China has protested an Australian minister’s criticisms that Chinese aid programs in poor Pacific island countries were creating “white elephants” that threatened economic stability without delivering benefits.
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, minister for international development and the Pacific, told The Australian newspaper in an interview that China was lending to Pacific nations on unfavorable terms to construct “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere.”
“You’ve got the Pacific full of these useless buildings which no body maintains, which are basically white elephants,” she told the newspaper.
Fierravanti-Wells later said sustaining debt was a significant threat to economic stability of countries in the Pacific.
“We work cooperatively with China and we encourage China to utilize its development assistance in a productive and effective manner,” she told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“We just don’t want to build something for the heck of building it. We just don’t want to build a road that doesn’t go anywhere,” she added.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang later said Fierravanti-Wells’ published comments “show scant regard for the facts and are nothing but irresponsible,” adding that China had made an official complaint to the Australian government.
“For a long time, on the basis of fully respecting the will of the Pacific island countries’ governments and people and taking into full account their development needs, China has offered a great deal of assistance to them,” Lu told reporters.
Chinese aid had “significantly fueled the economic and social development of these countries and delivered tangible benefits to the local people,” assistance that has been warmly welcomed by those countries, Lu said.
“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.