Australian International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has attacked China’s aid to Pacific nations. Her argument was that China was lending funds to Pacific nations on unfavourable terms and constructing “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere” in the region. Even if that were so, doesn’t this expose the Minister’s own inadequate policy? Shouldn’t she be preventing such activity by offering more favorable terms and better advice on infrastructure? Isn’t it China’s business to decide whether it deems such spending a waste?
Fierravanti-Wells said to The Australian,
“You’ve got the Pacific full of these useless buildings which nobody maintains, which are basically white elephants … I’ve gone to islands and you’ll be driving along on some back road and all of a sudden you see this Chinese road crew building a road to nowhere and you think ‘hmm, what’s all that about’,”
It is all very well firing pot shots at China for its active Pacific policy but at least it has one. Indeed if the end result is that Pacific nations end up agreeing to China’s influence they do so willingly. The Minister can’t claim that these nations are not happy about the situation. Afterall had the ‘international development’ portfolio team done its homework it could see that China has pursued this policy for decades in Africa, Latin America, Pakistan and the Middle East. Who knew?
China has been a poster child of stepping up and filling the void left by The West. China understands that the nations we won’t deal with on the basis of human rights records, dictatorships and the like make perfect bed fellows which leads to even juicier returns provided said despots get the right ‘incentives’. China is not working to virtues.
How can we be surprised? UN sanctions are slapped on North Korea to bring it to heel. Two weeks later Chinese oil ships are trading with North Korea. No cleaner example of China’s disregard for world opinion. China is a master of strategy. It knows it will be stronger than the US in time. 20, 30 or 40 years is of little concern. Just get the chess pieces in place. Find vulnerable or willing nations off the radar screen and show them love so they reciprocate in ways that strengthens Beijing’s policy directives.
There should be little surprise with this ‘transactional’ Australian government in allowing this state of affairs to occur. Because Tonga or PNG rate less important than China, Japan or the US in terms of trade dollars we apportion the same relative importance to their strategic value. That is about the level of the thinking.
China has the opposite view. It knows that buying influence in Port Moresby with new roads or bridges allows concessions where they really want them. Naval ports. The Chinese have already got East Timor to agree to a trading port which will accept ‘visits’ from PLA Navy vessels.
Our foreign policy is so poorly thought out that even Obama censured us for leasing a port to China! When we’re getting lessons from Obama on foreign policy what more proof do we want for the clueless ineptitude of our government? We’re too busy trying to bribe electorates with multi billion dollar submarine programs where the contractor isn’t even sure it can design what it promised, not to mention arriving in 50 years!
So the Minister best just understand the world we live in. With 5 prime ministers in 10 years is it any wonder we can’t formulate a coherent long term strategy? Australia can moan all it likes about China but its the smug nature of our political class who need to wake up. Complaining to PNG about it’s wealthy sugar daddy is unlikely to find a soothing voice if we offer nothing in return.
By the way, China will only be inspired to keep at it. If anything we’ve only highlighted how our of touch we are in responding and that must bring smiles all around.