Here’s a telling tidbit for those who bewail America’s declining influence in the world: Samoa is skipping Friday to get closer to China.
At midnight on Thursday, the Pacific island nation is doing the exact opposite of what it did in 1892, when it switched to the East of the international dateline and celebrated July 4 twice in order to fall more closely in line with Californian clocks. At the time, that made trading sense.
Today, though, “we do a lot more business with New Zealand and Australia, China, and Pacific Rim countries,” said Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi earlier this year, announcing the change.
So Samoans, who currently live 20 miles east of the dateline, will go to sleep on Thursday night, skip Friday, and wake up on Saturday morning on the Asian side of the imaginary line. (American Samoa will stay where it is, timewise.)
The 24 hour leap into the future will make trade with East Asia “far, far easier,” Mr. Tuilaepa said.
“They will lose the date of December 30th 2011 forever, but they will gain a lot of great business opportunities,” argued an article in Thursday’s edition of the ruling Chinese Communist party’s official organ, the People’s Daily.
“The strategic guideline behind this change means that China’s influence in the southern Asia Pacific area is rising,” suggested an accompanying commentary.
China’s trade with Samoa leaped from 13 million dollars in 2006 to 70 million dollars in 2010.
China has been on friendly terms with Samoa since the island became one of the first in the region to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1975, although it opened an embassy in Beijing only in 2009. Last month the Chinese ambassador opened a shiny new Beijing-financed government building in the Samoan capital, Apia, the latest in a series of such projects.