Empty hotel rooms, idle tour boats and shuttered travel agencies reveal widening fissures in the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, which is caught in an escalating diplomatic tug-of-war between China and Taiwan.
Late last year, China effectively banned tour groups to the idyllic tropical archipelago, branding it an illegal destination due to its lack of diplomatic status.
As China extends its influence across the Pacific, Palau is one of Taipei's 18 remaining allies worldwide and is under pressure to switch allegiances, officials and business people there say.
"There is an ongoing discussion about China weaponizing tourism," said Jeffrey Barabe, owner of Palau Central Hotel and Palau Carolines Resort in Koror. "Some believe that the dollars were allowed to flow in and now they are pulling it back to try and get Palau to establish ties diplomatically."
In the commercial center of Koror, the Chinese pullback is obvious. Hotel blocks and restaurants stand empty, travel agencies are boarded and boats which take tourists to Palau's green, mushroom shaped Rock Islands are docked at the piers.
Prior to the ban, Chinese tourists accounted for about half the visitors to Palau. Of the 122,000 visitors in 2017, 55,000 were from China and 9,000 from Taiwan, official data showed.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
China: Why are we doing business with Communists?
Chicoms always lie, Chicoms always double down, Chicoms always project. They killed 100 million Chinese people in the 20th Century, and they have not changed at all.
Ruining the livelihoods of a whole island full of people for diplomatic political points. This is how they roll.
Why are we still doing business with these assholes? They're not good people.