If Wong was hoping to go through the evening without mentioning the C-word, those hopes were dashed by opening questions from the Fijian media.

Wong was asked how Australia would go about countering Chinese influence in the Pacific, and how it could “discourage” Pacific nations from joining Beijing.

The Foreign Secretary worked carefully to strike a restrained tone – but gave little on the specifics.

“I don’t approach the discussion of China and China’s activities by looking at the Pacific as if it’s abstracted from Australia,” she said.

“I look at this and think about what we need to do to work together, to ensure that regional security is encouraged and supported by the region.”

She said Australia would continue – as it acknowledged the previous coalition government – ​​to invest in the region.

“At the end of the day, Pacific island nations will make their choices about what agreements, what partnerships they engage in,” Wong said.

“What we are urging, as Australia, is to look at where a nation might be in three, five or 10 years.”

Regarding China’s criticism of Australia’s climate change policy, Wong said it was true that Australia was exporting “a lot” of coal to China.

But she said the global economy was going through a clean energy transition, and so was Australia.

“I hope you ask the (Chinese) foreign minister as many questions as you ask me,” she said, prompting a roar of laughter.