China has been inching along the Pacific, one thousand yuan at a time. Since 2006, the communist state has been splashing cash around the region. According to the think tank Lowly Institute for International Policy, Chinese aid to Pacific island states including Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands and Vanuatu is estimated to have reached $1.7 billion as of 2017. FSM alone has received $40.6 million in largess, including a Caroline Islands Air’s $3-million Harbin Y-12 airplane.

In its most recent show of lavish, if suspicious, generosity, China doled out $200,000 to Yap for the construction the Yap Sports Complex in preparation for the 2018 Micro Games.

On the global scale, China is speculated to soon dislodge the United States as the primary donor for developing countries as President Donald Trump has called for major cuts in foreign aid under his America First policy. According to a report published by AidData, a research lab based at the College of William & Mary, China has forked out $354.3 billion from 2000 to 2014 — a figure closing in on the $394.6 billion spent by the U.S. over the same 15-year period.

Yet, there is suspicion of shadiness in China’s charity. “China's aid program is so opaque it is very difficult to understand exactly what it is doing,” Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Programme, wrote in an article published by The Interpreter. “China does not conform to the sophisticated reporting and accountability mechanisms that traditional western donors have developed over decades of aid delivery.”

In the Pacific region, it’s easy to be leery of China’s aid as a gambit to exploit the desperation of poor island states, where — absent full attention from Washington D.C. — building a clout can be facile.

As the attention that the U.S. gives to the Pacific islands region is outpaced by China’s growing influence, Australia gets more fidgety.

Australian Sen. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells accused China of “duchessing” Pacific island politicians, and buying their diplomatic support with “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere” in the region. Traditionally, China’s growing presence in the region has been a concern for Australia.