Watch the Video: China, the United States and the Pacific Island Countries

On August 4, the Jamestown Foundation held a webinar  on “China, the United States and the Pacific Island Countries.”  

This spring, Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited eight Pacific Island countries, a diplomatic tour that highlighted China’s growing influence in the region. Through the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has emerged as a significant infrastructure development funder in the Pacific. China is also an increasingly consequential regional security actor, recently signing an agreement with the Solomon Islands including provisions for security assistance, and potentially paramilitary or military deployments. Finally, the Pacific Island countries remain central to the diplomatic contest between Beijing and Taipei, with the Solomon Islands and Kiribati¬ switching recognition from Taiwan to China in late 2019. In response to China’s deepening engagement with the Pacific Island countries, the U.S and its allies, particularly Australia and New Zealand, have sought to re-engage with the region. In April, U.S. National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell led a high-level delegation that visited Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. In May, Fiji agreed to join the U.S. Indo-Pacific Economic Framework as an inaugural member. Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris virtually addressed the Pacific Islands Forum.


C. Steven McGann 
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republics of Fiji, Nauru, Kiribati, and the Kingdom of Tonga and Tuvalu; Founder, The Stevenson Group
Cleo Paskal
Non-resident Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies


John S. Van Oudenaren
Editor-in-Chief, China Brief; China Program Manager, The Jamestown Foundation

Speaker Biographies 

C. Steven McGann is founder of The Stevenson Group, an international consulting firm specializing in providing strategic counsel to companies seeking to expand their operations into the defense/security sector in the United States, Asia-Pacific, and Africa; and an affiliate at the Center for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Studies, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University. As a former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister-Counselor, Ambassador McGann held several influential positions in the United States and overseas. He was the Ambassador to the Republics of Fiji, Nauru, Kiribati, and the Kingdom of Tonga and Tuvalu (2008-11), and Charge d’Affaires (ad interim) of the U.S. Embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste (2014). His other senior assignments included serving as Senior Advisor for North Korean Human Rights and Refugees; and as Maritime Security Coordinator EAP Bureau. He was also the Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Adviser of the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University.  Ambassador McGann is also a member of the Board of Trustees at Claremont McKenna College in California.

Cleo Paskal is a non-resident senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) focusing on the Indo-Pacific region. Previously, she was an Associate Fellow in the Asia-Pacific Program at Chatham House. Her books include the award-winning Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map and the best-selling Spielball Erde. Recent academic book chapters and research papers include: “Is New Zealand Creating Global Disruptions” (The Law of the Jungle: How Can New Zealand Navigate Global Disruptions); “India: The Challenge of Reform” (CÉRIUM); “The Modi Phenomenon: Rebooting Indian Foreign Policy” (The Modi Doctrine: New Paradigms in India’s Foreign Policy); and “The ‘Three Geos’”(Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific). In addition, Her writing has also appeared in The Diplomat, South China Morning Post, Australian Financial Review, New Zealand Herald, Times of India and numerous other publications. She is currently the North America Special Correspondent for the Sunday Guardian (India).