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US studies say BRI not a debt trap

2019-05-13 09:39:45 China Daily Global

Two studies released in the past weeks should put to rest the blind accusation that China''s infrastructure financing under the Belt and Road Initiative has sucked developing nations into a debt trap.

The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based nonprofit public policy organization, interviewed a group of its scholars ahead of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing late last month. None of them accused China of debt-trap diplomacy.

Ryan Hass, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former official for China in the Obama administration, said much of the US government's narrative on the BRI has been built around debt-trap diplomacy. He said he is worried that the US government is making an argument that is more persuasive to itself than to others.

The fact that the BRI has gained more support around the world, as seen in the recent forum in Beijing, is the best answer to those who might have ulterior motives. So far, more than 120 countries have participated in the initiative.

Despite strong US pressure, Italy became the first G7 nation to join the initiative in late March.

European Union officials have started to talk about how to align the EU's Connecting Europe with Asia strategy with China's BRI to achieve synergy.

In Beijing last week, Philip Hammond, Britain's finance minister, described the BRI as having "tremendous potential to spread prosperity and sustainable development, touching as it does potentially 70 percent of the world's population, a project of truly epic ambition".

He offered British expertise on project financing. Indeed, much of China's lending practices in the BRI were learned from Western nations, as well as Japan, which lent to China during the country's reform and opening-up drive in the past four decades.

The BRI may not be perfect yet, but its benign intention of boosting economic growth in developing nations by building infrastructure, something China learned from its own experience, should not be questioned.

Countries should join the BRI to help make it a greater success instead of trying to undermine it.

By Chen Weihua

The author is China Daily EU bureau chief based in Brussels.