Australia's Criticism of Chinese Aid in Pacific Sparks Beijing Protest

Cornelia Mascio
Gennaio 13, 2018

China has responded angrily to Australia's criticism of its loans and aid to Pacific island nations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the comments were "full of ignorance and bias", and his country lodged a protest to Turnbull's government over the issue.

China transferred at least $1.8 billion in aid and loans to South Pacific countries in a decade through 2016, the Sydney-based Lowy Institute worldwide policy think tank found.

China lodged a formal diplomatic protest on Wednesday after a senior Australian minister called Chinese infrastructure projects in the Pacific "white elephants", the latest spat in increasingly contentious relations.

"You've got the Pacific full of these useless buildings which nobody maintains, which are basically white elephants", she told The Australian newspaper.

Fierravanti-Wells later said sustaining debt was a significant threat to economic stability of countries in the Pacific. The diplomat added that Australia works with its partners in the region, including China, in an attempt to "eliminate poverty".

The Chinese foreign ministry defended the aid program, saying it respected the will of Pacific island governments and the development needs of their people. Other Western nations, including the U.S., U.K., Germany and New Zealand, have expressed concern about Chinese spying and propaganda activities.

Ms Fierravanti-Wells said there was no doubt China had been "duchessing" Pacific politicians, or paying them for diplomatic support, but she said there was a growing resentment to Beijing's from some island countries.

He said assistance China provides has significantly fuelled the economic and social development of the countries and was warmly welcomed.

China is Australia's largest trading partner, with two-way trade of goods between the nations in the year to June 30, 2017, reaching A$157 billion ($123 billion).

"We hope that certain people in Australia should engage in self-refection instead of pointing fingers at and making irresponsible remarks about other countries", Lu added.

"It does raise significant questions about: will China forgive these loans, what are the actual terms?" he added.

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