BEIJING: China’s top diplomat has said that the country never forced debt upon participants of its new Silk Road project as “prejudiced” critics have suggested.
President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, as it is formally called, envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending.
But it has proved controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington, which views it as merely a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt through nontransparent projects.
The US has criticized Italy’s decision to sign up to the plan this month, during Xi’s visit to Rome, the first for a G7 nation.
Speaking to the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, Yang Jiechi, who runs the party’s foreign affairs committee, said he had noted that some in the international community believed this was a geopolitical tool and would only bring debt traps for participating countries.
“This obviously shows a lack of objectivity and fair understanding of the Belt and Road initiative. It is a misunderstanding, misjudgement and is even prejudiced,” wrote Yang, a former foreign minister and ambassador to Washington.
China has stressed many times that the Belt and Road is to promote joint development, he added.
“The Belt and Road is open, inclusive and transparent. It does not play little geopolitical games. It does not engage in the exclusion of exclusive small circles.”
Yang noted that many countries, companies and ordinary people participating in the Belt and Road project had “publicly refuted rumours” about it being a debt trap.