Publicly, Australia’s Pacific Step-up aims to win friends and influence people. Behind this facade however, a core purpose is to make sure the Pacific Islands don’t embrace China, just as Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has done.

This clear failure may suggest abandoning the Step-up, but its troubles could be in its design and implementation, rather than its strategic logic. The way that countries pursue different strategies to achieve their desired aims needs to be understood. Increasing spending alone is not enough. Australian foreign aid spending needs to be focused strategically where it can be most effective in achieving Australia’s national objectives.

Australia’s Pacific Step-up objective is the relationship itself – not, say, some tangible outcome like a military base or trade improvement. Prime Minister Scott Morrison sees this as “a relationship for its own sake”. He declares that this enhanced relationship will “grow … our standing and influence in the Pacific”. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website emphasises in bold font that: “How we engage is just as important as what we do.”

Please click here to read the full “Fixing Australia’s failing Pacific Step-up strategy” article published at The Interpreter, written by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow, Dr Peter Layton.