China’s Mad Dash Into a Strategic Island Nation Breeds Resentment

For years, Beijing has thrown its wealth and weight across the globe. But its experience in the Solomon Islands calls into question its approach to expanding its power.


By Damien Cave

Photographs by Matthew Abbott

Damien Cave has been writing about Chinese influence in the Solomon Islands since 2019. He and Matthew Abbott spent about a week in the Solomons reporting this story.

  • Jan. 23, 2023

“Down a dirt road outside the Solomon Islands’ capital city, past Chinese construction projects and shops where Chinese merchants sell snacks, a tribal chief tried to explain what it feels like to have a rising superpower suddenly take an interest in a poor, forgotten place desperate for development.

“At first,” said the chief, Peter Kosemu, 50, as he sat in the shade on Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands, “most people just wanted to see what was going on.”

He and many others have watched China rush headlong into seemingly every corner of the economy and politics of this South Pacific nation over the past three years, spurring fears in the West that Beijing is trying to set up an outpost that could play a strategic role in any future conflict with the United States and its allies.

China has opened a large embassy, started construction on a stadium complex and signed secretive deals with the government on security, aviation, telecommunications and more. Many islanders liken it to seeing carpenters waltz unannounced into your kitchen, drawing up plans, tearing down and building, with little explanation.”

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT3m ago

Riveting report, thank you Damien Cave and Matthew Abbott. Today, the reporting is far superior to the comments. It appears your readership, myself included, need a lot more information. Are these islands still strategically important? I suspect they are. Is the US doing enough yet to counter the Chinese taking over? I fear not. The Chinese have already bought and now control the government of Vietnam, according to some alarming reports. If that is true, what is the US going to do about the Chinese in all these countries? Where is Australia in this picture? What do area experts and local leaders think the US should do? Bravo, well done! Give us more.

David blogs about Vietnam and East Asia at