Monday, November 28, 2016

Poison Pill


Myanmar, pressured by China, is expeditiously erasing its Muslim Rohingya minority. Monstrous on its own, the move is also a gift to Islamists set on shattering the entire region

I was at a car wash a few days ago. The workers were young men from Myanmar. All of them did their chores like clockwork. One drove the car to the washing area, one hosed the car with foam soap and another wiped the car off. In less than 20 minutes, the car was spick and span. I paid them the RM8 for the wash and vacuum. Since there were no other cars, I sat and had tea with them. They told me stories of horror and terror that would make anyone’s blood boil just by listening. The gory details are enough to make anyone listening puke. They refuse to say whether they are Rohingya. But they talk of friends and people they know, whose families back home in Rakhine die by the dozens every day.
http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/11/192249/rohingya-crisis-probe-mass-killings

This unwillingness by the NLD government to critique the conduct of the military is exceedingly dangerous and will lead to thousands more falling victim to military violence and to a deepening humanitarian crisis. While the areas under military operation have been under lockdown since October 9 over the past few days hundreds of refugees finally made it to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is not welcoming them and has even pushed hundreds back across the border to Myanmar. It is highly likely that we will soon see another outflow of Rohingya refugees to other countries in the region... 
The escalating violence in Rakhine State can best be solved by allowing access to international observers and humanitarian aid. An independent international investigation is needed to address the grave abuses being reported out of the country and to deter further abuses. The current violence is occurring in a vacuum of impunity in which neutral reporting and, more importantly, life-saving aid are being denied...Punishing the general Rohingya population by cutting off aid and denying credible neutral reporting only sets the stage for further death and suffering... 
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) needs to abandon its consensus and non-interference approach and perceive the ongoing problem as a regional problem. It would require some ASEAN disciplining of Myanmar ... the time for that has arrived.
https://thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/27/11/2016/Expert-tell-how-to-solve-the-escalating-violence-in-Myanmar

“We conveyed to them that what is happening to the Rohingya in Myanmar is a serious crime against human rights," said Iskandarsyah Siregar, spokesperson of the Alliance for the Unity of Muslims who was one of the people that met with officials at the embassy.


"It is genocide, and what is clear is that we condemn it. We demanded that the government of Myanmar take clear action towards what their government there (in Myanmar) is doing."
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/rohingya-crisis-sparks-muslim-protests-in-asian-capitals/3317750.html

“It is not about ethics, it is not about ideals, it is about what matters to those in power and right now helping the persecuted community is of no strategic benefit and that is the reason why we see very little coverage and very little condemnation even of what is taking place and of the despicable behavior of [Myanmar's civilian leader] Aung San Suu Kyi with her silence,” the activist told Press TV in an interview on Sunday.
 
He stated that Muslims in Myanmar were an “inconvenience” to Suu Kyi even before she got into power, adding that she talks about peace and having open democracy for all but the Rohingya minority group does not “come into play” for that. 
Nadim further noted there is also an “ongoing diatribe” against the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh where many of the countries’ ills are blamed on them.
http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/11/27/495426/Myanmar-Rohingya-Muslims-Aung-San-Suu-Kyi-ethnic-cleansing-Bangladesh-refugees-UN




Monday, November 21, 2016

Youthquake in Seoul

Original image via Instagram: junmichaelpark https://www.instagram.com/p/BM6n0JRByTg/
Ignoble Rot has consequences. In Malaysia, Bersih 5 may have made protest a New Normal, but for youth in South Korea, Choi-Gate has proved the Last Straw

Many middle and high school students are disappointed at how Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, was illegally admitted to a top university and received special treatment there. 
"She did not study or make the appropriate effort but had the privilege of going to the university because she was born into a powerful family," Kwon Ha-kyeong, a 16-year-old student, told The Korea Herald at Saturday's rally. "While we are forced to study hard to get good grades, all she needed was her powerful parents." 
In the unfolding Choi scandal that even threatens Park's presidency, allegations concerning Chung may appear trivial. Choi is accused of much more serious crimes such as extorting billions of won from the country's top conglomerates. However, the anger and frustration felt by South Korean teenagers goes beyond just Chung -- it is a reflection of their dissatisfaction with society. 

“Adults tell us to stand still and study, but we feel like we have to do something now.” 
Kang Min-ji, a 17-year-old high school junior from the city of Seongnam, just south of Seoul, said during the protest on Saturday. Kang also explained how the phrase “stand still” itself was an insult to the Sewol Generation. It refers to the public announcement that kept on playing onboard while the Sewol ferry was capsizing and the ship’s crew were escaping. It stopped the passengers on the ship from attempting an escape and contributed to the tragic loss of 304 lives. 
“I am now the same age as the Sewol victims. All my friends definitely share and feel the impact of the Sewol disaster,” says Choi Su-jin, another high school junior from Seoul. “I was disappointed with President Park’s handling of the Sewol, and I felt betrayed when I heard about the president’s scandal. My friends and I don’t recognize Park Geun-hye as our president anymore.”
Korea Expose

Experts say the people's desire to express political satire has exploded all at once. "The people's desire to mock politics and express their feelings about the current deplorable situation, which thus had been muffled, have been unleashed. Now television shows have been reflecting the changed mood," said Jang Duk-geun, a comedy show writer. 
Looking into the present situation, which is more surreal than most movies, moviemakers are preparing to release a band of politically sensitive movies that express harsh criticism of the government. The movie "Special Citizen" reveals the two faces of politics through the eyes of a two-term Seoul mayor, played by Choi Min-sik, who runs for a third term, and military secrets and a corruption scandal are tackled in "Top Secret" which awaits local release. Director Shin Dong-yeob plans to make a political satire of the ongoing influence-peddling scandal in his movie titled "Gate."
Korea Times

The festive mood remained a constant throughout the night, and in fact, it seemed most of the people there were more interested in having a good time than anything else. That isn’t to say they weren’t angry or that their anger was without purpose, but it didn’t show. Their joyfulness wasn’t one of tactical frivolity, either. They were simply full of hope — the beating hope that their future can change because they hold the reigns of democracy in their hands. That may sound a little maudlin, but as an American, and particularly these days, it resonated.






Monday, November 07, 2016

Hong Kong and Jakarta: Anger is The New Normal



“I don’t know if this protest will achieve anything, to be honest. It’s very hard to take on something like the Communist Party because it’s huge and it’s got its tentacles absolutely everywhere. But this is a very new, serious development. Because what they’ve done is that, right up front, very loud and clear, very explicitly, there is no more One Country Two Systems. They’ve invaded our judicial independence. It is the end of the last 19 years of pretending we are not a part of China.” 
“I don’t think anybody in Hong Kong wants to be ruled by the Communist Party. To me, this is not really about Baggio Leung or Yau Wai-ching. This is about something way bigger than the oath controversy. This is about a complete abuse of process, it is essentially undermining the constitution that we have.” 
“I think the lawmakers were a little bit silly in what they did but they did not deserve to be kicked out of the legislature. They were elected. People who were elected sit in legislature, that’s what they do, but now they are being denied that right… I didn’t sign up for this. I signed up to live in Hong Kong, not China”
Lau Chi-hung, quoted in the HK Free Press (link)

When the leadership is adjusting its Hong Kong policies under the “new normal”, all eyes are also on the two top executors of Beijing’s latest instructions: the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) under the State Council; and the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong. That was why many were amazed to see the Communist Party’s top anti-graft agency criticise the HKMAO for its “weak leadership” and inefficiency in carrying out party orders. Some also wondered whether the liaison office would be the next to be inspected. 
The critical report was released by a team from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, headed by anti-graft tsar Wang Qishan. Some also worried the “weak leadership” comment would lead to a more hardline style since current HKMAO director Wang Guangya is regarded as an open-minded, dovish official. 
But a closer look at the matter can be revealing: it was a nationwide party discipline inspection that has become a “new normal” of Chinese politics, and while the criticism surely is a reminder to the HKMAO, it would be too far-fetched to link it to the chief executive election as some have suggested; also, as a party mechanism, the commission has not sent any team to inspect overseas organisations, not to say to Hong Kong, where the party does not conduct any open activity under one country, two systems.
Tammy Tam in the SCMP (link)
---------------------------------
What began on Friday – as this writer observed on the way to meetings in central Jakarta – as a peaceful, democratic expression of dissent, well-managed by the police, took a nasty turn after dusk, and beyond the agreed 12-hour schedule of disruption. Groups that are yet to be fully identified took control of the protest and triggered significant, albeit contained, looting, some of it with an ominous focus on the ethnic Chinese business community. 
Is Jokowi's hitherto impregnable position now under threat? We will have to wait and see. He has supported Ahok throughout these difficulties, but has also announced that his remarks that caused the controversy will be the subject of an official investigation. Events could move quickly and in unexpected directions. The threats to religious and ethnic harmony are ever present in this generally secular and tolerant society. There is a large, poor under-class who are not enjoying the fruits of rapid economic development. Indonesian political coalitions are fluid at the best of times. A host of political actors – including importantly two former presidents and a former presidential aspirant – are waiting in the wings for the slightest presidential misstep.
Hal Hill in the Australian Financial Review (link)

The Jakarta election should be about the programs that the candidates are proposing to solve the myriad of problems plaguing the capital, from severe traffic congestion and pollution to garbage collection problems, reclamation controversies and housing for the poor. But since the campaign period began in mid-October, we have heard nothing but calls for Ahok to drop out from the race on allegations that he insulted the Quran. And nothing fires up the political base of Ahok’s rivals more than allegations that he insulted Islam. 
The rivals of Ahok, who will certainly reap huge political gains if Ahok drops out of the race as a result of Friday’s rally, certainly share some of the blame for fanning primordial sentiments to get what they want. 
All of us, however, should take responsibility for allowing such sectarian sentiments to grow and fester in our democracy.
We have been complacent for too long, happy to think that the movements against Ahok, and those groups responsible for acts of intolerance and violence in this country, are only fringe groups who matter little in politics.

On Friday, we were proved wrong. These groups now hold the keys to the Jakarta gubernatorial election and, probably, the success or failure of our experiment in democracy.
M. Taufiqurrahman and Kornelius Purba in the Jakarta Post (link)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Core Values



Xi Jinping asserts his Exceptional Presence, furthering the trajectory of Princeling Power. But doubts remain as to whether that presence can fully equate legitimacy

A statement on Thursday at the close of the Central Committee’s meeting urged the party’s 88 million party members to “closely unite around the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core”. But it also stressed collective leadership, saying: “No party organization or individual should suppress or undermine ­intra-party democracy.” ...Tsang said the statement could indicate that while consolidating his position and power at the meeting, Xi failed to get his way completely.
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2041118/question-mark-over-core-xi-jinpings-new-communist-party

The document that declared Xi’s primacy also emphasized the importance of collective leadership and warned against the deification of the party’s chiefs. “Propaganda about leaders should be factual and avoid flattery,” it emphasized.

The message appeared to have bypassed the denizens of China’s social media, many of whom are thought to be by paid by authorities to lavish praise on the government.

“Resolutely embrace Xi Dada!” said one commenter, using a popular nickname for the leader that some say evokes an air of paternalistic authoritarianism. “With Xi Jinping as the core… we will definitely realize our Chinese dream,” it continued, echoing the leader’s nationalistic call for the “Great Rejuvenation” of the Chinese nation.
(AFP via http://www.dawn.com/news/1292865/as-xis-star-rises-experts-ask-if-the-centre-can-hold)

Since becoming the party’s general secretary, Xi has excluded political enemies, including former uniformed military executives who supported Jiang and former aides of Hu, to consolidate power. Xi has punished more than 1 million party members... Now that Xi has solidified his base within the party, what he probably is worried about is an increase in public discontent over the slowing economy... 
Veterans have staged demonstrations repeatedly... of an unprecedented scale. Veterans are said to be increasingly concerned about Xi’s plans to reduce military personnel by 300,000... Hardships are becoming more serious for the poorest citizens, including migrant workers, who are in a weaker position than veterans. 
Xi, who has acquired enormous power, has cracked down on human rights lawyers who support the socially weak and forcefully suppresses people who hold different opinions. If he continues to govern in such an authoritarian manner, the unbecomingly deformed condition of the world’s No. 2 economy will become conspicuous.
http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003317033

Mr Xi, meanwhile, has been amassing plenty of power and his take-no-prisoners anti-graft campaign has undeniably changed the political landscape, albeit without empowering institutions that could eradicate the root causes of corruption. And inasmuch as the purpose of his power is to enact difficult economic reforms and cement his status as a “transformational” leader, he has not yet delivered.

As Timothy Heath at the Rand Corporation puts it: “The central leadership under Xi is seeking to overcome resistance [to reforms] and adding titles to build Xi’s political capital is part of the process. Whether they can succeed remains an open question.”
https://www.ft.com/content/f6faae26-9ccd-11e6-8324-be63473ce146

Monday, October 24, 2016

Duterte, Hanson, and Willful Blindness

Unfortunately, Hanson isn't the blind one here

As the public estrangement of the Philippines from America continues, it increasingly looks like Rody Duterte has been blinded all along by two things: resentment of the Philippines' tangled history with the US and the relative riches proffered by Chinese investment. Wined and dined by Xi Jinping, Drunken Sailor DU30 poses a dilemma not only for a spurned US, but for ASEAN and Filipinos generally as well. 

Trouble is, the Long Boat may arrive sooner than later. Regardless of rhetoric, the US isn't going away, and the reaching out to China may prove to have had poor timing. With Chinese wealth also comes its rot, which is problematic given Rody's rise on the back of long-festering resentment over corruption. China's dangles of low-hanging fruit will also likely leave a sour palate over things as well. 

Why so sure? Because even if he wanted to offer anything but a raw deal, Xi Jinping cannot wholly deliver on promises which are dependent upon ensuring other's pockets stay full. 

Perhaps the President could benefit from an edict ensuring that any Long Boat coming his way maintain a shallow draught

Meanwhile in Hapless Australia, the Trumpist Tart scores another political victory. Pauline Hanson continues to approach legitimacy as the voice of frustrated regional Whites, this time on Norfolk Island. 

Norfolk's beef is a legitimate one. The long-autonomous remote island has been buffooned by a stingy Turnbull government into a territorial back-end of New South Wales, and residents are hopping mad

Canberra's excuse is economic sustainability, and to an extent they have a point. But the execution is predictably ham-handed, with no respect for historical or cultural concerns or even best practices. It's also far from unheard of to allow such vestigial territories to "age in place" - witness the UK's largely uncontroversial largess to territories like Pitcairn. Instead, the Turnbull Goverment insist on taking a stand better suited for RT

Instead, now comes yet another opportunity for Henna'd Harridan Hanson to stoke the embers of resentment. If this continues, Australia is in store for quite the Kettle of Fishwife in regional affairs. 




Monday, October 17, 2016

Thailand: A Succession, Interrupted




At the center of these seemingly incomparable differences, there was one unifying figure, a core that drew these elements together. The world has seen monarchs and heads of state who were popular and revered, but seldom has it seen one who was widely described by international media without irony as "beloved." The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand was indeed beloved as anyone who has been to Thailand can attest. The fact that the late king's portraits are hung in every business venue could be dismissed as a practice of necessity, if not for the fact that those portraits are not uniform state-issued photos depicting a regal figure, but photos many picked themselves to reflect their favorite representations of the king. Sometimes the king is depicted in Buddhist monk attire. Sometimes he is seen visiting the people in a suit instead of his royal uniform. Some photos show the king as a loving young father holding his infant child. The late king was revered as a semi-deity in the nation, but it is perhaps his human side that has endeared him most to the people. One of the most popular portraits of him features a drop of sweat on his face, symbolizing his dedication to his role.

In the same message, he also talked candidly about himself, reiterating that as a king, he did not see himself as infallible - a king who could do no wrong in the ordinary sense of the word. He clearly said he was not above criticism. He added that he welcomed critical comments based on fact and objectivity. 

For the Thai media, the King's comments were significant because he supported the media doing their job professionally in informing society. He was an avid newspaper reader, a veteran ham radio operator and an early user of computers. He often used computer graphics to compose his New Year cards and messages for the Thai people. 

At the time, his comments reflected a media environment in which journalists were under stress. Most Thai journalists would agree that his stand on the media has had a positive impact on the media's role and reduced attempted state interventions. As far as I know, no Thai journalists have been charged with lese majeste, as they have simply abstained from reporting or writing about the King's personal life. Of late, there have been reports on his initiatives related to sustainable development and a sufficient economy.
Kavi Chongkittavorn in The Nation

"The king's death adds to uncertainty in Southeast Asia, a region in considerable flux already. This makes the U.S. rebalance to Asia more difficult because the situation in so many countries is that of 'wait and see.' 

"When the pivot started, you had Thailand engaged, a new leader in Malaysia who wanted to engage, you had Aquino coming in the Philippines and very forward-leaning internationally and very open to the U.S.; you had an internationalist president in Indonesia. It was a rather different dynamic."


Adding to the uncertainty after Bhumibol’s death, Thailand’s current military junta has said that the king’s heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, will not immediately assume the throne, because he needs time to mourn. In the meantime, the monarchy will be managed by a regent, longtime Bhumibol ally and former Thai Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda. 

Prem is a divisive figure. Although he oversaw a period of rapid economic growth as Prime Minister, many poor Thais dislike him, favoring populist parties linked to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose sister was also prime minister until she was ousted in a 2014 coup. Many Thais consider Prem an archenemy of Thaksin, whose own government was toppled by the military in 2006. To them, Prem represents elites who would deny Thais outside the capital a voice in determining the country’s future. Moreover, at age 96, Prem may lack the stamina to manage the crown’s transition. 

There could be several reasons why Vajiralongkorn is not immediately assuming the crown. For starters, he may realize that he is nowhere near as popular as his father and needs time to build public goodwill. Alternatively, the junta (and Prem and other Bhumibol advisers) may have forced the crown prince’s decision, because they fear his playboy reputation and reported friendship with Thaksin. Yet another explanation is that the junta is stalling so that it can maneuver Vajiralongkorn’s sister, the beloved Princess Sirindhorn, into power instead, even though there is no constitutional basis in Thailand for a woman to reign.
Joshua Kurlantzick spells out the Junta's Opportunities (Project Syndicate)



Monday, October 10, 2016

The Fate (or Fallacy) of Melos


Jokowi: Sharp End of the Tightrope

Like it or not, in the new normal, Sino-Singapore relations will need to withstand the stress and pressure of being caught between a superpower and an aspiring one. The Thucydides’ Trap often ensnarls many smaller players.
Peh Shing Huei on how the South China Sea is just one factor in the changing relationship between Singapore and China (link)

A more accurate representation of Sino-American relations in the Asia-Pacific would be a triptych: Asian countries refusing to make stark choices between the two great powers; a calculation that US power will not wane, let alone be withdrawn from the region; and the earnest hope that the two powers can reach a working accommodation ...
William Choong outlines why the time for ASEAN to choose sides hasn't yet - and hopefully won't - arrive (link)

"We can see some countries taking actions that effectively reveal their consistent positions and others are being much more deferential to China, rolling over and waiting for a tummy rub from Beijing."
Ian Storey, quoted by Reuters, on how Indonesia is doing the former (link)

As for Singapore, this is not the first time that its principled foreign policy has required it to stand up to pressure from larger countries. In the past, it has withstood various forms of pressure from not only China, but also Indonesia, Malaysia and even on occasion the US. As a potentially vulnerable small state, it would be dangerous for Singapore to accept that any other country has the right to act as its “big brother”.
Tim Huxley and Alexander Neill in the SCMP (link)

The president says he wants an “independent foreign policy” where ties with the US will be limited while heightened relations with Russia and China will be pursued. Former national security adviser Joe Almonte whom I consider to have a good grasp of our strategic foreign policy unequivocally advises that as an independent nation, we should maintain friendship with old allies, yet still be friends with other nations even if they are enemies of our allies. Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario totally agrees that “you try to get as many friends as possible.” In short, it’s not a zero-sum game.
Babe Romualdez: Hey Rody, You're Doing it Wrong (link)


Monday, October 03, 2016

The Week in Asian Geopolitical Crazy Talk

PROGRAM ADVISORY: As Your Humble Correspondent has been sucked into the undertow of the US election season, IPM will be moving to weekly rather than daily updates. Look for them after Midnight Monday, Christmas Island Time. 

It always ends in tears (original image: AFP)

Chinese leaders are painfully aware of the delicate nature of dealing with a sensitive North Korea. Beijing often stresses that it has no “special influence” over Pyongyang. This is partly true as members of the “Chinese faction” in North Korea have been purged by Kim. But Chinese leaders are also aware that if they publicly claim to have leverage over North Korea, it will drive the nationalistic young leader farther away.
Chow Chung-yan cites the the history of balancing Korean nationalism with necessity in explaining why it's actually rather hard for China to "rein in" the Kim Regime (link - SCMP)


(Translation: China should quickly embark on the Kra Canal project and turn Singapore back into a third world country. This is the best present to give to a “2-headed snake”.)
An editorial in The Independent (link) sees China digging up the Kra Canal (link) again as leverage against Singapore for Global Recalcitrance


The reporter then moves on to disputed territories. The South China Sea? “It has to be China’s,” Comrade Tan asserts. The Diaoyu Islands? Taiwan? All China’s. What about Sora Aoi (Cangjingkong 苍井空 in Mandarin)? “Sora Aoi is also the Chinese people’s,” says Comrade Zhou—not realizing that Sora Aoi is not a place, but a Japanese porn star. 
How about Hong Kong independence? Sunglassed Comrade Chen has a quick answer. “If you get independence, Boss Xi will drop a bomb and destroy you.”
Roy Tsui's TVMOST gives Mainland visitors to HK more than enough rope on National Day (link to story: China Digital Times) (link: Facebook)

The first one is that it comes from Messrs Sit, Fung, Kwok and Shum. I presume they are a respectable firm, though not perhaps very experienced in this line of work. But Mr Leung does not need to resort to private lawyers, respectable or otherwise. Senior government officials who wish to sue for libel have to ask for permission (which in the case of Mr Leung I suppose he can give himself) and having obtained permission get the free services of the Department of Justice. Well we know Mr Leung is not short of a bob or two. But one does wonder why this particular chore was outsourced. Was the DoJ consulted, and discouraging?
Tim Hammlet analyzes, perhaps though the bottom of a beer glass, CY Leung's legal threats against Apple Daily (link: HK Free Press)

Nonproliferation zealots (!!!!) are making sure nuclear weapons now proliferate only to totalitarian states. Despite much rhetoric and sincere, well-intentioned efforts, the United States sat by as North Korea developed its nuclear weapons. It is not too late to disabuse China and North Korea of the idea that nuclear proliferation pays. Japan ought to begin a sincere program to build deliverable nuclear weapons to show China that China’s support to North Korea is counterproductive and strategically naive. The Republic of Korea ought to begin a nuclear-weapons development program.
James Van de Velde wants things to escalate quickly. (link: National Interest)

Friday, September 30, 2016

China aid to Pacific Island nations is exacting a price



Danielle Cave at the Lowy Institute sends an update on her dogged research into Chinese development aid patterns (link):
For example, it’s hard to tell whether PNG’s 'distance education network community college' — which is being funded with a US$35 million EximBank loan — ever eventuated. The mysterious project was recently caught up in a high-profile money laundering case in Singapore after authorities detected suspicious transactions that led to the bank account of former PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare (of which he denies knowledge). PNG Government budget documents report the project funds are currently in a trust managed by law firm Young & Williams Lawyers (who were the subject of 2015 investigations by SBS and Fairfax).

This development, which may unravel further and is gathering steam across PNG's online discussion forums, should spook Chinese Government officials working in the region. An opaque aid program is already a tough sell in the Pacific Islands where mistrust, misinformation, frustrations and resentment about China's regional intentions abound.
Some regimes in the region, however, may find that their ambitions dovetail with China's evolving aid goals. Here's Grant Wyeth in the Diplomat (link):
While previously China’s aid presence within the South Pacific was motivated by a desire to squash Taiwan’s diplomatic relations in the region, there seems to be a recent shift toward a more strategic motive. As China develops its blue-water navy capabilities it will require greater access to more ports in the Pacific. Building stronger relationships with Pacific Island nations is paramount for China to be able to project power throughout the Pacific Ocean, and will lay the groundwork for future hegemony should the United States retreat in a measurable way from the region (although this is unlikely in the foreseeable future). 
This is clearly a long term project, but one that China seems very serious about. In late-2014, President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese president to visit Fiji. An official state visit to a Pacific Island country demonstrated China’s interest in the region. It was also significant signal of solidarity after Australia and New Zealand had isolated Fiji regionally following the country’s 2006 coup. The continued frosty relationship between Suva and the two regional heavyweights led to Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, indicating to the United Nations General Assembly that he was reevaluating Fiji’s relationships.
Fiji and PNG figure in another analysis of aid and influence in the region. Joanne Wallis (link):
More recently, changes to the broader Asia-Pacific power structure have altered the geopolitical landscape. Most notably, China has increased its aid to the region and Russia recently made a significant donation of military equipment to Fiji. Indeed, the 2013 Defence White Paper acknowledges that ‘attitudes to our role are changing’ in the region, as ‘the growing reach and influence of Asian nations opens up a wider range of external players for our neighbours to partner with’. A number of these external partners were out in force at the dialogue following the recent Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting, including China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. 
In only a few years, China's flexibility and forbearance in regional aid strategy has started to pay off. Time to catch up.