March 7, 2018: Overlooking the working port in Lautoka, Fiji. (Joe Benning /
Who Lost Fiji?

The headline in the New York Times is enough to give any patriotic American pause: “Why China Is Miles Ahead in a Pacific Race for Influence.” The article that follows is even more disturbing. “To many observers,” it reads, “the South Pacific today reveals what American decline looks like.”

The basis for this ominous judgment? A reporter’s visit to Suva, capital of Fiji, where senior Chinese diplomats are busily negotiating deals to enhance Beijing’s clout there and elsewhere in this “vital strategic arena.” The United States is clearly lagging “far behind, mistaking speeches for impact and interest for influence,” according to the Times, while the Chinese are “promising development, scholarships and training.” Whatever Washington might be doing to “step up its game,” it looks to be too little, too late.

In Suva itself, the evidence is striking. There China has recently opened a “hulking new embassy,” and is constructing a high-rise apartment tower, while “workers in neon vests bearing the name of a Chinese state-owned enterprise” repair local roads. “Beijing is fully entrenched, its power irrepressible,” the Times reports. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the region, apart from “signs for Coca-Cola” and deteriorating airfields built by U.S. forces during World War II, “the United States is missing in action.”

Now Fiji is a nation of fewer than a million citizens, putting it roughly on a par with Columbus, Ohio in terms of overall population. A former British colony, it achieved full independence only in 1987. Its economy heavily dependent upon tourism, Fiji’s principal export is spring water. Even here in Walpole, Massachusetts, where I live, Fiji Water appears to be quite popular. Yet describing the source of that water as strategically significant qualifies as a bit of a stretch.

Read the full article in The American Conservative.

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