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China lodges diplomatic complaint following Australian minister's comments

Lu Kang, spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Turnbull government minister's comments were "full of ignorance and prejudice". [Photo: APTN via The Age]

Beijing: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has weighed into the row over China's Pacific aid program, criticiszng loans that "impose onerous debt burdens on regional governments".

China lodged a diplomatic complaint on Wednesday, labelling an attack on its Pacific aid program by Turnbull government minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells as "full of ignorance and prejudice".

Fierravanti-Wells, international development minister, earlier accused China of building useless buildings, white elephants and "roads to nowhere" in the Pacific.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang responded by saying China's aid program had "brought real benefits to local people" and had been welcomed by Pacific governments.

Australia is the largest aid donor in the region, and focuses on health and education. China, the second-largest donor, has focused on infrastructure projects.

China and Taiwan have been engaged in a race to provide aid to Pacific nations for the past two decades, as the price for diplomatic recognition.

While Taiwan focuses on "budgetary support" to Pacific governments, China has provided loans.

Six of only 20 nations globally that give diplomatic recognition to Taiwan are in the Pacific: Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Palau, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands.

Eight Pacific nations recognise China as per the One-China policy: Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Tonga, Cook Islands and Micronesia.

Bishop said government "welcomes investment in developing nations in the Pacific that supports sustainable economic growth, and which does not impose onerous debt burdens on regional governments."

Read more at The Age