COMMENTS / EXPERT ASSESSMENT
Worn ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ cliché heading toward its end
Published: Apr 08, 2021 08:20 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT



Western anti-China think tanks have recently cooked up another piece of work for their relentless smear campaign against China's investments and assistance to developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and others.

Hyping the cliché of so-called debt-trap diplomacy, the freshly compiled report titled "How China Lends: A Rare Look into 100 Debt Contracts with Foreign Governments" suggested that China is trying to project power and influence over recipient countries through lending.

Contrary to what the title suggests, the report contains nothing "rare" and new. Full of prejudices and geopolitical conspiracies as always, it is only focused on deliberately misinterpreting loan terms out of the context and making groundless accusations. Such cliché accusations laid bare the fact that Western anti-China forces are at their wit's end and their claims are not even worth refuting.

Claiming to have conducted a study of 100 "unusually confidential" loan contracts China signed with 24 countries, the report said that these contracts give "lenders broad scope to cancel loans or accelerate repayments if debtors' policies are deemed contrary to Chinese interests." In other words, China uses economic advantage to control other countries. 

But is this true? The fact is that China always respects other countries' rights to select their own development paths based on their own conditions and demands. China has repeatedly stated that it takes a no-strings-attached approach in offering loans.

Take a closer look at the debt constitution of the developing countries that Western media outlets and think tanks said are stuck in China's "debt trap," it is Western countries rather than China that own larger proportion of loans to these countries. China's loans to these countries only have seen faster growth in recent years.

There have long been overhype and attempts to discredit China's overseas investments, especially for contracts under the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), which has been bolstering economic growth of participating countries through win-win cooperation. Coming at a time when the US is ramping up efforts to gather allies to contain China, the purpose of this report is quite self-evident.

Is the BRI really a geopolitical tool for China to expand influence? The vast majority of developing countries have the most say. So far, no BRI participating country or China's loan recipient has agreed with the so-called debt trap diplomacy theory. Government officials, scholars and ordinary citizens in partner countries believe that China's BRI is in line with the needs of local economic and social development and is a win-win cooperation platform. Indeed, Western countries' continual badmouthing against China is precisely because of the great progress the BRI had made.

About "debt-trap diplomacy," what people need to understand is that it is nothing but a latest variant of the lingering anti-China narrative among Western politicians and academicians, just like theories of "China threat" and "China's sharp power."

These bizarre theories that discredit China's rise are not supported by modern international relations theories, scientific logic, or basic facts. It is a reflection of the sheer sour grape psychology in some Western quarters in face of China's rise. Like the China "collapse theory" that has been proven wrong time after time, "debt trap diplomacy" may be eye-catching for the time being but it will quietly fade in the end.

The author is director of the institute of developing countries at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn




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