Chinese debt trap ‘just a meme’: Ex-WB chief

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BOAO: Dismissing the western allegations about China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”, former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has said that the claims about Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) tricking nations into debt made no sense.

He made the remarks during the 2023 Boao Forum for Asia held last week under the theme “An Uncertain World: Solidarity and Cooperation for Development amid Challenges”.

The former WB president said studies have shown the term “debt-trap diplomacy” is “nothing more than a meme” and called on Asian Americans to stand up to the blind hate.

Citing American political scientist and professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins University Deborah Bräutigam, Kim said that the most effective and well-known researcher has not found any evidence to substantiate the claims made about the Chinese debt.

In fact, the term came about because of human negativity bias based on anxiety about the rise of China, he noted while quoting from the study.

“If there is one message we give to the Chinese people, it is please don’t reduce your ambition to help other countries develop their economies and reduce poverty as you have over the last 30 years,” he added.

Using the Gen-Z slang the acronym G.O.A.T (greatest of all time), the former WB bank president said that it was simply a historical fact that in terms of economic development and poverty alleviation, “China is the G.O.A.T, the greatest of all time… don’t let the rest of the world make you the scapegoat”.

Earlier, in another session themed “Belt and Road: Sharing the Opportunities of Development,” Jim Yong Kim, who is also the partner and vice chairman of Global Infrastructure Partners, called the BRI the most ambitious development project in human history and added that the essence of the initiative is to have a way of shoring up infrastructure foundation to let everyone aspire to enjoy a good life.

It may be noted that Kim’s comments came against the backdrop of western claims that Beijing was “inveigling” poorer countries into taking out loans to build expensive infrastructure only to eventually seize control of assets from borrowing nations.

However, despite the Asian giant’s recent measures to forgive interest-free loans, the experts noted that the US-led western block has claimed that the BRI is in fact a geopolitical strategy to establish Sinocentric world order.

According to Debt Justice, a UK-based campaigning organisation, just 12% of African governments’ external debt is owed to Chinese lenders compared to 35% owed to Western private lenders, according to the calculations based on World Bank data.

Furthermore, interest rates on private loans are almost double those on Chinese loans, while the most indebted countries are less likely to have their debt dominated by China.

Earlier, speaking during the session, the chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia and former secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said China’s commitment to the multilateral approach and global partnership is reassuring and encouraging.

Emphasising peace and security as prerequisites for achieving sustainable development, Ban noted that “there is no decoupling of the two in any way”.

Zhao Fengtao, vice-chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, said China has done an excellent job balancing development and security, achieving long-term stability and economic growth and setting an example for the rest of the world.

“It is a must to work harder to revitalize multilateralism and come together to tackle common challenges,” he added, noting global crises require greater cooperation and partnership.

Andy Tsang Wai-hung, deputy director of China National Narcotics Control Commission, said the world must understand profound changes in the international arena can only be adapted to by working together.

“Only through a win-win approach can we rise to the challenges of the increasingly complicated global security landscape,” he said.

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