Micronesia stands up to a giant Chinese company

Yap is a small island in the Federated States of Micronesia, still ruled by a traditional council of chiefs. A new tourism development project pushed by a giant Chinese company would build as much as 10 000 room resort in the tiny island of 11 000 residents…

The story is well told by David Morris at TheDiplomat.com. Chinese company Exhibition and Travel Group approached the island with a tourism development project. First accounts talked of a complex of up to 10 000 keys… But this will not happen: the public outcry forced the promoters to talk down to project to a more reasonable size. The remarquable thing is that Yap actually badly needs this money: the country is menaced with losing half its wealth in just six years. In 2023, its Compact of Free Association with the United States comes to an end. With it goes the substantial subsidies that came from the US, who gave its independence to the small country of Micronesia in 1986…

So the foreign investments are a necessity, but the population will still not accept to change everything about their traditional ways just to gain a western version of material confort. As The Diplomat puts it: “It’s not so much fear of China, as it is concern about a potential threat to the islanders’ way of life. After all, China has had a remarkably peaceful rise so far compared with the great powers of the past, something well understood in the Pacific. But there is a well-founded fear of masses of tourists suddenly arriving in the absence of sufficient safeguards for the environment, as some believe happened in neighboring Palau.”

Best strategy: stay unique

Traditional costumes of Yap (don’t stare). Photo from the Yap Village View Hotel.

But there is a brillant solution to both concerns: “Yap could be a unique, rejuvenating eco-escape for adventurous visitors to enjoy some amazing diving sites, dine on private beaches, sail in a traditional canoe, hike on ancient paths and learn about the rich history of Yap and the surrounding islands.”

A good vibe already cultivated by the French Polynesian islands, where a new strategy is successfully applied, moving away from the traditional “luxury romantic getaway”. Tahiti even cancelled a similarly huge hotel complex project of 4 000 rooms, nicked Mahana Beach, fearing it would be too much for its population of 270 000. Instead it is creating a more authentic cultural experience around the concept “The Islands of Tahiti – Embraced with Mana“.

And Yap has a unique culture to share. It is, after all, the only place in the world to use giant stones as coins. Some of these coins can be seen in that traveler video :

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