Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chinese envoy lashes ‘ignorant’ Pacific aid critics

Chinese envoy lashes ‘ignorant’ Pacific aid critics

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
China's President Xi Jinping was afforded a state visit for his trip to Papua New Guinea in 2018 for APEC. AFP

Chinese envoy lashes ‘ignorant’ Pacific aid critics

China's ambassador to Samoa labelled critics of Beijing’s activities in the Pacific “ignorant” and “prejudiced” on Tuesday in the latest testy public missive from the rising Asian superpower’s diplomatic corps.

Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific islands was a major theme at a tense regional summit in Tuvalu last week, where Australia tried to reassert leadership in an area it traditionally regards as its sphere of influence.

Instead, Canberra faced criticism over its lack of action on climate change, with leaders such as Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama saying they preferred

China’s brand of diplomacy to “condescending” Australia.

Ambassador Chao Xiaoliang tried to seize the moment, dismissing Western charges that China’s foreign aid programme creates client states as inaccurate “Cold War” thinking.

“Rather than pointing fingers at China’s good deeds, those who keep on making groundless accusations and speculations might well do more themselves to provide help to the Pacific island countries,” Chao wrote in the Samoa Observer.

“Some people questioned the purpose of China’s aid, even disregarded the facts and fabricated the so-called ‘China debt trap’ – this is either of prejudice or ignorant of China’s foreign aid policy.”

China’s aid comes largely in the form of low-interest loans, but critics say it leaves debtor nations beholden to Beijing, eroding their independence.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper earlier this month accused China of destabilising the region using such tactics, citing “predatory economics and debt-for-sovereignty deals”.

Chao’s response in the Observer was blunt: “The so-called ‘China debt trap’ is extremely ridiculous.

“China’s foreign aid . . . comes without interfering in their domestic affairs or attaching any political strings,” he wrote.

Australia, the largest aid donor in the Pacific, is wary of China’s interest in the region, fearing the long term goal is to establish a military base in the islands.

It launched a charm offensive dubbed the “Pacific Step-up” last year to counter Beijing’s influence.

But Chinese diplomats have also been determined to have their voices heard in the region, sometimes pushing their cause aggressively.

Envoys in Australia and New Zealand this month praised pro-Chinese university students for confronting protestors supporting Hong Kong’s democracy movement, earning a rebuke from Australia.

And during last November’s APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea, police were called in when Chinese officials “tried to barge in” to the then foreign minister Rimbink Pato’s office to have their say on the summit’s communique.

A few months earlier at the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum, host nation Nauru demanded an apology after the head of China’s delegation walked out because he was not allowed to speak before the island leaders who were holding the summit.

Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi said last week that he was more interested in the practical assistance China could offer than calming Canberra’s geo-strategic concerns.

“Their enemies [Australia and its allies] are not our enemies,” he said.


  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,