In a swift response to Nauru’s recent decision to sever ties with Taiwan and establish diplomatic relations with China, state-controlled media outlets from China are racing to establish a strong presence in the tiny Pacific Islands nation. The move comes as part of China’s ongoing efforts to assert its influence in the region and gain international recognition, particularly at the expense of Taiwan.
The first journalist from China’s official news agency, Xinhua, arrived in Nauru on Wednesday, marking a historic moment as the nation transitions its allegiance from Taiwan to China. This development follows Nauru’s announcement that it would no longer recognize Taiwan as a separate country and instead acknowledges the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government representing the entire Chinese territory.
China’s state television, CCTV, has been particularly proactive in this media push, filing its inaugural report from Nauru on the same day as the diplomatic shift. The report, with the Nauru presidential office in the background, conveyed the island nation’s decision to sever “so-called diplomatic relations” with Taiwan and formally recognize the government of the People’s Republic of China.
Surprisingly, the CCTV reporter was already present in Nauru even before the official switch in diplomatic ties. The reporter, identified as a Communist Party representative of a Chinese harbor engineering company involved in a local project, arrived in May 2023, signaling a proactive approach to establish a media foothold in the strategically located island nation.
State-owned Beijing Daily reported on the early presence of the CCTV reporter and highlighted China’s keen interest in fostering a media presence in Nauru. The report emphasized the reporter’s affiliation with a Chinese company engaged in a local project, suggesting a multifaceted strategy to solidify China’s influence beyond the diplomatic realm.
Xinhua, in its report filed from Nauru’s capital, Yaren, on Wednesday, revealed that it had promptly hired a correspondent and established a reporting office on the very day diplomatic ties underwent a significant shift. This rapid deployment of media personnel underscores China’s determination to control the narrative and shape public opinion in Nauru amid the geopolitical transition.
The timing of Nauru’s diplomatic realignment has raised eyebrows in Taiwan, with officials expressing surprise at the suddenness of the decision. Taiwan’s government noted that China strategically chose the post-presidential election period to target Nauru, capitalizing on a moment when international attention was focused on congratulatory messages to Taiwan for the smooth electoral process.
Since the diplomatic shift, Taiwanese media have covered various aspects of Nauru, including health concerns such as high obesity rates and its role in housing refugees for Australia. Taiwanese internet users, expressing discontent with Nauru’s decision, flooded the Nauru government’s Facebook page with angry messages. In response, the Nauru government limited comments on its official Facebook page and issued a warning against online abuse, threatening potential criminal sanctions.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning asserted that the resumption of ties with Nauru would “bring unprecedented development opportunities to Nauru,” signaling China’s commitment to leveraging diplomatic alliances for economic and strategic gains in the Pacific region.
This race to establish a media presence in Nauru by Chinese state media outlets precedes any official announcement of the arrival of Chinese diplomats in the nation. The proactive approach underscores China’s strategic intent to shape public perception and consolidate influence in the wake of Nauru’s geopolitical shift. As the situation unfolds, the global community will closely monitor China’s growing presence in the Pacific and its implications for regional dynamics.