Chinese Debt Not a Big Issue, Says Tarte

"China’s rise obviously with all the resources it has got, has given coun­tries some alternatives"
08 May 2019 20:24
Chinese Debt Not a Big Issue, Says Tarte

Chinese debt is not a big issue to the Pacific, a leading Fijian aca­demic said yesterday.

Head of the School of Politics and In­ternational Affairs at the University of the South Pacific Sandra Tarte made this comment in a pre-Forum Econom­ic Ministers Meeting (FEMM).

Media from Fiji and around the region were trained on what to expect and what to ask policy makers during the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) in a workshop in Suva.

Speaking to Fiji Sun, Ms Tarte said China has provided opportunities for alternative sources of funding and prompted traditional partners like Australia, New Zealand and the United States to do more.

She said: “Countries would probably just be relying on their traditional part­ners that are there in the past, includ­ing Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

“But China’s rise obviously with all the resources it has got, has given coun­tries some alternatives.

“These are alternatives that can also help to fill the gap by other donors.”

Pacific Step Up

And other donors have now stepped up, notably Australia with its “Pacific Step Up” and New Zealand with its ‘Pa­cific Reset’

“China is a new donor, there are is­sues on China’s Aid, the transparency and so on.

‘We are learning how to deal with Chi­na. And I think China is becoming a bit more aware now on some of the issues.

“We also need to know China is still a developing country, not like Japan or the US.

“It’s a developing country and it de­fines its aid as a South-South coopera­tion in helping other developing coun­tries.

And of course, is this massive major player with huge technological funds.”

Associate Professor Tarte said there was a lot of scare mongering about China that has been promoted by some countries that don’t want China’s to in­fluence the Pacific.

Adding there is also concern of the strategic issue with China like Huawaei, and maybe this is also a com­mercial competition and their estab­lished players don’t want to see this competition that is coming.

“China’s increased involvement in the region started a decade ago when Fiji was being isolated by its traditional partners.

“Shifts in Pacific geopolitics since then have prompted a more confident, independent and innovative diplomacy by Pacific states,” Ms Tarte said.

Dr Sandra Tarte.

Dr Sandra Tarte.

And she cited the development of the Blackrock Military Base as an interest­ing example.

“Fiji, unhappy with China’s offering, turned to Australia for an agreement.

“Interestingly we see China’s influ­ence being diluted as a result,” she said.

The proposed Pacific Resilience Facil­ity (PRF) is another example of more innovative and independent diplomacy at work, according to Associate Profes­sor Tarte.

“It (the PRF) can be seen as an initia­tive that aims to take back some control over infrastructure financing, especial­ly small scale and more contextualised development projects,” Associate Pro­fessor Tarte said. China is now the sec­ond largest aid donor to Pacific island states, behind Australia but ahead of New Zealand and Japan.


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