Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Tough choices dealing with COVID-19 in the Pacific

A Fijian family board their canoe as a sunset lights up the sky behind an island's mountain range in Suva 28 April, 2004 (Photo: Reuters/Gray).

Author: Tess Newton Cain, Griffith Asia Institute

In the Pacific islands region, the COVID-19 story is one of contrasts. There have been few confirmed cases of infection. Many Pacific island countries are COVID-19-free thanks to the swift and decisive actions of governments in closing borders early and keeping them firmly shut. But the danger is not over yet so there is no room for complacency. Significant risk factors are still present in Pacific island countries, including a prevalence of chronic disease and weak healthcare systems despite recent international efforts to provide support by way of funding and equipment.

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Currents of change in the Pacific dwarfed by rising tides

Officials count ballots in Buka, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, 11 December 2019 (Photo: Reuters/BRC/Jeremy Miller).

Author: Kerryn Baker, ANU

The past year has been a time of considerable change for the Pacific Islands, with new leadership, new partnerships and even the potential for new nations all coming into being. The one constant is the enduring threat of climate change, with 2019 ultimately a disappointing year for Pacific climate activists. Read more…

Does it matter if Taiwan loses formal recognition?

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 9 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Timothy Rich, Western Kentucky University

In September 2019 both Solomon Islands and Kiribati ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan (formally the Republic of China), leaving the country with formal recognition from only 15 countries. This follows the departure since 2016 of five other diplomatic partners: Sao Tome and Principe, Panama, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. But the importance of this may be overstated. Read more…

Taiwan’s Pacific losses

Author: Michael Mazza, AEI

In late September 2019, Solomon Islands and Kiribati severed their diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan). The moves are, at once, largely insignificant and of great importance to Taiwan’s national security interests. Read more…

Why Australian aid’s infrastructure fixation won’t be a boon for the Pacific

Local residents sit outside their damaged homes surrounded by debris on a street after Cyclone Pam hit Port Vila, Vanuatu, 15 March 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Kris Paras)

Author: Terence Wood, ANU

The need for infrastructure in poorer parts of the Pacific is obvious. Outside of urban areas, once-paved roads are now muddy tracks. On some islands, planes land on grass runways that are frequently closed by rain. In some places, small boats take hours to move cargo from ships moored off coasts deprived of wharves.

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Sogavare shakes up Solomon Islands’ development strategy

Workers inspect a fleet of earth-moving trucks, Solomon Islands (Photo: Reuters/James Regan).

Authors: Charles Hawksley, University of Wollongong, and Nichole Georgeou, Western Sydney University

On 1 June this year, newly-elected Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare launched his Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement’s (DCGA) First 100-Days Policy Framework in the country’s capital, Honiara. Read more…

China constrained as much as controlling in the South Pacific

A view of the Rock Islands of Palau. Picture taken 5 August 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Farah Master)

Author: Denghua Zhang, ANU

China’s engagement with the states of the South Pacific Ocean has accelerated in recent years. But while policymakers and academics increasingly talk about China’s growing influence, Beijing actually operates in the region under a number of constraints.

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The politics of riots in the Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands' prime minister Manasseh Sogavare speaks to the media outside Parliament House in capital Honiara 4 May 2006 (Photo: Reuters/Walter Nalangu).

Author: Jon Fraenkel, Victoria University of Wellington

Riots erupted in Honiara on 24 April after Manasseh Sogavare was elected Prime Minister of the Soloman Islands for the fourth time. In protest, angry crowds hurling rocks descended on Chinatown and vandalised the Pacific Casino Hotel, as they had also done in the aftermath of the 2006 elections. Read more…

Keeping up with Pacific politics

Pacific island leaders talk to APEC leaders at the APEC Summit, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 17 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).

Author: Tess Newton Cain, TNC Pacific Consulting

The changed and changing geostrategic environment of the Pacific islands made its presence known on numerous occasions during the year. After decades of neglect, the region was ‘rediscovered’ by strategists in Australia, the United States and elsewhere. Read more…

How fare the democracies of Melanesia?

President of Federated States of Micronesia, Peter Christian departs after speaking at the opening of The Ocean Conference at the United Nations in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, 5 June 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Allegri).

Author: Tess Newton Cain, TNC Pacific Consulting

This year has been another one of significant political events in Melanesia.

The biggest political story of the year was the general election in PNG. While it was anticipated that Peter O’Neill would be returned as prime minister, his party’s loss of more than 30 seats was a significant indication that opposition parties were able to make inroads in some electorates. Read more…

RAMSI chapter ends in Australia’s Pacific story

Australian soldiers patrol a road leading to the Solomon Islands Parliament House in Honiara, 25 April 2006. (Photo: Reuters/Tim Wimborne )

Author: James Batley, ANU

On 30 June this year, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) will come to an end after 14 years. RAMSI was deployed in mid-2003 at the invitation of a desperate Solomon Islands government following several years of conflict between armed militant groups, a collapse in law and order and in the state’s capacity to deliver services Read more…

The Pacific is divided on West Papua

A West Papuan woman dances with her spear during a protest (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Patrick M. Walsh, Observer Research Foundation

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua could be welcomed into the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) as a full member this December, according to its Chairman, Manasseh Sogavare. This would advance its position from observer status, granted in 2014. That decision would mark the most significant recognition of West Papua as a political identity since the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority administration in the 1960s.
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Is PNG’s Westminster system worth keeping?

Author: Sean Jacobs, New Guinea Commerce

The Papua New Guinea Constitutional Law Reform Commission (CLRC) is currently scrutinising the viability of PNG’s Westminster system of government. PNG has persisted with a Westminster system since before its independence in 1975. Read more…

Australia as a Southern Hemisphere ‘Soft Power’

Author: Benjamin Reilly, Murdoch University

Kevin Rudd’s travel schedule since resuming office as Australia’s prime minister— with trips to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea — confirms a largely unnoticed shift in Australia’s international profile.

As well as being a global middle power, and a serious player in the Indo-Pacific, Australia is increasingly also a Southern Hemisphere power — an idea which was once fundamental to Australia’s view of itself but has since been largely forgotten. Read more…

Indonesia: the need for peaceful dialogue in West Papua

Author: Hipolitus Yolisandy Ringgi Wangge, Northwestern University & Agustinus Kambuaya, Cenderawasih University

The Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM) has opened an office in the city of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

This has been met with mixed reactions. Within Indonesia two camps have emerged. Read more…