China’s shadow looms as New Caledonia decides whether to leave France – by Joshua Mcdonald (South China Morning Post – September 2020)

https://www.scmp.com/

The Pacific island of New Caledonia, home to 270,000 people, is slated to hold its second referendum on independence from France this weekend, amid bids for self-government in a region that has become a focus of geopolitical rivalry among the United States, China and Australia and has been late to the decolonisation process.

The former penal colony, which is reliant on Paris for about US$1.5 billion in funding annually, has an agreement with France for up to three referendums – each held two years apart – on the question of independence. In the first poll in 2018, close to 57 per cent of voters chose to stay with France.

New Caledonia gets most of the rest of its funding from the sale of nickel deposits to China, which is one of its strongest trading partners. In 2018, New Caledonia’s exports to China totalled US$1.06 billion, more than its combined exports to all other countries.

The overseas territory also has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the Pacific region, at around US$38,270 in 2018.

The cost of cutting ties with France would likely hit hard. Anti-independence leaders have used the economic aspect to sway voters, claiming that New Caledonia would become a “Chinese colony” if it gained independence.

For the rest of this article: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3103562/chinas-shadow-looms-new-caledonia-decides-whether-leave-france

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