China has lodged a diplomatic complaint, labelling an attack on its Pacific aid program by Turnbull government minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells as “full of ignorance and prejudice”.
On Wednesday, international development minister, Ms Fierravanti-Wells, accused China of building “useless buildings, white elephants and roads to nowhere” in the Pacific.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China’s aid program had “brought real benefits to local people” and had been welcomed by Pacific governments, Brisbane Times reports.
Australia is the largest aid donor in the Pacific, and focuses on health and education. China, the second-largest donor, has focused on infrastructure projects.
China and Taiwan have been engaged in a race to provide aid to Pacific nations for the past two decades, as the price for diplomatic recognition. Six of only 20 nations globally that give diplomatic recognition to Taiwan are in the Pacific: Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Palau, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands.
Eight Pacific nations recognise China’s ‘One-China Policy’: Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Tonga, Cook Islands and Micronesia.
The continuing rivalry for Pacific favour between Taiwan and China was highlighted last May, as Fiji closed its representative office in Taiwan within days of Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama attending Chinese president Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road summit in Beijing.
The dependence of Nauru, which has been pivotal to Australia’s offshore processing regime, on Taiwanese cash was exposed by Wikileaks cables in 2011 which revealed Nauruan politicians received a secret $5000 stipend a month for continuing recognition of Taiwan.