Beijing 'white elephants' seen swimming in Pacific

China | 11 Jan 2018

Beijing lodged a protest with Canberra yesterday after an Australian minister called Chinese infrastructure projects in the Pacific "white elephants" - the latest spat in increasingly raw relations.

Comments by International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells followed Australia last month proposing laws to limit foreign interference in its affairs, with China a focus of concern.

China has been forging links with Pacific island nations, with Australia's Lowy Institute estimating it provided US$1.78 billion (HK$13.8 billion) in aid from 2006 to 2016.

Fierravanti-Wells told The Australian newspaper that Beijing's influence in the region is "clearly growing" while criticizing its assistance projects as "basically white elephants."

She said that on 24 trips to the Pacific she had come across "non-productive infrastructure" that was not regularly maintained or used to capacity, adding: "You'll be driving on some back road and you see this Chinese road crew building a road to nowhere and you think 'hmm, what's all that about?'"

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said her words were "full of ignorance and prejudice" and said Beijing aid "has brought real benefits to local people."

Bejing has links to eight Pacific island nations - Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. Six others are linked to Taiwan.


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