In this article we review Sheng and Smith’s (2021) chapter, The Shifting Fate of China’s Pacific Diaspora in the edited book The China Alternative: Changing Regional Order in the Pacific Islands. Roxane de Waegh engages with Sheng and Smith’s (2021) material on the founding of a Chinese diaspora in the Pacific in the colonial period through to the independence period. She, like the authors, argues that through competition and gaps in authority in colonial administration of Pacific colonies, Chinese settlers were able to carve out successful trading livelihoods in the region. Lucas Watt assess the degree of migrational continuity of the Chinese diaspora in the Pacific. He argues while there is certainly an under-appreciated migrational continuity of Chinese migration in the Pacific, it is nonetheless a loose continuity. In this review he explores the geopolitical implications of the the perceived and real migrational continuity of Chinese in the Pacific.
Maclellan’s (2021) chapter, Stable Democratic and Western: China and French Colonialism in the Pacific, is part of Smith & Wesley-Smith (2021) edited book The China Alternative: Changing Regional Order in the Pacific Islands. The edited book as a whole brings together a collection of scholars who analyze China’s growing involvement in the Pacific. The edited book is a welcome addition as it approaches the topic in a measured way that contrasts to prior literature that is often hyperbolic and hysterical about Chinese influence. Maclellan’s (2021) chapter is particularly refined in the sense that it analyses Chinese interest in the region in a context of the continued French colonial legacy in the Pacific. This colonial legacy invariably affects how Chinese interest and ambition in the region is pursued in the region. It also affects how Chinese interest is responded to by France, other western states, and Pacific states. Overall, Maclellan (2021) paints a obstructionist and self-interested Francophone picture which Chinese and Pacific Island non-state actors navigate to progress local interests. It puts the notion of a “stable, democratic and western” Pacific into a more critical perspective.