Taking a lend: concerns over China aid to Pacific

Taking a lend: concerns over China aid to Pacific, by Primrose Riordan.

The head of Australia’s foreign ­affairs department has raised concerns about the transparency of tendering in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and about unsustainable lending to Pacific nations.

The BRI, also known as One Belt One Road, aims to partner with foreign governments and companies to channel more than $US1 trillion into ports, roads and other major infrastructure worldwide to counter China’s maritime and economic vulnerabilities. …

“The Belt Road Initiative I know has been discussed and while we are … supportive in ­principle of more infrastructure in this region and beyond we are ­concerned about … transparency, about rules, about open contracts and governance arrangements,” [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances ­Adamson] said.

China has been particularly ­active in the South Pacific, funding infrastructure and construction projects and cultural diplomacy.

Ms Adamson said this had brought unsustainable debt ­burdens upon the island states.

Leaving them hopelessly indebted to China.

“We’ve seen, including in the South Pacific, a number of neighbours are fragile states — we’ve seen where big infrastructure ­projects have brought unsustainable debt burdens and ultimately proven more of a minus than a plus,” she said. …

The scheme is viewed by Western defence hawks as an attempt to economically marginalise the US and expand China’s overseas military presence. However, it has been embraced by New Zealand, which signed a memorandum of understanding in March.

That month, The Australian ­revealed the Turnbull government so far had rebuffed Mr Xi’s calls to align ­Australia’s $5bn Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility with China’s investment program.

hat-tip Stephen Neil