Once considered the strategic domain of the United States and before that of Europe, the South Pacific is falling under the spell of China. As the US and its allies have gradually scaled back their involvement in the region since the early 1990s – closing embassies and reducing aid – China has steadily been moving in. Beijing now has nine diplomatic posts in the South Pacific. (including a caretaking group in Kiribati), more in the region than any other country.
In December, Politburo member Luo Gan and his delegation made a two-day stopover in Tahiti while en route to South America. The visit came a day after the official announcement that China would open a consulate general and cultural center in Tahiti’s capital Papeete this year. Concurrently, Beijing conferred Approved Destination Status (ADS) enabling Chinese tourists to visit French Polynesia. These moves are symbolic of China’s efforts to increase its presence in the South Pacific.