Divided Isles

Solomon Islands and the China Switch

By Edward Acton Cavanough

Divided Isles
Hardcover -
  • Price: £20.00
  • ISBN: 9781526178350
  • Publish Date: Apr 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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  • Price: £20.00
  • ISBN: 9781526178343
  • Publish Date: Apr 2024
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: Hardcover
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-7835-0
    • Pages: 304
    • Price: £20.00
    • Published Date: April 2024


    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 security experts, who feared Australia's historical Pacific advantage would come unstuck.

    This development was 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' strategic importance, most outsiders know little about the country, a fragile island-nation stretching over a thousand islands and speaking seventy indigenous languages.

    In Divided Isles, Edward Cavanough explains how the switch played out on the ground and considers 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.


    'Divided Isles is well balanced and multifaceted, providing an urgently needed counterbalance to the hawkish or complacent commentaries that skirt or reduce domestic complexities.'
    Kurt Johnson, The Saturday Paper

    '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

    'The geopolitics of China's rise is usually told from the perspective of Beijing and Washington. Divided Isles gives us a view from the periphery, revealing the complex domestic politics that animated Solomon Islands' 2019 "Switch" from recognising Taiwan to recognising China. With a journalist's nose for a good story, Cavanough's narrative is both lively and informative.'
    Peter Gries, Lee Kai Hung Chair and Director, Manchester China Institute

    'An insightful investigation of a dynamic series of events with profound domestic and regional implications. Absolutely a must-read for observers of the new Pacific geopolitics.'
    Terence Wesley-Smith, Professor Emeritus, Center for Pacific Island Studies


    Part I: Island universe
    1 'Afuera!'
    2 Jungle road
    Part II: Restive state
    3 Running aground
    4 Manasseh of East Choiseul
    5 Massina men
    Part III: The switch
    6 Devil's night
    7 Escape from Adeliua
    9 The games
    9 Rivers of gold
    Part IV: Rebellion
    10 'No need China!'
    11 Wuhan window
    12 Honiara burning
    Part V: Twisted iron
    13 Seeking protection
    14 Red line
    15 Arc of anxiety
    Part VI: Where the north road ends
    16 Henderson concession
    17 East to Fataleka
    18 Mustafa rising
    19 Making a martyr
    Epilogue: Ifutalo's Eden


    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.

    Divided Isles

    By Edward Acton Cavanough

    Hardcover £20.00 / $29.95

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