The diplomatic dispute between Australia and China continues to seethe. This week, an Australian minister said that Beijing is trying to win influence in the Pacific with loans to build useless buildings and roads to nowhere. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
While Australia remains by far the largest provider of aid to the Pacific, the influence of Chinese money is growing fast.
Recently, China signed three deals with Papua New Guinea as part of Beijing’s ambitious “Road and Belt” project. Australia, the former colonial power, then agreed to provide additional funds to help PNG pay the costs of hosting the APEC summit this coming November.
Australian officials told ABC Australian Radio that the additional 80 million dollars was worth it, to make sure that China didn’t step in.
This week, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, criticized Chinese infrastructure projects that she said went to “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere.”
Pacific Island Nations may not agree with the characterization.
In Tonga, Chinese workers are constructing a new building to house government offices and a 30 million dollar high school sports complex. Samoa’s National Hospital was funded by concessional loans from China, and so was the new police academy. Fiji, a country that chafes over Australian influence, appreciates aid from China that comes without questions about human rights.
According to the Lowy Institute, Australia’s provided 7.7 billion dollars in aid to the Pacific since 2006. The U.S. is second at about 1.9 billion, China a close third at almost 1.8, followed by New Zealand, Japan, and France.