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Allegations of China's 'debt-trap diplomacy' nonsense, distraction from truth: US expert

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-03-10 15:14

A passenger train is seen on a bridge of the Chinese-built railway linking the Kenyan capital Nairobi with Mombasa and Naivasha in 2017. CHEN CHENG/XINHUA

WASHINGTON - The allegations of China's engagement in "debt-trap diplomacy" are "sort of nonsense" and "a distraction" from the fact that China's infrastructure-related financing has enchanced many low-income countries' capabilities to realize better growth, said a US expert.

"We really kind of set aside this issue early, not take it beyond the low level of seriousness in terms of 'debt diplomacy' and 'modern colonialism' and that sort of nonsense. I mean it really is a distraction, frankly, from what's happening," Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies, told Xinhua in an interview on Monday.

"China has been doing resource-related loans to African countries now for over 20 years. It's been a long time. They have a long record. There is no one country which is as such indebted to China," he said, adding that "one must understand, of course, these are very capital intensive projects with long gestation periods."

"There is no 'debt-trap diplomacy.' If there are circumstances where individual countries have certain issues with the amount of debts, which is maturing at a particular point of time, those debts are being renegotiated. The payment profiles are being renegotiated," noted Gupta.

"In fact, the reason a lot of Western investors are opted out of the space is because they can't bear the risk of doing so. And a lot of Western governments have not even provided much infrastructure-related financing anymore," he said.

But the fact of the matter is that such investment is "very important" for many poorer countries, as better infrastructure creates "the foundation and the framework" for them to ramp up economic growth, he said.

China has built over 6,000 km of railways and roads respectively, nearly 20 ports and over 80 large electric power facilities across Africa, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a briefing in late February.

It has signed debt relief agreements or reached debt relief consensus with 16 African countries. Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China also waived interest-free loans due to mature by the end of 2020 for 15 African countries, Wang said.

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