Until recently, the governance issue was generally ignored by the leaders of other countries, but major aid donors and neighbours New Zealand and Australia are now expressing concerns about some Tongan government actions.Following the precedents of Queen Sālote and the counsel of numerous international advisors, the government of Tonga under King Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV (reigned 1965–2006) monetised the economy, internationalised the medical and education system, and enabled access by commoners to increasing forms of material wealth (houses, cars, and other commodities), education, and overseas travel. While there is a land shortage on the urbanised main island of Tongatapu (where 70% of the population resides), there is farmland available in the outlying islands.

Whaling vessels were among the earliest regular western visitors.

The first on record is the Ann & Hope which was reported among the islands of Tonga in June 1799.

King Tupou VI (a descendant of the first monarch), his family, powerful nobles and a growing non-royal elite caste live in much wealth, with the rest of the country living in relative poverty.

Tonga provides for its citizens a free and mandatory education for all, secondary education with only nominal fees, and foreign-funded scholarships for post-secondary education.

While exposed to colonial pressures, Tonga has always governed itself, which makes it unique in the Pacific.

As part of cost-cutting measures across the British Foreign Service, the British Government closed the British High Commission in Nukuʻalofa in March 2006, transferring representation of British interests to the High Commissioner in Fiji.It is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest, Samoa to the northeast, Niue to the east (which is the nearest foreign territory), Kermadec (part of New Zealand) to the southwest, and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the farther west.It is about 1,800 kilometres (1,100 mi) from New Zealand's North Island.of whom 70% reside on the main island of Tongatapu.Tonga stretches across approximately 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line.The pro-democracy movement in Tonga promotes reforms, including better representation in the Parliament for the majority of commoners, and better accountability in matters of state.