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The CNMI can't rely on a single market; local economy needs cushion

By Glen Hunter

Saipan--I have seen a few reactions to my previous opinion piece. I must address some misinformation and clarify my stance on tourism and economic diversification in the CNMI.

Since Gov. Arnold Palacios took office in 2023, he has not enacted any laws or regulations that prevent tourists from China from visiting the CNMI legally. The accusations that the governor is against Chinese tourism or that he has actively stopped Chinese tourists from coming to our islands are false and misleading. These claims detract from the real issues and create unnecessary division within our community.

The governor has welcomed Chinese tourists to the CNMI, provided they come through legal channels. His administration advocates for a balanced approach that avoids over-reliance on any single tourism market. This strategy is not about rejecting Chinese tourists but ensuring our economy is resilient and diversified enough to withstand external shocks.

The Covid-19 pandemic and current geopolitical factors have starkly illustrated how vulnerable our tourism industry can be to external factors beyond our control. It is only prudent to learn from these experiences and make strategic adjustments to ensure our economy's long-term stability and resilience.

The governor focuses on diversifying our tourist market and developing new industries that are not dependent on tourism. This includes making necessary infrastructure upgrades and encouraging hotel and business groups to refine and enhance their offerings.


It is essential to allocate our limited resources wisely to avoid repeating past mistakes. By doing so, we can hedge against potential geopolitical risks that could again disrupt the China market.

The "China or Bust" mentality is not sustainable for the future of the CNMI and is extremely detrimental to our recovery. We must recognize that some local groups and individuals, influenced by decades of interaction with the PRC, may find this pivot uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it is sound business sense to adapt and seek more stable and diverse sources of economic growth.

We are all aware that the cessation of Chinese tourists visiting the CNMI occurred under the previous administration. Blaming the current administration for this issue is both unfair and inaccurate. The governor's goal is to build a robust and resilient economy capable of withstanding external shocks, rather than being overly dependent on any single market.

The administration is committed to welcoming tourists from China while also pursuing a diversified and sustainable economic strategy. The focus on infrastructure improvements and product refinement aims to benefit all residents and businesses in the CNMI, ensuring a prosperous future that is less vulnerable to external disruptions.

Whether they realize it or not, groups like HANMI and the Chamber appear more focused on attempting to push pro-China messaging from our government than on finding sustainable solutions to our economic challenges.

This aligns with the broader strategies I discussed in my initial piece, where certain local influencers are co-opted into single-mindedly promoting the China solutions without critically assessing their long-term impact on our community.

It appears that not only are these individuals and groups solely focused on promoting the “China as the only solution” narrative but they may even be actively harming any other possible economic recovery solution. That is incredibly hard to watch. They will not champion or advocate any non-China-focused effort and will undermine and vilify those attempting to secure new markets or stand up new industries.

Their underlying premise is not the betterment of the CNMI but the pro-China propaganda that they have been given marching orders to produce at all costs. The stakes in the region are high and sadly the true motivation for those willing to sacrifice our economic recovery is much larger than our little community. 

The administration's approach, on the other hand, is rooted in a clear understanding of the challenges we face and a commitment to making strategic decisions that will ensure the long-term prosperity of the CNMI. These efforts are geared toward creating a balanced, diversified economy that can withstand future uncertainties. All stakeholders need to come together in support of these efforts rather than perpetuating misconceptions that only serve to divide our community.

By embracing a more balanced and diversified economic strategy, we can ensure a more stable and prosperous future for all residents of the CNMI.

Let us work together to build an economy that is resilient, inclusive, and capable of withstanding whatever challenges may come our way.

Glen Hunter is the CNMI governor's special assistant for Broadband Policy & Development. This op-ed is a personal opinion. Send feedback to

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