‘Debt trap’ rhetoric

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Chinese ambassador Zhou Jian stresses a point during a media conference in Suva on Tuesday. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

Chinese ambassador to Fiji Zhou Jian says China is not the largest creditor of Pacific Island countries, its overall debt volume in the region is small and it has never pressed for debt repayment.

He said China’s aid has always focused on “teaching people how to fish rather than just giving them fish” — and aims to help Pacific Island countries achieve independent and sustainable development.

“I’ve noticed that whenever China successfully implements a cooperation project with Pacific island countries, someone will jump out to confuse the situation by spreading the debt trap rhetoric,” Mr Jian said.

“I can’t help asking those who hold this view, don’t you want Pacific Island countries to develop themselves?

“These erroneous arguments are nothing, but a narrative trap created by some forces to disrupt and jeopardise China’s cooperation with Pacific island countries, which have been repeatedly proven baseless and self-defeating.”

He said it was ignorant and amateurish to solely talk about the negative effect of debt, or even describe it as an economy-destroying monster, without considering its role in promoting economic and social development.

“If the debt-trap logic makes sense, why does the US continue to raise its debt ceiling while its debt has exceeded 30 trillion US dollars?”

Mr Jian said in its foreign investment and financing cooperation, China always respected the will of partner countries, proceeded from the needs of partner countries, and never imposed its will on others.

“When PICs encounter debt difficulties, the two sides always properly resolve relevant issues through friendly consultations.

“Over the years, China has never forced any PICs to accept investment and financing from China, and no country has sacrificed its sovereignty and development rights because of receiving assistance or using loans from China.

“In fact, no country, including PICs, has ever fallen into a debt crisis because of cooperation with China.”

He said the main creditors and sources of debt repayment pressure for developing countries were multilateral financial institutions dominated by some Western countries that spread the rhetoric of China’s “debt trap” as well as commercial creditors.