CPA & Hinds go rogue on China tourism push; governor pivots to Korea, Japan, and U.S. military

Gov. Arnold Palacios reportedly is displeased with what appears to be a rogue push for a return to China-dominated tourism. Holdout Torres-era Commonwealth Ports Authority chairwoman Kimberly King-Hinds told the Saipan Tribune her agency welcomes news that Chinese companies are eager to resume tourism to the CNMI.

But the man in charge of the Commonwealth government itself – Gov. Arnold Palacios – has made it abundantly clear his administration is pivoting from anything China-centric. The governor, who is reluctant to continue the government’s penchant for get-rich-quick schemes, has told Kandit among his economic reforms is a turn away from the China market, and a turn to Korea and Japan.

In fact, the governor has explained this policy to the head of the U.S. military’s largest and most important geographic combatant commands, in a letter of assurance to its U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s Admiral John Aquilino.

The assurance is necessary, according to sources, because of the damage former Gov. Ralph Torres did to the Commonwealth’s relationship with the federal government. The former governor’s ties to suspicious Chinese investors and even to the Communist Party of China (as reported by Bloomberg) has shaken confidence in the CNMI, and is among the cornucopia of federal inquiries against Mr. Torres.

“As I’ve stated in my recent testimony to the members of the  U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, my administration is very much committed to U.S. national interests in our region and will do what we can to advance these interests as geopolitical tensions continue to heighten,” the governor wrote to Mr. Aquilino Wednesday. “Part of this commitment includes the CNMI’s pivot away from its reliance on the Chinese tourism market, which comprised more than 50 [percent] of our tourism base, or about 200,000 visitors (pre-pandemic).”

”We are now working to strengthen and further develop the tourism pipeline from American Allie’s including Japan and Korea, which of course will take time,” the governor continued in his letter to the admiral.

The Palacios pivot policy, and his written assurance to INDOPACOM’s commander is critical as the military builds up its assets in the Mariana Islands, and as China reportedly is consolidating its power and projecting aggression in this region. For Mr. Palacios, there is a compounding factor necessitating military support for the northern Marianas.

Mr. Palacios, managing an unprecedented fiscal crisis Mr. Torres left behind, needs cross-federal government support for everything from funding to reconciliation for funds misspent by his predecessor’s administration. The U.S. Department of Defense historically has been a powerful advocate for insular areas on the federal agency level.

”Because CNMI’s economic stability and sustainability is directly tied to the strategic posture and military might of the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific region, we are formally seeking your advocacy for additional funding support to stabilize our economy as you testify before the U.S. Congress about the DoD’s budget,” Mr. Palacios wrote to Mr. Aquilino. “Specifically, we request for your support in seeking direct aid to replace the economic loss that we have experienced as a result of the CNMI’s pivot away from China.”

That quid pro quo now is being threatened by the CPA’s breakaway from the Palacios pivot policy. The risk, according to sources, is that if the sabotage succeeds, the Commonwealth government will not get the support needed to pull the government and the economy from under the rubble of Torres’s destruction.

The irony is Ms. Hinds is a vestige of that Torres era and continues to use her power over a critical public agency to maintain failed economic policies. Her term ends in October. She has refused to resign in courtesy to the new governor.


  • If the Chinese tourists are no longer welcome, then who will rent the pink Mustangs?

    As Fredo Corleone asked, “Did you ever once think about that?”

  • Mabel Doge Luhan

      03/16/2023 at 6:24 PM

    There’s nothing the CNMI government can do to “pivot” to one group of tourists or another. Who comes here is decided by forces bigger than Jesus Taisague himself! What the new administration can do, and has done, is to stop hanging out a “for sale” sign. The Chinese “hotel developers” (really, investment scammers) will immediately lose interest.

    No matter what we do over here, China’s economy is in deep trouble, and they are even severely limiting their citizens’ ability to leave the country,. So yes, we will see many fewer tourists from China in the next years. But this has nothing to do with anyone “pivoting,” and it certainly has nothing to do with the MVA’s “work..”

    It reminds me of when back in Taos I scored a bargain on some closeout peyote, and for the next three days I thought I could control the weather!

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