, 08 January 2013 17:09

Artificial Island Structures: The Future of the Pacific?

Fabrizio Bozzato discusses the consequences of rising sea level for Pacific island nations and suggests a possible solution for them: artificial islands. 

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)


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]


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.


[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.


[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/


[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, 28 January 2011 19:09

Looking south: Taiwan’s diplomacy and rivalry with China in the Pacific Islands region

[inset side="right" title="Fabrizio Bozzato"] is a doctoral candidate in International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University. He is researching Taiwan’s diplomacy in the South Pacific.[/inset]Six of the twenty-three countries that currently bestow diplomatic allegiance on the ROC are in the South Pacific. Therefore, the Oceanic region is of prime geopolitical importance to Taipei. The chief motivation behind Taiwan’s activities in the Pacific Islands is the defense of its ‘diplomatic space’ by countering China’s efforts to extirpate Taipei’s diplomatic presence. In addition, Taiwan uses its aid policy as a means to raise its international profile through promoting itself as a humanitarian power and aims to further its access to the natural resources of the area. Over the last decade, China’s growing economic power vis-à-vis Taiwan, and Beijing’s sturdy response to the ‘Taiwanised’ diplomatic policies of Taipei’s past presidency, have intensified the Sino-Formosan diplomatic conflict in the South Pacific. As a result, today the dynamic of the Cross-Strait rivalry - together with Taiwan’s until-recently runcinate relationship with the regional dominant power, Australia - deeply informs and shapes the relations between Taipei and the Pacific Island countries. At the same time, it appears that the island states have developed a greater understanding of the two dragons’ diplomatic competition, thus becoming more skilled aid extractors. The current Taiwanese administration has latterly educed a ‘diplomatic truce’ with the mainland and started meeting Canberra’s demands by reforming its aid policy and delivery. The diplomatic armistice with China allows Taiwan to improve its relations with Australia and foster its image as a responsible regional stakeholder. However, being fundamentally a Chinese concession predicated on concessions from Taipei, the truce is still precarious and reversible.

Part 1

{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/stories/focus_pacific_feb_2011/fabthumb.jpg|}images/stories/focus_pacific_feb_2011/bozzato_pacific1.flv{/rokbox}

Part 2:

{rokbox size=|544 384|thumb=|images/stories/focus_pacific_feb_2011/fabthumb2.jpg|}images/stories/focus_pacific_feb_2011/bozzato_pacific2.flv{/rokbox}

Fabrizio Bozzato gave a speech on this topic during the conference "Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific" held in Taipei (Feb. 2011). The complete paper of the speech is available here.

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