Posted by : Posted on : 17-Sep-2019

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

The Solomon Islands Government has taken a momentous sovereign decision to establish full diplomatic relations with China and switch its long standing allegiance with the Republic of China Government on Taiwan.

I guess I am not alone today in asking the question what now?

The well known idiom “The proof of the pudding is in the eating,” – which is used to say that a person can only know if something is good or bad by trying it, comes to mind.

In applying a judgment of the new China relationship, I expect from a personal perspective will take some considerable time, but I will be constantly watchful to see how China helps the Solomon Islands resolve the many challenges it has today, not least of which are the questions of rural poverty and unemployment.

Some 5 months before the switch in diplomatic ties, made know today, I read an article in the South China Morning Post (published in Hong Kong) written by John F. Cooper, a Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennesse. Professor Cooper is the author of more than 30 books on China, Taiwan and US China/Taiwan policy.

The article started off by saying, “China is best placed to tackle rural poverty globally.”

The article went on to say, quote.

“One of the central issues deliberated recently at China’s “two sessions” – the meetings of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference – was rural poverty reduction. Clearly this was a problem issue for Chinese leaders. It is also a concern harboured by national leaders in other countries, in the guise of the rich-poor gap both at home and globally. How to fix this was a question of the day.

“China’s two government bodies reached decisions to alleviate rural poverty both at home and in developing countries. The sentiment was that China had done both before.

“In fact, China’s accomplishments in these two realms are mind-boggling, having removed some 500 million to 700 million people from the poverty rolls. In fact, poverty in China has been cut to just a fraction of what it once was.

“But China has not merely reduced poverty at home. The UN Millennium Development Goals projectlaunched in 2000 was realised , UN officials said, with help from China’s generous, no-nonsense, market-oriented and unfettered foreign aid and investments.

“So now, China’s government bodies have made a firm commitment to act again and have drawn up plans.

“In China, many are still left behind: over 40 million people remain in poverty, mostly in rural areas. President Xi Jinping has already identified China’s rural poverty as one of the “three tough battles” for the Communist Party to win by 2021. So the government and party will ostensibly work in tandem.

“The need elsewhere is even larger. According to the UN (recorded in its Sustainable Development Goals project), there are 783 million people living in poverty around the world.

“Most are in rural parts of developing countries, many in Africa. China’s help in tackling the problem is recognised as being essential.

 “China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” has come under fire as a tool of the Chinese government to take over global commerce. Some European leaders have even labelled the infrastructure scheme an existential threat.

“The Western liberal media have widely reported this narrative. They do not, however, report much about China’s miraculous economic growth, especially its role in poverty reduction, given the tremendously laudable consequences. They certainly do not give China its due.

 “The Western media has not cottoned on to the fact that China had done a yeoman’s job in promoting economic growth by privatising its economy and promoting competition, and has applied these principles to its foreign aid.

“Liberals favour other means. Nor do they like Beijing’s undermining of the liberal, Western world order by proffering its own model of governance. Now, the media is unhappy that China can help the world’s poor when the West can do little.

I am not prone to rushing to judgments and, as an outsider, I will not comment of the decision by the SIG to recognize China, but I do feel compelled to say I very much hope that China is able to lift the Solomon Islands out of poverty and ensure work and better opportunities for its many unemployed, including the thousands of young people needing jobs. To do less will render Professor Cooper’s observations on China rather meaningless.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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