China Shuns Rivalry in Pacific as Australia Says 'This Is Our Patch'
11 November, 2018, 03:36 | Author: Myra Gill
Morrison's government has been preoccupied by domestic infighting and has diverged politically from Pacific Island nations threatened by rising waters, by questioning climate change.Australia has always been a major political player in much of the south and west Pacific, but has lost ground with China ploughing massive investment into the region as part of its "Belt and Road" initiative.His announcement comes as Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne visited Beijing, the first time someone in her position has visited in three years, and just after Australia blocked a bid of more than United States dollars 9 billion from Hong Kong giant CK Group for the country's biggest gas pipeline company.
Australia and China have been vying for influence in the sparsely populated Pacific which controls vast swathes of resource-rich oceans.
Australia's prime minister has outlined the country's plans to increase investments in infrastructure in the South Pacific as China's influence in those nations grows.
China has spent US$1.3 billion (RM5.4 billion) on concessional loans and gifts since 2011 to become the Pacific's second-largest donor after Australia, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.
In a speech at a military base in Queensland, Mr Morrison said a strong, stable Pacific region would assist Australia's security and economic growth.
A further $US700 million will go to state export financing agency Efic, to support Australian businesses operating in the Pacific.
Mr Morrison's announcement on Thursday came days after a similar scheme was proposed by Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten, who said if elected, he would set up a bank to support loans to Pacific island nations.
The two countries have endured turbulent ties following Canberra'sintroduction of laws late a year ago to curb foreign interference - measures that were seen as aimed at Beijing.
Ties became strained late past year, when the previous Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, accused China of interfering in its domestic affairs.
"Australia is reacting to what China is doing".
Speaking after a meeting in Beijing with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that marked a thaw in recently chilly relations, Payne stressed "the importance of Australia's welcoming of Chinese investment in Australia".
Payne emphasised Australia's commitment to "deepening" its strategic partnership with China, and said the two countries share many interests and goals, from countering protectionism to addressing climate change.
That fol lowed a June announcement that Australia will help fund a new telecommunications cable stretching from Sydney to the Solomon Islands, squeezing out Huawei Technologies Co Ltd - a company that in August was banned from supplying next-generation wireless equipment to Australia's telecom operators on national security grounds.
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Wang said China stood ready to work with the United States to remove disruptions, build trust and prepare fully for the meeting. Defence Secretary James Mattis and Chinese Minister of National Defence Wei Fenghe were also present at the press conference.
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