Under new leadership, the island nation of Samoa is treading more cautiously as China and the U.S. look to secure power in the Pacific waters.
On Friday its newest prime minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa reversed a promise the old government made to build a new port on China’s dime - to the tune of USD$100 million.
Mata’afa called the project ‘excessive’, for a nation already heavily indebted to Beijing.
She indicated she would only approve investments that had clear benefits for Samoa.
“There seems to be a renewed interest in the Pacific, which may be a good thing, but not necessarily.”
"We do have a very broad scope of partners for development. China just takes the forefront because of the nature of the work that's being funded through China. So there's, you know, there's a lot of infrastructure, mostly building infrastructure which other donors don't do. There seems to be a big drive now in terms of ports - airports and seaports."
“So for us it's a matter of prioritising, having a review and then engaging us and where we could work most successfully with each partner."
Though this stretch of the Pacific has been largely uncontested since World War Two, the country of 200, 000 people has found itself exposed to a geopolitical tug-of-war between Washington and its allies and a more assertive Beijing.
But China remains Samoa’s single-largest creditor.
Its debts to Beijing worth $160 million account for 40% of its external debts.
Mata’afa however has said her government will assess its relationship with China in the same way it evaluates all of its bilateral relations.