Due to their geographical proximity, Australia has traditionally perceived Pacific Island countries as its backyard. As its relationship with China has plunged to an all-time low, Australia's sour grape sentiment toward China's normal cooperation and interaction with those nations has grown increasingly bitter.
Australia's recent spat with China over the latter's law enforcement and security cooperation with the Solomon Islands is the latest manifestation of this.
Under the terms of a draft agreement with the Solomon Islands, it has been revealed that China could send police and military personnel "to assist in maintaining social order" or for other reasons, and also send naval vessels to the islands for stopovers.
Canberra has been up in arms about this with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepping forward to fan anti-China hysteria by hyping up rumors about "Chinese military expansion" in the South Pacific region. He is lobbying the other Pacific Island countries to press the Solomon Islands to drop the draft security agreement with China.
But Canberra is not in a position to point an accusing finger at the normal cooperation between China and the Solomon Islands. Its blatant meddling in the issue only exposes Australia's colonialist attitude toward the Pacific Island region and further consolidates the country's widely criticized role as a "South Pacific bully".
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said he found it "very insulting … to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs or have other motives in pursuing our national interest".
As the biggest country in the region, Australia should be contributing more to help its smaller and poorer neighbors and join hands with other countries such as China to contribute to regional peace and development. Regrettably, out of ideological bias and strategic shortsightedness, it has, instead, taken the opposite direction and turned the South Pacific into a venue for geopolitical competition.
Australia has been an enthusiastic participant in the United States' Indo-Pacific strategy that aims to contain China's development and maintain the US' global hegemony, and Canberra's unwarranted scaremongering is just the latest political farce it has staged in an attempt to discredit China's engagement with countries in the region.
Canberra has single-handedly put a brake on the previously robust relations with China, its largest trading partner over the past few years. Given this year is an election year in Australia, Morrison may feel the need to continue to adopt a tough stance toward China so as to pander to some like-minded Australians and salvage his declining popularity.
But his paranoid response to China's proposed deal with the Solomon Islands along with his refusal to meet China's new ambassador to Australia, saying it would have been "a sign of weakness", only expose his arrogance and political naivete.
Continuing to push the troubled bilateral ties further on a downward path will contribute little to bolstering his public image as a politician that can serve Australia's interests by competently dealing with international affairs.