Tulagi is an island of a little over 1,000 people in the Solomon Islands.  The island of Tulagi served as a South Pacific headquarters for Britain, and during World War II, its natural deepwater harbor made it a military gem. Now, China is moving in with plans to effectively take control.

What is the deal for Tulagi island?
Under a secretive deal signed last month with a provincial government in the Solomon Islands, a Beijing-based company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party has secured exclusive development rights for the entire island of Tulagi and its surroundings.

What are the implications of deal?
The lease agreement has shocked Tulagi residents.

It has also shocked the global community who see the island chains of the South Pacific as crucial to keeping China in check and protecting important sea routes.

It is the latest example of China using promises of prosperity to pursue its global aspirations — often by funneling money to governments and investing in local infrastructure projects that critics call debt traps for developing nations.

The history of World War II tells us that it is a strategic location.  China is expanding its military assets into the South Pacific and is looking for friendly ports and friendly airfields just like other rising powers before them.”

Beijing’s ambitions in the South Pacific have economic, political and military ramifications. The region is rich in natural resources, and China’s investments have provoked worries in India that the projects could give Beijing an opening to establish a military foothold for everything from ships and planes.

China is also pushing to end the region’s status as a diplomatic stronghold for Taiwan. The Solomons cut ties to Taipei and allied with Beijing just a few days before the Tulagi deal. A second Pacific nation, Kiribati, followed suit the same week.

Even compared to previous Chinese development deals in nearby countries — including a wharf in Vanuatu, whose terms were not publicly released for years — the Tulagi agreement is remarkable for both its scope and lack of public input.

The renewable 75-year lease was granted to the China Sam Enterprise Group, a conglomerate founded in 1985 as a state-owned enterprise, according to corporate records. A copy of the “strategic cooperation agreement,” obtained by The New York Times and verified by two people with knowledge of the deal, reveals both the immediate ambitions of China Sam and the potential — just as in Vanuatu — for infrastructure that could share civilian and military uses.

Source: New York times

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; IOBR