The three dozen men and women sitting under huge Poinciana trees listen intently to Joyce Konofilia. A candidate in last week's general election in the Solomon Islands, she was campaigning in a squalid settlement on a hillside above the capital city of Honiara where few residents have access to electricity and even fewer have jobs.

But when Ms Konofilia, an Australia-educated tourism consultant, had finished her stump speech, the first question from her audience was about foreign policy. A local elder rose and asked: "Do you support switching diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China?"

The Solomons, an archipelago of 630,000

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