Friday 23 Feb 2018 | 13:46 | SYDNEY
Friday 23 Feb 2018 | 13:46 | SYDNEY

Who's informing the US Congress?



26 May 2008 09:39

A recent report prepared by the US Congressional Research Service for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on China’s foreign policy and soft power appears to contain some pretty sloppy errors when it comes to the Pacific.

It makes the unusual claim (page 35) that ‘China is likely one of the largest providers of foreign assistance to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), after the United States and Japan’. This is odd because the Marshall Islands recognises Taiwan (so, as is standard Chinese policy, it gives it no aid, officially) and the source it uses to back up this claim does not, as far as I can see, support this proposition. It would seem the authors meant Taiwan not China. 

After noting China announced $US 375 million in development assistance and soft loans to the region in 2006, on page 34 the report states 'It was later reported that China had allocated $[US]600 million for soft loans'.  The International Herald Tribune source used to back up this claim does use the $US 600 million figure. But it was drawn from a 2007 Associated Press newswire with the same title and date (which is cited elsewhere in the report) that was reported from Suva. And converting $600 million Fijian dollars to US dollars using a 2007 exchange rate, results in a figure suspiciously close to $US 375 million. Hmmm.

The report goes on to note (page 38) that ‘Fiji reportedly has sought a loan of up to $[US]600 million from China’. It offers no immediate citation, but the two news articles referenced in the next sentence and which seem to be backing this claim up refer only to the Chinese loan pool available to the region as a whole, and Fiji's intention of accessing a portion of it.

In a March 2007 statement, Glyn Davies, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said: 'It is true that the nations of the Pacific have not always received either adequate diplomatic attention or development assistance. Budget constraints and policy priorities during the 1990s often limited our diplomatic representation and the aid we could offer. But that was then and this is now. ...we believe we can reverse this trend'. 

OK, if the above are really errors then they aren't going to bring the US to its knees, but maybe Mr Davies should have a word with the Congressional Research Service all the same. 

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