The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) chairman told a public hearing on February 16th that public broadcasters in Pacific island countries are under pressure from Beijing to run content created by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as China and Western democracies compete for influence in the region.

In an Australian Senate hearing, ABC managing director David Anderson mentioned Pacific island broadcasters.

“The single biggest piece of information that comes back from them is concern over the pressure that the Chinese government put on them to carry content, to broadcast through the Pacific.”

Bloomberg reported on February 16th that ABC is requesting an additional A$12 million ($8.6 million) from the Australian government to expand the country’s news coverage and presence in the Pacific area.

Also, Anderson stated that the ABC would like to collaborate in the Pacific region with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 

He added that the additional funding would be essential to help push what “was once-called soft diplomacy.”

Over the last few years, Australia and China have been fighting for regional influence, notably through economic aid and infrastructure financing.

Pacific island nations are crucial allies for Beijing as it strives to build its worldwide diplomatic network, including its UN support base. At the same time, Australia has long-standing ties to the region.

China and Australia aren’t the only countries interested in the Pacific. After a journey to Melbourne for a conference of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” members: the United States, India, Australia, and Japan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a stopover in the region.

Blinken stated that Washington would open an embassy in the Solomon Islands for the first time.

In October of last year, the CCP held its first foreign ministers’ meeting with Pacific island nations, including Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that “all countries, regardless of their size, strength and wealth, are equal.”

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