Source: Global Times Published: 2018-7-12
China's investment and loans in African countries are designed to help them improve basic infrastructure, increase productivity and achieve self-reliance, which analysts say differs from years of strings-attached 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 West-led 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.
Wang Yiwei is senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.