The United States and its allies can defeat China’s efforts to influence Pacific Island states by establishing stronger civil ties, combating Chinese disinformation campaigns, and providing them with humanitarian and disaster relief services, according to Mitre’s Sage Dragon wargame report.
The two-day Sage Dragon wargame was held in November 2022 to simulate a fight in the Pacific between U.S. and Australian forces, designated as the Blue Team, and China, designated as the Red Team.
Mitre said China may “establish a forward defense perimeter” by drawing a new island chain to hamper U.S. troop deployment and isolate and threaten Australia. During the simulation, the Blue Team discovered that China could gain support from Pacific Island countries by offering corrupt officials lavish expense accounts and trips to Shanghai and Macau, along with financial assistance to the countries.
The group of islands includes Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, among 11 other independent states, in addition to tens of thousands of islands, islets and atolls.
Mitre found that the nations are vulnerable to financial promises because of their economic status and to disinformation campaigns due to under-supported local news media ecosystems, resulting in overreliance on social media for information.
According to wargame players, a disinformation strategy could involve false reports of limited outcomes from talks with the United States and allies while highlighting tangible benefits from bilateral agreements with China.
The authors of the report suggest countering China’s tactics by improving messaging from Western allies, enabling near-real-time rebuttal and prioritizing projects that offer rapid material results. These include preparations for immediate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. According to the United Nations, the region’s small island developing states are among the world’s most disaster-prone countries.