Taiwan’s top representative to Australia has declared he’s “quite confident” that Tuvalu won’t follow Nauru’s lead and switch diplomatic recognition to China, despite Beijing’s attempts to “lure” politicians in the Pacific Island country.

China’s ruling party remains intent on diplomatically isolating Taiwan and has intensified efforts to convince the dozen countries which maintain official relations with Taipei to recognise the People’s Republic of China instead.

Tuvalu, which has a population of just 11,000, is one of three Pacific Island nations that retain ties with Taiwan rather than China.

There has been rampant speculation that Tuvalu could soon ditch Taiwan in the wake of recent elections in the Pacific nation, particularly after Nauru abruptly severed its relationship with Taipei last month.

But Taiwan’s chief representative to Australia, Douglas Hsu, told the ABC that Taipei still enjoys strong political support in Tuvalu.

“Out of the 16 newly elected members … with a majority, we have a very solid friendship with them,” he said.

“According to our analysis, we’re quite confident that bilateral relations will remain solid.”

Tuvalu held elections in January which saw incumbent Prime Minister Kausea Natano lose his seat in parliament.

But the newly elected MPs still haven’t met to decide on a new prime minister, partly because bad weather has prevented some legislators from the sprawling atoll nation making the long boat trip back to the capital Funafuti.

Officials and diplomats from China, Taiwan, Australia, the United States, New Zealand and other countries have all been trying to glean information about who is likely to win the position, and what it means for diplomatic ties with Taiwan, as well as Australia’s landmark Falepili Union with Tuvalu.

One of the possible frontrunners to take the top job, former finance minister Seve Paienu, has signalled he’s open to a switch, saying publicly that the new government should “review” ties with Taiwan.

But another possible candidate for the leadership, former prime minister Enele Sopoaga, has declared he has no interest in flipping diplomatic recognition.

“You can read my lips – I will not make any slightest change. There is no need to even look at that issue right now,” he told CNA Taiwan.

Taiwan’s ruling DPP party was shaken by Nauru’s sudden diplomatic switch, which came immediately after it won a landmark election of its own.

There’s also been media coverage in Taiwan since then focusing on whether Tuvalu might follow in its footsteps.

China has signalled that it will continue to press Pacific nations to cut ties with Taiwan, with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin telling reporters last month that the “big family of the international community committed to the One China principle will continue to expand”.

“We urge the handful of countries that still maintain so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan to follow the trend of the times and return to the international family that upholds the One China principle as soon as possible,” he said.

Mihai Sora from the Lowy Institute said China had been “very active” in its Pacific diplomacy with Taiwan since getting both Kiribati and Solomon Islands to cut ties with Taipei in 2019.

“I don’t think anything is a sure bet when it comes to diplomatic relations,” he said.

“As Taiwan’s diplomatic allies diminish in number, there is a degree of pressure on those countries which still recognise Taiwan to at least reconsider what is the best avenue for them.”

Some Taiwanese politicians and diplomats have also accused China of trying to bribe or pressure media and politicians in Tuvalu to throw their weight behind a switch.

Hsu said his government has accumulated plenty of “information” about China “trying all the ways to lure Tuvalu’s politicians, as well as media”.

“China is using all the ways to buy the media by agents on the ground to spread disinformation,” he said.

The U.S has repeatedly given public backing to Taiwan in its diplomatic arm wrestle with Beijing in the Pacific, and called Nauru’s decision to abandon Taipei last month “disappointing”.

But Australian politicians and officials have been scrupulously careful not to weigh into the contest, repeatedly saying that choices on diplomatic recognition are sovereign decisions for Pacific countries.

Sora said while Australia might prefer Taiwan to maintain a diplomatic stake in the Pacific, Canberra was hamstrung by the fact that it made the switch to recognise Beijing several decades ago.

“If you look at it from a purely strategic lens, having some supporters for Taiwan in the mix has been a very effective barrier to China’s increasing push into the security and strategic space in the region,” he said.

“[But] Australia … and the U.S obviously recognise China — so it’s a very difficult position to criticise any change in status.”

Sora said Australia’s main preoccupation was not really the “status of recognition” for Pacific island countries, but “how those countries then manage their relations with China beyond any potential change”.

“The concern is really how would China leverage any political momentum behind the flip,” he said.

“Would we see another security deal on the table, as we saw with China and Solomon Islands?”

Taiwanese officials are also sometimes exasperated that Australian counterparts are hesitant to publicly acknowledge the work they’re doing together in Pacific countries where Taiwan retains diplomatic ties.

But Hsu struck a conciliatory tone on the subject when speaking to the ABC, saying while Taiwan would like Australia to be more “outgoing” about bilateral cooperation in the Pacific, he understood Australia had its own “policies and considerations”.

“We 100 percent respect what the Australian government chooses to do or say in public,” he said.

“We’ll continue to encourage you to be more outgoing but we continue to respect your decision and continue to work on those issues which have substance.”

Hsu also said he’d like to see Australia and Taiwan engage in more “information sharing” in the Pacific, and that Taiwan would be keen to join the Partners in the Blue Pacific – an “inclusive” and “informal” coalition of countries that includes the U.S, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Canada and South Korea.

“Taiwan is always wanting to be involved in that kind of discussion, either as a formal member or as an observer,” he said.

“We just want to be meaningfully included in those discussions, as we are one of the stakeholders in the region and we do have a capacity to contribute.”

In a statement, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told the ABC that the Australian government “values our ongoing coordination with other development partners, including Taiwan, to prevent duplication, maximise the development impact of our respective investments and ensure that our development programs are responding to Pacific priorities”.

But the ABC understands the fact that Taiwan is not a Pacific Islands Forum dialogue partner — unlike all current members of the Partners in the Blue Pacific — could be a barrier to it joining the group.