Report questions China aid to Pacific

Report questions China aid to Pacific

Report questions China aid to Pacific

Posted 11 June 2008, 14:44 AEST

A new report has questioned the amount China is spending on aid in the South Pacific, and the reasons it has increased so significantly over the past three years.

The leader of the Lowy Institute research project, Fergus Hanson, says there is no evidence that China's using aid to smooth the way for its military presence in the region, or to take advantage of natural resources.

Mr Hanson says its only purpose is to ensure island nations do not switch allegiance to Taiwan.

China does not publish details of its aid spending, but the research was able to source information showing China aid pledges in the Pacific went from $US33 million in 2005, to $293 million in 2007.

But Mr Hanson says the figures can be deceiving.

"The scale of China's aid program, that we've been able to draw from just looking at pledged aid, I think overstates the picture," he said.

"There's been enormous aid pledges over the last couple of years, especially last year in 2007.

"And I think because a lot of those projects take a long time to be delivered, are multi-year projects that don't always get through, then I think, in a way they overstate the level of aid that's getting through or is being dispersed".

Most money has been promised to large infrastructure projects which are to be built by Chinese companies, and using Chinese sourced materials.

But the research has found some aid funding is being made available by China to be used at the pleasure of the recipient government, and that its "no questions asked" policy means it does not set good governance standards for aid delivery.

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