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Island aid not ‘briefcase diplomacy’: expert

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China's increasing investment in South Pacific island states reflects the country's sincere aspiration to build a community of shared future, Chinese experts said Thursday, dismissing an Australian think tank director's remark that such assistance sometimes amounted to "briefcase diplomacy."

China, according to a report published by the Australia-funded think tank Lowy Institute, is now the second-largest aid donor in the South Pacific, Reuters reported.

China's $1.3 billion in donations and concessionary loans since 2011 trails only Australia's $6.6 billion, and already surpasses New Zealand's $1.2 billion in a region traditionally dominated by the two Oceanic nations, according to data provided by the think tank.

China's assistance to the South Pacific island states covers various sectors including infrastructure, energy, agriculture, healthcare, emergency humanitarian aid and responses to climate change, Qian Feng, a senior research fellow at the National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

As these countries are actually in dire need of development, this also reflected China's surgical assistance spirit and sincere aspiration of building a community of shared future, while effectively countering the groundless accusation that China is merely exerting influence and looting resources, Qian noted. 

Taking Fiji for instance, he said, China has assisted the South Pacific island state in building the Stinson Parade Bridge and Vatuwaqa Bridge, which eased traffic congestion.

China has in recent years also implemented aid programs such as the Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road, Somosomo hydropower station, Juncao mushroom demonstration center and rice technical cooperation project.

In February, China handed over vehicles to provide better service in education, healthcare and other sectors in both urban and rural areas, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The Reuters report cited Jonathan Pryke, the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands program director as saying: "There is definitely an element of briefcase diplomacy in the Pacific."

Pryke suggested the number showed Chinese mainland jostling with Taiwan over aid money to cultivate diplomatic ties in a region home to countries' holding "diplomatic ties" with Taiwan.

Taiwan now has 18 "diplomatic allies," among which six are in the South Pacific.

China should further boost assistance and exchanges with these countries, help develop tourism-related infrastructure to not only meet the Chinese people's international travel needs but also more importantly, to substantially benefit the locals, Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Wang also suggested that collaboration between China and these relatively smaller island states in the region under the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative should be elevated, and will serve as successful examples to promote the initiative worldwide.



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