Local Chinese business growth in Tonga raising concern

By Maiki Sherman

In Tonga, and in fact most other islands in the Pacific, the employment sector is limited, meaning many people struggle to find work. 

It's a situation under more pressure according to locals here, particularly for retail business, due to the growing Chinese presence.   

It's clear to see China has a strong presence in Tonga.

There are around 3000 businesses there, and more than half are owned by the Chinese, a situation causing resentment amongst locals.

Pauline Siasau has spent nine years analysing the business sector in Tonga. 

In past years, riots have broken out in Tonga with many Chinese stores being burnt down, a sign some say relates to the anger towards Chinese reaping business benefits.    

It's a complaint looked into by the Tongan government, however, it's a difficult political issue given the amount of aid given by China to Tonga.

As a way of combating this problem, the Tongan government has introduced business exclusivity to Tongan residence in the sectors of tourism and agriculture as well as staple foods such as butter and sugar.     

It may be an example for other islands as the face of the Pacific continues to change.