Nauru and Tuvalu have one major thing in common—they both recognize the government in Taipei instead of Beijing. As Taiwan loses diplomatic allies around the world one by one (with only one remaining in Africa), it still counts six friends in the Pacific. Taiwan also led a delegation to the gathering, and announced the creation of a $2 million medical fund available to all members of the PIF.

In recent years, however, China has ramped up its investment in the region, increasingly competing against not just Taiwan but also regional superpower Australia in terms of influence—although Australia remains the biggest aid donor to the Pacific by a long way, according to data compiled by the Sydney-based think tank Lowy Institute. China’s influence, however, typically takes the form of investment in large infrastructure projects, such as a cruise-ship wharf in Tonga and schools in Fiji. Australia recently pushed back against China in the Pacific by agreeing to build a 4,000-km (2,500-mile) underwater internet link to the Solomon Islands, a project originally slated for Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison’s absence from the PIF, however, has raised questions over his new administration’s commitment to the region.

China’s foreign ministry also said that Nauru should recognize only one China rather than “one China, one Taiwan,” and that the island nation should “have a clear grasp of the overarching trend, correct its mistakes and stop working against the trend of the times.” If Beijing succeeds in turning Nauru, it wouldn’t be the first time—the country broke ties with Taiwan in 2002 for Beijing, only to return to Taiwan’s fold in 2005.

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