Commentary: Australia needs self-reflection as South Pacific Islands stand up – Xinhua

by Xinhua writer Xu Haijing

CANBERRA, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) — Australia has been given a good chance to do some serious self-reflection with some South Pacific Islands leaders standing up to it on the issue of Chinese assistance to the region.

Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells earlier this week accused China of providing loans to Pacific nations on unfavorable terms and constructing “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere” in the region.

The comments angered South Pacific Islands whose leaders strongly rebuked the criticism.

On Friday, Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said Fierravanti-Wells’ criticism is “insulting” to Pacific Islands leaders, and can “destroy” Australia’s relationship with the region.

“To me the comments seem to question the integrity, wisdom and intelligence of the leaders of the Pacific Islands,” Tuilaepa told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, demanding a formal apology from the minister.

Vanuatu’s only daily newspaper, The Daily Post, also lashed out at Australia.

“Australia’s major roads project in Vanuatu, proudly unveiled in 2013 by then Foreign Minister Bob Carr, is a laughing stock,” the newspaper said on Friday.

“The government of Australia might want to put down those stones it’s throwing at China and learn a thing or two from its own mistakes first. And talking over our heads about our shortcomings isn’t going to win them many friends here, either,” the newspaper said.

“If Australia is serious about helping, it should do more, do it better and gripe less,” it added.

For some irresponsible Australian politicians, those words are a sharp reminder that they should stop behaving like an arrogant overlord and learn to treat their South Pacific neighbors as equals.

Australia has always regarded the South Pacific as its backyard and has been investing heavily across the region. But as a result of the huge deficits in its recent budgets, Australian foreign…

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