Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 02:05 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 02:05 | SYDNEY

China calls me 'incompetent or stupid'


Fergus Hanson


10 October 2011 11:27

I have a few nicknames, but one of my more irregular ones, used by some Lowy colleagues, is 'totally pointless and unacceptable'. I can thank a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman for that. Qin Gang used the expression to describe a paper I wrote on China's aid program (a paper which has since become an annual report and the only regional study I'm aware of that uses government figures to produce a summary of China's pledged aid activities).

But now WikiLeaks has shown that China was merely being polite.

In a meeting with the US embassy in Suva in July 2008, PRC Deputy Chief of Mission Fei Mingxing told US embassy officials that I am 'either incompetent or stupid'. I'll now probably have to answer to both at Lowy, but I'm going to have to give a big shout-out to the US Embassy for taking the trouble to at least defend the claim of incompetence:

Comment:  Fei's criticism of the Lowy report is misleading and probably unfair.  In his FY 2008 budget speech, delivered last November, Interim Finance Minister Chaudhry thanked the PRC for "offering a concessional loan facility of around FJ 242 million" (about USD 160 million). "Negotiations are currently underway on the details of this loan with Exim Bank-China," he said,  It may be that Chaudhry was jumping the gun, but his statement certainly appears authoritative. End comment.

The same cable also had a few interesting details. In a discussion with the Taiwanese Trade Mission in Suva, Senior Advisor Victor Chin speculated about China's military ambitions in Fiji. 

Chin expects that the PRC will ask Fiji for more than a reaffirmation of the One-China policy in return for aid. Chin noted the great increase in the number of Chinese satellite tracking ships that have visited Suva in the last year. He wondered if a satellite tracking station, like the one the PRC operated in Kiribati until that country switched recognition to Taiwan, might be next. Chin said he has mentioned his concern about such a possible development to Fiji officials, but has never received a clear, unequivocal response.

The cable finishes with this conclusion:

Aid flows are likely to increase sharply beginning next year, however, assuming Fiji commits to an RMB loan package relatively soon. PRC officials will also try to keep security and defense contacts with Fiji well below the radar, as opposed to a more open approach elsewhere in the Pacific...