China’s resolve to strengthen relations with the island nations of the South Pacific was evident during State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent sweep through the region. On each stop of the 10-day tour to eight nations and in discussions with 10 leaders, the focus of talks was cooperation and support. There has perhaps never been so ambitious a trip by a senior diplomat to the area, proving the importance Beijing places in maintaining friendly ties with all countries, no matter how small. Such interaction is about equal partners, economic opportunities and working for the good of all. President Xi Jinping summed up Beijing’s attitude in a letter to a forum of foreign ministers Wang hosted, pledging that no matter what the circumstances, China would always be a good friend, brother and partner of Pacific island nations. On each stop, in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, ending in East Timor in the Indian Ocean, and in virtual talks with the leaders of the Cook Islands and Micronesia, support was promised and mutual respect expressed. These are not empty words; economic and developmental assistance agreements were signed, furthering Beijing’s dramatic scaling up of trade, investment, aid and infrastructure in the region since 2006. But the trip was viewed negatively by the United States, Australia and New Zealand, which see the South Pacific as their domain. A security pact sealed with the Solomons was of particular concern, being perceived as an attempt to establish a Chinese military foothold in the region, despite denials by Beijing and Honiara. China put the Pacific Islands on the geopolitical map. What comes next? A draft regional deal covering a wide range of issues from alleviating poverty and expanding bilateral trade to protecting the marine environment raised during the forum in Fiji sparked more Western consternation, even though endorsement was not attained. Nations mindful of US and China rivalry and relations with former colonial powers Australia and New Zealand are bound to be pragmatic when striking deals. Economic, diplomatic and strategic benefits were the basis of the tour. It took place as US President Joe Biden is pushing his rivalry with Beijing through stepped-up engagement with Asian and Latin American countries. Wang’s visit also spurred a flurry of activity by Australian and New Zealand officials. Such a response is less a sign of support than of neglect; for too long, they have done little to cooperate with the Pacific on major issues of concern, such as climate change, poverty alleviation and disaster relief. Sovereign states have every right to forge deals with one another. Beijing is doing nothing exceptional by wanting better South Pacific ties. That its strategy is based on cooperation and mutual benefit is to be lauded.