Mon, 10 May 2021

HONG KONG, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- There is no evidence to support Washington's narrative of China's engagement in "debt-trap diplomacy," said an article published Sunday by South China Morning Post.

"There is no evidence China aims to deliberately push poor countries into debt as a way of seizing their assets or gaining a greater say in their internal affairs, researchers and analysts said -- countering Washington's narrative that China was engaging in 'debt-trap diplomacy,'" the article said.

Deborah Brautigam, a professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University and founding director of the China Africa Research Initiative (Cari), considers the "debt-trap" narrative a myth, it said.

After scrutinizing thousands of Chinese loan documents, mostly for projects in Africa, Cari reported that it has not found any evidence that China seizes the assets of other countries if they fail to pay loans, the article said.

The revelation comes at a time when dozens of African countries are either in or at a high risk of debt distress. Most of the countries -- including Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia, which are among the top borrowers from China -- have sought debt relief. Beijing has since provided some debt relief to more than 20 countries and, for some countries, has cancelled interest-free loans that were maturing in 2020, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

For instance, noting some reports that China seized the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota when the South Asian country fell behind in servicing its debts, the article said that instead of the port being seized by China, Sri Lanka privatised 70 percent of the Chinese-financed port to a Chinese firm, citing Cari researchers.

"The U.S. narrative on debt-trap diplomacy was flawed because of its lack of nuance," David Shinn, a professor at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, was quoted by the article as saying.

"The real issue is China's holding of 20 percent of Africa's debt, not debt-trap diplomacy," Shinn said.

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