Can you blame poor countries like mine for turning to China?

We don’t blame anyone for these problems, but as they point fingers at China and chide our leader, we’d like to ask Western leaders: Where have you been?

To be fair, Australia, New Zealand and the United States have provided much-needed assistance over the decades, and the U.S. Peace Corps arrived in 1971. But those volunteers were pulled out 22 years ago during a period of violent political unrest. U.S. aid to the Solomon Islands, already dwarfed by Australia’s, flatlined in the 2010s. My work as a journalist has taken me across these islands, and I’ve seen little remaining legacy of Peace Corps works, or U.S. help in general. Few Solomon Islanders know much about our past bonds with the West — nearly 75 percent of our population is under age 35, and most are poorly educated.

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Among the few regular reminders of the West comes when an unexploded American or Japanese World War II bomb blows up, killing or maiming villagers. I lost a cousin last year, a promising young university graduate killed at a barbecue with friends. This unseen threat also inhibits economic progress due to the risk of developing land containing 80-year-old explosives just waiting to detonate.

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