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Vanuatu ‘already experiencing debt distress’ after taking loans from China: expert

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On Wednesday, international development minister, Ms Fierravanti-Wells, accused China of building “useless buildings, white elephants and roads to nowhere” in the Pacific.

The Lowy Institute, which tracks aid in the Pacific, says China had spent $2.3 billion on Pacific aid in the past decade, much in the form of loans.

Lowy Institute’s Jonathan Pryke

The Lowy Institute’s Jonathan Pryke told the ABC there were “legitimate questions to be asking” about China’s aid program, as Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa “are already experiencing significant debt distress as a result of taking out these major loans”.

But he also told reporters “its a bit dangerous to say they are all bad or they’re all good”.

“I’m not sure how productive it would be for our ongoing relationship with China in the Pacific to be so negative and black and white,” he told AAP.

Labor senator Penny Wong said the Turnbull Government’s attack on China’s aid program was “clumsy”, and accused the federal government of cutting Australia overseas aid.

“Simply lashing out at China every time the government is in trouble isn’t a good way to deal with a relationship that is of very great economic importance to Australia,” Ms Wong told the ABC.