Source: Global Times Published: 2018-11-14
China's cooperation with Pacific island countries is a "natural" process, as China is providing aid to the countries with the aim of promoting their economic development, an expert said on Wednesday.
The comment came at a time when China is enhancing its diplomatic and economic relations with many Pacific island countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay state visits to Papua New Guinea (PNG), Brunei and the Philippines from November 15 to 21, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang announced on Monday, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency.
According to an article written by Xi and published in the PNG-based newspaper the Post-Courier on Wednesday, China will expand its practical cooperation with Pacific island countries in trade and investment.
So far, most of the Pacific island countries have established diplomatic ties with China, including Papua New Guinea, said Zhou Rong, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.
The closer relationships between China and Pacific island nations have caused some concern in the US and Australia, who are worried that China is strengthening financial assistance to the countries in order to gain some political advantage.
For example, a US government-funded research project claimed that China has used methods such as economic aid and infrastructure spending as a way to increase its influence in Pacific island countries, according to a report by the Australia-based Morning Mail in June.
"The US is too nervous, equating any form of Chinese financial assistance with an effort to increase influence. Such worries are groundless as China has no military intentions in those countries, and neither does it hope to get something in return for its aid. Also, China's cooperation with Pacific island countries won't replace or affect the US' or Australia's relations with them," Zhou told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The concerns expressed by the US and Australia come at the same time as they are launching sanctions against certain Chinese companies and products.
For example, Australia recently banned Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE from supplying equipment to its 5G network.
Lu said during a press conference in August that Australia shouldn't use excuses to set up barriers and discriminatory practices.
Accepted aid model
Experts have also said that China's aid to overseas countries is actually more effective than the aid provided by some Western countries because China is helping countries to develop their economies.
"For example, China's infrastructure projects in Pacific island countries like highways and bridges actually link those countries with the world market, while much of the aid provided by Western countries just focuses on non-manufacturing areas as they want to avoid any competition with countries that receive their aid," Song Wei, associate researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
According to Song, Western countries are gradually moving toward China's aid model. "For example, they used to only provide non-reimbursable assistance, but now they also provide loans, as China does," Song said.
China's financial aid to Pacific island countries ranges from ports and schools to medical services, according to media reports.
Currently, some products from Pacific island countries are exported to China, like mineral water from Fiji and juice from Samoa.
Zhou Rong is a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.