11/29/2018, 17.23
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In its own defence, Beijing says Sri Lanka is not trapped by Chinese debt

by Melani Manel Perera

According to a Chinese Embassy spokesman in the United Kingdom, China holds "only" 10 per cent of the island nation's debt. Bilateral cooperation has created 100,000 jobs. In 2017, the port of Colombo was first in South Asia.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – A top Chinese government official has rejected the view that Sri Lanka’s economy is trapped by the debt incurred with China, or worse still, that Beijing is behind the country’s recent political instability.

An editorial in the Financial Times, titled ‘Sri Lanka turmoil points to China’s increasing role’ sparked a Chinese reaction.

Zeng Rong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom, disputed the claim, saying that relations between the two countries have been marked by long years of good neighbourliness, common interests and a win-win policy with mutual benefits.

His response is part of an ongoing debate among analysts and politicians in South Asia, who believe that Beijing has inflated the cost of its projects to undermine recipient countries.

The article in UK newspaper published on 16 November states that China is “becoming a supplier of political instability” and sets a “debt-trap” for Sri Lanka and other countries. For Rong, by contrast, “co-operation has delivered tangible benefit to the people of Sri Lanka.”

“By the end of 2017, Chinese companies had completed more than US$ 15 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka in transportation, water, electricity, ports and other fields, giving a strong boost to its economic development,” Rong said.

He cited the “Port of Colombo ranked 13th in the world and number one in South Asia in 2017. The Colombo Port City under construction and the Hambantota Port and Industrial Zone are expected to become the new powerful engines for Sri Lanka’s economic take-off,” he added.

What is more, “China-Sri Lanka pragmatic co-operation has created more than 100,000 jobs for Sri Lanka and trained tens of thousands of technical and management personnel.”

Finally, the Embassy spokesman noted that by last year, China’s loans to Sri Lanka represented only some 10 per cent of the country’s foreign debt. By comparison, Japan’s stood at 12 per cent, and that of Asian Development Bank at 14 per cent. For this reason, the claim that China’s loans are causing problems for Sri Lanka is not tenable.

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