China takes over former Radio Australia short-wave frequencies in the Pacific – report

port olry beach-vanuatuChina has continued its soft-power initiatives in the Pacific region by taking over a number of frequencies formerly reserved for Radio Australia.

A June 21 report in The Australian says after the ABC discontinued its short-wave services in 2017 due to limited audiences and new technologies, the Chinese government has picked up at least 10 of the frequencies to broadcast China Radio International programs.

The United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is responsible for allocating global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, and for developing the associated technical standards.

CommentIt has been reported in recent years that China’s massive investments in the Pacific and in Africa have been leveraged in part for those nations to vote in China’s favour when the ITU sits to allocate radio frequencies. 

While China is by no means alone is using such leverage, its soft-power initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region should be of considerable concern as the strategic geographical and geopolitical buffer Australia has enjoyed to our north shrinks ever closer to our shores.

This is also of concern to many of Australia’s regional allies. The Australian’s report quoted a submission to an Australian parliamentary inquiry by Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, in which he questioned the withdrawal of Radio Australia’s services.

“Vanuatu values its close association with Australia at so many levels yet this strange decision by the ABC to end short-wave services to our region seems at odds with the recently strongly stated goals of the Australian government,” he wrote.

The electro-magnetic spectrum is becoming increasingly congested and contested by both commercial and military agencies in recent years, and this adds significant complexity to operations in Australia’s broader region.