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Report: China's Aid to Pacific States Confused, Erratic

  • Phil Mercer

A new report from one of Australia's most respected policy institutes criticizes China's aid program to the Pacific island states.

The Lowy Institute's report says China's aid program in the South Pacific lacks long-term goals and is too secretive.

In recent years, Beijing sharply increased the amount of financial support it gives to island nations. In 2008, China gave $200 million, making it the second largest contributor of aid in the region after Australia.

Australia's Lowy Institute, a foreign policy research center, thinks that China's system of aid is so secretive and inconsistent that it makes long-term planning difficult for recipients.

Analysts conclude that China's lack of transparency makes it hard for other donors to know what projects are being done, leading to duplicated efforts.

There has been no official reaction from Beijing to the report.

The institute's Fergus Hansen says Beijing's unilateral approach to distributing aid in the South Pacific causes problems.

"If you look at China's aid by contrast, it's very sporadic and it tends to focus on one-off projects," said Hansen. "For example if you look at aid to Micronesia, in 2008 its pledge was worth just 28 percent of the amount it had promised the previous years, and it really means that for these governments it's very hard to rely on Chinese aid or to look at long-term development strategies."

By contrast, Hansen says that other international donors, including Australia and the United States, focus on long-term objectives, such as improving education and health services.

The Lowy Institute also reports that China pays Pacific island governments vast amounts of money not to recognize Taiwan.

The report also notes concerns about China's support for Fiji's military strongman, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup in 2006.

Hansen thinks Beijing's support for Fiji's military government is a "miscalculation" because of Commodore Bainimarama's lack of domestic support in Fiji and what analysts see as his precarious grip on power.

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