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International relations

US and China leave Biden 'high stakes' inheritance in South Pacific

Washington lined up new ships as Beijing closed in on port before Election Day

A port in the Samoan capital of Apia: China is poised to help the island country redevelop another, well-located but disused port.   © Reuters

APIA, Samoa -- The week before Americans voted President Donald Trump out of the White House, a confluence of events thousands of kilometers away was shaping his successor's foreign policy challenges.

The South Pacific has seen an overheating soft power race in the past five years, with aid receipts among island states rising 25% in 2018 alone to reach $2.89 billion, a study released last month by Australia's Lowy Institute think tank showed. But as the election neared, the U.S. made a modest but clear hard power play aimed at China -- and met an instant rejoinder.

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