The completely new town in Hainan Province, Sanya City totally blew us a way with its fabulous tourism port and new age architecture. I was impressed with what they had achieved in Sanya City but I kept thinking that such a huge leap of development and economic progress would not be possible without total control over the system and people. I saw China as a country with money to burn and a point to prove. But from the beginning, all I could think was: how can we, a tiny island nation, ever hope to partner equally with this giant of a country, the world’s fastest growing superpower.
By the time our tour concluded in Shanghai, I was personally convinced that our political leaders are not ready or able to deal effectively with China. Solomon Islands’ regulatory and accountability mechanisms are too weak. We have already shown some spirit with our attorney general rejecting a hasty deal to lease the island of Tulagi, the capital of one of our provinces, to a Chinese company, but I fear how fragile and weak my country is against any large developed nation let alone China.
Solomon Islands has always prided itself on setting its own course in international relations, recognising Taiwan for three decades, and in the 1980s, as a newly independent state, standing up to the Americans over an illegal fishing boat fiasco. In the end, it will be history that judges our leaders and whether the switch from Taiwan to China was the right move, and if they handle it in the country’s best interest. My hope is that in the meantime, the price extracted from our island nation is not too steep or too painful.