China’s Africa loans leave sovereignty un­scathed

Global Times US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Yang Sheng

China’s in­vest­ment and loans in African coun­tries are de­signed to help them im­prove ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture, in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and achieve sel­f­re­liance, which an­a­lysts say dif­fers from years of stringsat­tached aid from the West.

Some Western me­dia and politi­cians have re­cently cre­ated the phrase “debt­book diplo­macy” to ac­cuse China of “mir­ing na­tions in debt” and

“un­der­cut­ting their sovereignty.”

Ac­cord­ing to CNN, a new re­port pre­sented to the US State De­part­ment claims the “Chi­nese govern­ment is lever­ag­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in debt to gain po­lit­i­cal lever­age with de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.”

“This phrase ‘debt­book diplo­macy’ shows the West is ner­vous of China-Africa co­op­er­a­tion. ‘Debt­book diplo­macy’ is what they did to Africa for decades, but now China is ac­tu­ally help­ing African na­tions rid them­selves of ‘the debt trap’ set by the West,” said Wang Yi­wei, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs at Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China in Bei­jing.

The West left African coun­tries with a heavy debt on projects and failed to sup­port their sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, or to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and help them re­al­ize self-re­liance, Wang noted. “Western coun­tries wanted Africa to be­come their raw ma­te­ri­als sup­plier while main­tain­ing their post-colo­nial in­flu­ence over the con­ti­nent. This pre­vented African coun­tries from re­al­iz­ing their own in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, Wang said.

China, on the other hand, is help­ing the na­tions move to­ward self-re­liance and in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. The West doesn’t like that and this is why it is at­tempt­ing to slan­der China, Wang added.

Xu Weizhong, deputy di­rec­tor of the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions’ In­sti­tute of West Asian and African Stud­ies, said that “Africa needs a lot of in­vest­ment to build in­fra­struc­ture, and China’s loans, which have in­creased African coun­tries’ debt, are nec­es­sary for their de­vel­op­ment.”

China’s as­sis­tance to Africa dif­fers from what the West of­fers. China has a “cru­cial prin­ci­ple,” which is to re­spect African coun­tries’ will and con­di­tions. China has never forced African coun­tries to ac­cept loans on large in­fra­struc­ture projects be­yond their abil­ity to pay, Wang said.

“China and Africa have walked an ex­tra­or­di­nary path in de­vel­op­ing re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion, and our peo­ples have ben­e­fited greatly from it,” As­sis­tant For­eign Min­is­ter Chen Xiaodong said at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the Sev­enth China-Africa Think Tank Fo­rum in Bei­jing on July 4.

“A minority of Western­ers are blinded by their ‘pride and prej­u­dice’ and choose not to see this… maybe that is what they call ‘sour grapes’?” Chen said.

West is largest debt holder

Data shows that Western coun­tries and Wes­tled or­ga­ni­za­tions are the largest own­ers of African debt, not China, Shen Shi­wei, a re­search fel­low at the Charhar In­sti­tute and for­mer govern­ment re­la­tions and busi­ness con­sul­tant for Chi­nese en­ter­prises in Africa, said in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished on CGTN’s web­site.

Re­search from SAIS and the China Africa Re­search Ini­tia­tive at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity shows that China has pro­vided loans worth $114.4 bil­lion to Africa from 2000-2016, which ac­counts for 1.8 per­cent of Africa’s to­tal ex­ter­nal debt.

“The IMF and World Bank own 36 per­cent of African debt. These mul­ti­lat­eral fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and other giant in­vestors in Europe and the US have far stronger lever­age [than China],” Shen noted in his ar­ti­cle.

“For his­tor­i­cal rea­sons, the West has many in­ter­ests in Africa. Those that are rea­son­able should be re­spected when we co­op­er­ate with Africa. But for those that are un­rea­son­able, should China and African coun­tries con­tinue to re­spect them? Be­fore ac­cus­ing China, the West should think about this care­fully,” Xu said.

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