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Divided Isles: Solomon Islands and the China Switch

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In partnership with Manchester University Press

In 2019, Solomon Islands made international headlines when the country severed its decades-old alliance with Taiwan in exchange for a partnership with Beijing. The decision prompted international condemnation and terrified Australian security experts, who feared Australia's historical Pacific advantage would come unstuck.

This development is often framed as another example of China's inevitable capture of the region - but this misrepresents how and why the decision was made, and how Solomon Islanders have skilfully leveraged global angst over China to achieve extraordinary gains. Despite Solomon Islands' importance to Australia, local readers know little about the country, a fragile island-nation stretching over a thousand islands and speaking 70 indigenous languages.

In Divided Isles, Edward Cavanough explains how the switch played out on the ground and its extraordinary potential consequences. He speaks with the dissidents and politicians who shape Solomon Islands' politics, and to the ordinary people whose lives have been upended by a decision that has changed the country - and the region - forever. Join Edward to discuss this interesting issue.

'A lucid, well written and detailed examination of a neglected part of contemporary China's diplomacy. Based on first-hand experience, Acton Cavanough's book brings to light the upside, and the downside, of how the smallest states engage with China, and how, far from being a one-way street, this all too often ends up more like a tussle where neither side quite gets what they want.' - Kerry Brown, author of Xi: A Study in Power.

Edward Acton Cavanough is a journalist, researcher and policy analyst based in Adelaide. He has reported from Afghanistan, China, Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

His writing has appeared in The Saturday Paper, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, The Nation, The South China Morning Post and The Australian.

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