NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (AP) — The days unfold at a leisurely pace in Tonga, a South Pacific archipelago with no traffic lights or fast-food chains.
Yet even in this far-flung island kingdom there are signs a battle for power and influence is escalating among much larger nations — and Tonga may pay the price.
In the capital, Nuku'alofa, government officials work in a shiny new office block — an $11 million gift from China rivaled in grandeur only by China's imposing new embassy complex. Bureaucrats take all-expenses-paid training trips to Beijing each year.
China also offered low-interest loans after pro-democracy rioters destroyed much of downtown Nuku'alofa in 2006; those loans could prove Tonga's undoing. The country of 106,000 people owes some $108 million to China's Export-Import bank, equivalent to about 25% of GDP.