by Xinhua writer Xu Haijing
CANBERRA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- In a recent online survey of Chinese netizens by Chinese news portal Huanqiu.com, Australia won the title of "Least friendly country to China in 2017." The unfriendliness persists in the new year. This time, China's assistance to South Pacific island nations is under attack.
In an article published by The Australian newspaper on Wednesday, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells accused China of providing loans to Pacific nations on unfavorable terms and constructing "useless buildings" and "roads to nowhere" in the region.
The article, like many of its kind that appeared in Australian media last year, is rich in allegations and speculations and short on hard evidence.
The minister's complaints about the use of the buildings and the directions of the roads failed to serve as a valid argument. Instead, they demonstrated her lack of knowledge about the local situation. As a reader commented on this article online, the Australian government's "default policy" for all issues is to blame China.
Australia has been investing heavily across the region, but as the result of the huge deficits in its recent budgets, foreign aid was among the first to get slashed. Fierravanti-Wells is a more suitable spokesperson for this issue than on Chinese loans to South Pacific nations.
China itself has benefited from infrastructure boom in poverty reduction, economic growth and social development. China also knows how much input is needed in developing a country's infrastructure. In helping others, China is willing to share its experience and contribute its resources and knowhow.
As a Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesperson said in June 2017, China's foreign assistance is never used as a means to interfere in recipient countries' internal affairs, and comes with no political strings attached.
"China is sincere in helping recipient countries reduce poverty and build up their self-development capacity," the spokesperson said.
While Fierravanti-Wells failed to tell how unfavorable Chinese loan terms are, the spokesperson was clear on this by saying the Chinese government offers financing support, such as interest-free loans and concessional loans, according to the debt-paying ability and solvency of the recipient countries.
In the financing process, China makes strict economic and technical evaluation of the projects to avoid causing a heavy debt burden to the recipient countries.
"In South Pacific regions, China has canceled debts incurred by interest-free loans owed to China by relevant countries. China will also step up multilateral and bilateral consultations and actively study the scale and scope for the further expansion of debt relief," the spokesperson said.
If Australia really cares about its Pacific neighbors, it should first learn from China to treat those much smaller neighbors as equals and refrain from behaving like an arrogant overlord. Then it could learn, again from China, to contribute constructive ideas, if not funds, to address the real concerns of the peoples in those countries.