Micronesia and the Rise of China: Realpolitik Meets the Reef

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    Abstract

    This article examines the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) diplomatic relations with China, and its search for greater autonomy through financial and political independence as its current Compact of Free Association with the United States comes up for review in 2023. The article draws on diplomatic histories overlooked in existing analyses of regional diplomacy in which Micronesians explore alternative options for how to best advance their collective future interests. These Micronesian narratives demonstrate that external powers and aid donors should not take their influence for granted, nor necessarily correlate their largesse with local respect. The priorities of Pacific nations are increasingly focused on mitigating the existential threat of climate change to their environments. Avoidable environmental damage to a reef in Pohnpei by the Chinese fishing vessel Ping Da 7 in late 2013 and subsequent refusals to remove the grounded vessel and clean up the damage provide just one example of the FSM having to review their external relations in response to differences between donors' promises and their practice. To maintain healthy relations with the FSM, this article argues that China and the United States need to respect and support the FSM as a sovereign nation with many compatible interests, but also occasional divergences in national priorities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)274-295
    JournalJournal of Pacific History
    Volume56
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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