China mocks Australia over 'Indo-Pacific' concept it says will 'dissipate'

China mocks Australia over 'Indo-Pacific' concept it says will 'dissipate'

China mocks Australia over 'Indo-Pacific' concept it says will 'dissipate'

Updated 8 March 2018, 22:40 AEDT

China's Foreign Minister mocks Australia and the United States' preference of describing the region as the 'Indo-Pacific' rather than 'Asia-Pacific' as an "attention-grabbing idea".

China's Foreign Minister has mocked the Australian and US preference of describing the region as the 'Indo-Pacific' instead of 'Asia-Pacific' as an "attention-grabbing idea" that will "dissipate like ocean foam".

Speaking at an annual media conference in Beijing, Wang Yi also criticised the recently revived regional grouping known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), involving Australia, India, Japan and the US.

Senior foreign affairs officials from the four countries met late last year to revive talks between the four democracies on the basis of "shared values and principles", in a move widely viewed as responding to China's growing assertiveness.

More recently, the Quad leaders were reported to be considering a new global infrastructure scheme to rival Beijing's Belt and Road plan.

The Belt and Road Initiative would see China spend hundreds of billions of dollars in other countries building infrastructure to increase global trade.

Critics say it is a strategic ploy by Beijing to gain economic and political leverage over the countries that accept China's largesse.

Australia, along with other countries in the Quad, have rejected China's overtures to sign formal Memorandums of Understanding to join the scheme.

"Contrary to claims made by some academics and media outlets that the Indo-Pacific concept aims to contain China, the four countries' official position is that it targets no-one," Mr Wang said.

"I hope they mean what they say and their actions will match their rhetoric."

China's second-highest ranked diplomat also used the annual media conference to criticise talk of the rival infrastructure scheme.

"Nowadays, stoking a new cold war is out of sync with the times and inciting bloc confrontation will find no market," he said.

The Belt and Road is Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature policy and was written into the ruling Communist Party's constitution last year to underline its importance.

Aligning overseas investment projects with the scheme is an increasing priority for China's state banks, and advocates say refusal to formally join the project could put future Chinese investment at risk.

But the scheme has already caused a backlash in some smaller Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, where mounting debt incurred on an economically unviable port forced the Government to give it to China on a 99-year lease.

Critics also recently pointed out Belt and Road loans China offered to the Philippines came with interest rates far higher than loans offered by Japan.