On 14 January, Nauru re-established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) ending nearly 20 years of links with Taiwan. The news came as a surprise to some, especially since former Nauru President Russ Joseph Kun visited Taipei with great fanfare in October 2023. Nevertheless, Nauru’s switch to Beijing was certainly welcome to Chinese companies one of whom, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), has been working in Nauru on a port development project since May 2023.
Much has been written about the geostrategic implications of Nauru’s decision regarding the US-China competition for influence in Oceania; however, the focus on state intent has left a number of important actors, not least Nauruans, on the sidelines. Chinese companies, who have wide-ranging interests and an influential presence in Oceania, are also often overlooked in regional analyses and the Nauru switch proved no different.
Our November 2023 article, Mapping PRC Companies in the Pacific, places Chinese companies centre stage in the changing political and economic landscape of Oceania. We compiled data from publicly available sources, including local media reports, company reports, state records, and the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map. In addition, we discussed the grounded impacts of Chinese companies on Solomon Islands and Fiji to spotlight their role as profit-driven enterprises, and diplomatic actors.