Taiwan’s trade office in the Fijian capital probably did not expect a fight when it held a reception this month for a hundred or so distinguished guests at the venerable Grand Pacific Hotel to celebrate the national day of the Republic of China (ROC), the de facto independent island off of mainland China’s coast.

According to the Taiwanese, two officials from the Chinese Embassy in Suva gate-crashed the event and became violent when they were asked to leave. The melee ended with one of the Taiwanese hosts being treated for a head injury at a nearby hospital.

China’s version of events claims that some of its diplomats had been in a “public area outside the function venue” carrying out unspecified “official duties” and accused Taiwanese officials of acting “provocatively” and causing “injuries and damage to one Chinese diplomat.”

Whoever started the fight and whatever actually happened shows how seriously China and Taiwan take the battle for South Pacific influence. For Taiwan, it’s superficially about diplomatic recognition and ocean access for its substantial fishing fleets, which operate in the central and western Pacific.