Chinese Embassy slams Taiwan Foreign Minister

The Chinese Embassy in Apia has criticised Taiwan’s Foreign Minister for saying “China is forcing itself into the Pacific”, describing the comments as malicious, slanderous and likely to destabilise relations.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Saturday that Minister Joseph Wu used his trip to Palau last week to warn that Beijing's One Belt One Road initiative was creating a "debt trap" for developing countries including states in the region.

The spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Apia, Zhang Muyue, in response to questions from the Samoa Observer said China and the Pacific Island nations share long-lasting friendship and the comments by Mr Wu caters for anti-Chinese forces and will not be viewed in good light on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

"What the so-called Taiwan’s Foreign Minister said is catering to certain anti-China forces’   malicious allegation, slandering China’s diplomatic practice in Pacific Island region and backing the Taiwan Independence forces, which has hurt the sentiments of people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits and undermined cross-Straits relations," she said. 

"The ill-intention behind the irresponsible remarks is to drive a wedge between China and Pacific island countries, with the ultimate goal of seeking Taiwan independence by soliciting foreign support.

"Such arguments fully reveal how Taiwan authority presumed others’ behavior by their own pattern.”

Ms Muyue added that those who use ‘chequebook diplomacy’ don’t understand that money can neither buy friendship or trust and accused Taiwan of continuing to use such tactics. 

“Taiwan has long been exerting its infamous chequebook diplomacy in Pacific Island region and elsewhere in the world. Such despicable practice was criticised and resisted by the international society."

As a developing nation with international responsibilities, the embassy official said China has provided support to the region to the best of its ability within the South-South cooperation framework with Pacific Island nations. 

She claimed that cooperation has advanced Pacific island nations’ national development agenda and improved peoples’ lives. 

"In the fight against the pandemic, during China’s most difficult times, the Pacific Island countries expressed sympathies and support to China through different means. 

“China reciprocated their kindness by sharing its experience and providing material assistance, which demonstrates the two sides’ deep friendship with mutual assistance in times of adversity."

Expressing confidence that China’s relationship with the region will continue to grow, Ms. Muyue said Pacific nations are able to differentiate right from wrong.

"Although Taiwan Authority spares no effort to vilify and stigmatize China, what is right cannot be wrong and what is wrong will always be wrong.”

Australian National University Research Fellow, Dr. Denghua Zhang, in response to questions from this newspaper said diplomatic competition will continue to be a focus for both China and Taiwan in the region.

"The fact that four of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies are from the Pacific makes this region the second most important after Latin America and the Caribbean,”  Dr. Zhang said. “It is highly likely that this competition will intensify in the near future.”

Dr. Zhang added that Chinese concessional loans are also the largest component of Chinese aid globally including in the Pacific.

"For example, according to China’s third white paper on foreign aid released two weeks ago, concessional loans accounted for 48.5 per cent of Chinese total aid between 2013 and 2018,” he said. “Chinese total aid to the Pacific region was RMB10.02 billion (US$1.55 billion), accounting for 3.71 per cent of Chinese total aid during this period.

"As China is rolling out its Belt and Road projects in the Pacific, it is expected that Chinese concessional loans to the region will continue to grow."

The Research Fellow envisages diplomatic competition between China and Taiwan in the Pacific to be a prolonged one. 

"Each side will spend more efforts on this issue," he said. It is still too early to tell which side will win more ‘battles’ in the near future. 

“In recent years, China has made progress by winning the support of Solomon Islands and Kiribati, but the smaller number of Taiwan’s allies means it will have more resources to spend on these countries. 

“Lessons from the past show that it is not uncommon for some Pacific island countries to move back and forth between the two donors."

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