June 12, 2008 / 9:29 AM / 10 years ago

China rejects charge of aid diplomacy in Pacific

BEIJING, June 12 (Reuters) - China rejected as "pointless" on Thursday a report by an Australian think tank that said China’s aid programme to small island nations was destabilising and aimed at stopping such countries from recognising its rival, Taiwan.

China’s promised aid to Pacific Island nations increased to $293 million last year from $33 million in 2005, the Lowy Institute report said, but China’s Foreign Ministry said that assistance was aimed at development and without ulterior motive.

"This assistance is on the basis of mutual benefit. It must help the local economy to develop and promote people’s livelihoods," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference.

"China would never interfere in these countries’ internal affairs. There would be no strings attached," Qin said, adding that the report was "totally pointless and unacceptable".

Taiwan, the self-governing island that has faced off with the mainland since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, accuses Beijing of offering countries cash for diplomatic recognition.

The Australian report, by researcher Fergus Hanson, said the aid bidding contest between China and Taiwan was viewed by Pacific states as an opportunity to play the two off against each other, a game that could have a destabilising effect.

Qin said the effect of its aid was to safeguard peace and development momentum.

Eight developing Pacific Island Forum nations, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Tonga, recognise Beijing over Taipei. Another six tiny island nations officially recognise Taiwan, which is recognised by just 23 countries across the world. (Reporting by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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