MAHE ISLAND, Seychelles — At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force tracking station that monitored Soviet satellites from this island’s soaring tropical forests was a focus of Seychelles life. The American servicemen and technicians living nearby hosted barbecues and bar nights to which all Seychellois were invited, distributed cookies and milk to local children and taught them basketball.

Then, the Cold War ended, the Soviet Union collapsed and in 1996 the Americans left, dismantling the tracking station and shutting down their embassy — citing budgetary reasons for abandoning what had seemingly become an irrelevant corner of the world.

Today, the compound where Americans and Seychellois partied is home to the Seychelles Tourism Academy, where young islanders training to be tour guides, hoteliers and masseuses take classes, among other subjects, in Chinese — just one small manifestation of a new geopolitical rivalry that has now lured the Americans back.

In June, Seychelles became the latest in a string of small nations around the world in which the United States has established, restored or is planning to open an embassy as part of a broad pushback against the influence China has acquired during more than two decades of neglect or disinterest on the part of the United States.