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China lodges protest against Australian 'white elephant'

AFP  |  Beijing 

lodged a formal diplomatic protest today after a senior Australian called Chinese infrastructure projects in the Pacific "white elephants", the latest spat in increasingly contentious relations.

Friction between the two countries grew last month after singled out as a focus of concern when it proposed laws on foreign interference, drawing a furious response from

has been forging closer links with nations, with estimating it provided US$1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, for projects in the region between 2006-16.

Australian Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said Beijing's influence in the region was "clearly growing", but criticised its development assistance as resulting in "white elephants".

"You've got the Pacific full of these useless buildings which nobody maintains, which are basically white elephants," she told The Australian newspaper.

Chinese slammed the remarks during a regular press briefing, calling them "full of ignorance and prejudice".

"They are also irresponsible, and we have already made representations to the Australian government," he said, adding that Fierravanti-Wells should "engage in self-reflection".

Fierravanti-Wells said in her 24 trips to the Pacific as part of her international development portfolio, she had come across "nonproductive infrastructure" that was not regularly maintained and not used to full capacity.

"I've gone to (the Pacific) islands and you'll be driving along on some back road and all of a sudden you see this Chinese road crew building a road to nowhere and you think 'hmm, what's all that about'," she added.

The also warned that unlike loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Chinese financing had less than favourable terms.

"We don't know what the consequences are when (Pacific nations) have to pay back some of these Chinese loans," she said.

Lu said "fully respects the will of the Pacific islands' governments and their people".

China's development aid "has brought real benefits to local people," he added, saying that they have been "welcomed by the concerned countries' governments".

has diplomatic relationships with eight Pacific island nations -- the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 10 2018. 14:45 IST