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Just who’s conducting debt-trap diplomacy?

Meanwhile, is China really practising debt-trap diplomacy? An increasing number of Western think tanks and independent scholars have looked into this claim propagated by Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state and other senior officials of the Donald Trump administration, among others. They have concluded either the claim is untrue or the evidence inconclusive or insufficient.

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A recent report by London-based Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is titled “Debunking the Myth of ‘Debt-trap Diplomacy’: How Recipient Countries Shape China’s Belt and Road Initiative”.

It concludes: “Critics of the BRI [Belt and Road Initiative] accuse China of pursuing a policy of ‘debt-trap diplomacy’: luring poor, developing countries into agreeing unsustainable loans to pursue infrastructure projects so that, when they experience financial difficulty, Beijing can seize the asset, thereby extending its strategic or military reach. This paper demonstrates that the evidence for such views is limited.”

It especially focuses on Sri Lanka and Malaysia, “the two most widely cited ‘victims’ of China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’, the most controversial BRI projects were initiated by the recipient governments, which pursued their own domestic agendas.

“Their debt problems arose mainly from the misconduct of local elites and Western-dominated financial markets. China has faced negative reactions and pushback in both countries, though to a lesser extent than is commonly believed, given the high-level interests at stake in the recipient countries.”

Writing in The Spectator, Lee Jones, a lecturer in international politics at Queen Mary University of London and a co-author of the Chatham House report, offered this advice and criticism.

“Rather than peddling myths about China, Western officials would be better advised to study its messy realities. Rather than trying to deter developing countries from accepting Chinese development finance, they should provide meaningful alternatives, and help developing countries to manage Chinese investment, loans and contractors for the benefit of their own people.”

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Deborah Brautigam, Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and Meg Rithmire, F. Warren McFarlan Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, have also investigated the controversies, particularly the case of Sri Lanka.

They wrote in The Atlantic magazine: “We are told that China’s internationalisation ? as laid out in programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative ? is not simply a pursuit of geopolitical influence but also, in some tellings, a weapon. Once a country is weighed down by Chinese loans, like a hapless gambler who borrows from the Mafia, it is Beijing’s puppet and in danger of losing a limb.

“The prime example of this is the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota. As the story goes, Beijing pushed Sri Lanka into borrowing money from Chinese banks to pay for the project, which had no prospect of commercial success. Onerous terms and feeble revenues eventually pushed Sri Lanka into default, at which point Beijing demanded the port as collateral, forcing the Sri Lankan government to surrender control to a Chinese firm. The Trump administration pointed to Hambantota to warn of China’s strategic use of debt.

“Our research shows that Chinese banks are willing to restructure the terms of existing loans and have never actually seized an asset from any country, much less the port of Hambantota. A Chinese company’s acquisition of a majority stake in the port was a cautionary tale, but it’s not the one we’ve often heard. With a new administration in Washington, the truth about the widely, perhaps wilfully, misunderstood case of Hambantota Port is long overdue.”

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Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Island programme at the Lowy Institute based in Sydney, Australia, does think “China is not conducting debt trap diplomacy in the Pacific ? at least not yet”.

The Australian think tank has created the Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map, a database on more than 20,000 projects supported by 62 donors, from 2011 to today. Its data shows Taiwan is more likely to lend to countries with “at risk” debt load than the mainland.

“Overall, China has not directed its lending towards countries that are already at a high risk of debt distress,” Pryke wrote. “Ten per cent of Chinese bilateral loans have gone to countries at high risk, compared to 70 per cent of bilateral loans from Taiwan, for example.

“While China is a major lender in the Pacific, it is not a dominant creditor. From 2011 to 2017, China was responsible for 37 per cent of all official loans disbursed in the region. Traditional creditors, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank, the IMF, Japan, and Canada, provided more than 60 per cent of all official lending.

“The Pacific is littered with failed infrastructure projects, funded by a variety of donors. A 2014 analysis, based on case studies in Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu, presented a mixed report card on the quality of Chinese projects, with some performing much better than others.”

When China does lend, it offers significant concessions.

“ … 97 per cent of China’s official loans in the Pacific have been in the form of concessional loans from its EXIM Bank [Export ? Import Bank of China]. Standard EXIM concessional loans are denominated in renminbi, with an interest rate of 2 per cent, a grace period of 5?7 years, and a maturity of 15?20 years. By international standards, these lending terms are quite favourable”.

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オーストラリアのシンクタンクであるLowy Instituteは、2011年から今日までに62のドナーが支援した2万件以上のプロジェクトをデータベース化した「Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map」を作成しました。そのデータによると、台湾は中国本土よりも債務残高が「危険」な国に融資する傾向があるという。






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彼らは『The Atlantic』誌にこう書いています。"中国の国際化は、『一帯一路』構想などのプログラムに見られるように、単に地政学的な影響力を追求するだけでなく、ある意味では武器でもあると言われています。マフィアから借金した不運なギャンブラーのように、ある国が中国からの借金によって重荷を背負わされると、その国は北京の操り人形となり、手足を失う危険性があります。



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王立国際問題研究所としても知られるロンドンのチャタムハウスが最近発表したレポートのタイトルは「Debunking the Myth of 'Debt-trap Diplomacy': 中国の「一帯一路」構想は受益国によってどのように形成されるのか」と題されています。


特に、スリランカとマレーシアに焦点を当てている。「中国の "債務の罠外交 "の "犠牲者 "として最も広く言及されている2つの国では、最も物議を醸したBRIプロジェクトが被投資国政府によって開始され、彼らは独自の国内アジェンダを追求していた。


ロンドンのクイーン・メアリー大学で国際政治学の講師を務め、チャタムハウス報告書の共同執筆者であるリー・ジョーンズは、The Spectatorに寄稿し、次のようなアドバイスと批判をしています。


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>by Alex Lo
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