Lying, obfuscation and diversion are all part of well-established Chinese strategy to confuse or misdirect putative enemies and gullible others as to its real intentions. What Chinese diplomats are saying about the development at Ihu clearly fits this category
ADELAIDE - I worked as a kiap in the Gulf Province (or District as it then was) for two years from mid-1969 to mid-1971.
It was a very impoverished region then as it is now.
For this reason, any major development project is likely to be welcomed by the local people.
However, no Chinese backed development comes without strings attached.
And port facilities built primarily for cargo vessels can be just as easily used by military vessels.
Being adjacent to Australia's northern border, Ihu occupies a strategically significant section of the Gulf of Papua.
So China’s activities in this area will be exercising the minds of Australia's defence establishment.
It will (correctly) regard any Chinese commercial initiative as necessarily being part of the long term strategic ambitions of China.
As the article points out, the China Harbour Engineering Company is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company, which is owned by the Chinese government and undertakes military construction.
Its construction activities on contested atolls in the South China Sea, which China has repeatedly and vociferously denied have any military significance, have caused it to be blacklisted by the US government.
Lying, obfuscation and diversion are all part of well-established Chinese strategy to confuse or misdirect putative enemies and gullible others as to its real intentions.
What Chinese diplomats are saying about the development at Ihu clearly fits this category.
In a similar way, the Russians successfully deceived and misdirected most of the rest of the world about its intentions towards Ukraine, persistently maintaining it was not planning to invade that country until the moment it actually did so.
So successful was this strategy that, though the US Central Intelligence Agency and British intelligence services repeatedly warned European leaders about what was to happen, most of them refused to believe what they were told.
They thought, wrongly, that Vladimir Putin was a 'rational actor' who would not embark upon such a risky and costly endeavour.
Thus when trying to interpret the intentions of the world's authoritarian powers it is important to understand the nature and intent of their strategic lying.
This is part of what military planners call 'non-kinetic warfare' which these powers have been using for some years. This includes cyber warfare, economic warfare and the use of bribery to subvert and exert control over susceptible political leaders.
This is why Australia has viewed the developments in the Solomons with such concern.
Deals done with China, especially if accompanied by politicians acquiring sudden and unexplained wealth, will almost certainly be part of non-kinetic warfare strategy.
While I would hope that the proposed Ihu development will benefit the people of the Gulf, my fear is that they will come to rue the day that the Chinese government effectively took over control of a significant part of their land.