China has pledged to step up cooperation over policing with the Solomon Islands after a team of Chinese advisers began work in the Pacific island nation following serious unrest late last year . Last December Beijing announced it would send advisers and equipment for riot police following anti-government protests in which Chinese businesses were targeted and hundreds of people left homeless. Li Ming, the Chinese ambassador, met the advisers on February 18 and said their role would “become a new highlight in the development of relations between China and the Solomon Islands”. The embassy would work with the team to train and support the local police and deepen the relationship between the two forces, Li added. Zhang Guangbao, the leader of the police advisers, said his group would help local officers improve their emergency response levels, help investigate China-related cases and provide safety training for Chinese citizens in the country. The embassy recently warned its citizens in the country to stay alert after a Chinese store was looted in the capital Honiara. China’s nominee wins Interpol seat despite concerns of human rights groups The unrest started in November when Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was accused of using Chinese money from a national development fund to sway the votes of members of parliament . The turmoil prompted other countries in the region, including Australia and New Zealand, to send in security forces to help quell the unrest. China and the Solomon Islands established official bilateral relations when the latter switched allegiance to Beijing from Taipei in September 2019, months after Sogavare returned to power. The Australian broadcaster ABC has reported that some unnamed diplomatic officials have expressed concern that the Chinese police deployment could eventually pave the way for closer cooperation. Earlier this month the United States moved to strengthen relations with the islands by announcing plans to open an embassy there. China has been stepping up the cooperation between police forces in a number of Pacific island states, sending at least four teams to Fiji in the past decade to help solve transnational crimes and protect the interests of Chinese citizens in the country. Chinese police have also been working with their counterparts in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, providing advice and equipment. “There is every reason for Solomon Islands and China to conduct police cooperation,” the ambassador said in an embassy statement. “It is beneficial to all countries in the Pacific Islands region.” Chen Hong, a professor of Australian studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, said the US and Australia should not read too much into the arrival of the police team because it was largely a response to the unrest last year, which had affected a large number of Chinese citizens in the country. China’s ex-Interpol president Meng Hongwei jailed for 13½ years for corruption Chen said the US regarded the Solomon Islands as an arena for confrontation with China while China was open to cooperation with other countries in the region. “China’s police there do not carry a geopolitical meaning, and should not be interpreted as political interference and engagement,” Chen said. Mei Jianming, a professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said China’s moves to step up its cooperation with police forces in other countries was a relatively recent trend prompted by increasing concerns about transnational crime and the need to protect China’s interests overseas. Previously this cooperation had taken the form of inviting police to China for training and through police liaison officers overseas. “The advisers are a relatively new trend which shows China attaches great importance to the interests of overseas Chinese and maintaining world peace as a major power,” Mei said.