Chinese government driving disinformation in the Solomon Islands by spreading anti-West commentary, report reveals English Headline

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has boosted criticism of Australia and the West in the Solomon Islands by spreading false information around last year’s riots in the capital of Honiara.

Analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) revealed the Chinese government has been running a coordinated disinformation campaign in the South Pacific nation to undermine public perception of Australia, the United States and Taiwan.

Chinese diplomats have allegedly played into the tensions between the West and the Solomon Islands since the two nations signed a security pact back in March.

According to the ASPI, the state media have tried to paint Australia and the US as colonialist bullies in an attempt to undermine the Solomon Islands’ relationship with the respective countries.

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“This report highlights an emerging and continuously developing Chinese state information capability in Solomon Islands,” the ASPI International Cyber Security Centre report said.

“That capability can be deployed to support the CCP’s objectives, which include undermining Solomon Islands’ existing relationships with foreign partners, particularly Australia and the US.”

The Solomon Islands riots in question occurred in November 2021 when peaceful protests against the government’s decision to recognise China over Taiwan turned violent.

Protesters attempted to storm Parliament to depose Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and many businesses were burned and looted over the three days of unrest.

Australia’s former prime minister Scott Morrison deployed more than 100 police and defence personnel to Honiara to support riot control.

The ASPI report analysed Chinese state information campaigns in the Solomon Islands over two periods spanning 18 weeks, which included time post the Honiara riots.

It found that Chinese state media published 67 articles that supported Chinese narratives on the Solomon Islands over that period.

Roughly 70 per cent were directly aimed at undermining the nation’s relationships with the US and Australia and were most successful when deployed with support of Solomon Islands media outlets.

However, the report also revealed that China’s attempts to shape public perception had achieved mixed results with a slow uptake on social media sharing of the propaganda.

Meanwhile Solomon Islands foreign minister Jeremiah Manele raised eyebrows earlier this week when he refused to sign an accord between the US and more than a dozen Pacific nations until indirect references to China were removed.

Mr Jeremiah rejected claims of an allegiance with China and said he was promoting peace in the region by amending the 11-point pact.

“There were some references that put us in a position where we’ll have to choose sides, and we did not want to be placed in a position where we have to choose sides,” Mr Jeremiah told reporters in Washington.

“The Indo-Pacific should be a region of peace, of cooperation and of collaboration. It should not be seen as a region of confrontation, of conflict and of war.”

English Headline

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