December 24, 2019
Deborah Brautigam, an expert on China-Africa relations, exposes the fraud of China’s debt-trap diplomacy in her report: A Critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ Brautigam, who is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for China-Africa Research Initiative, writes unequivocally that there is no evidence of an intentional effort to trap African nations into owing debt to China. China is not manipulating African nations in an attempt to control their resources. Ironically this is what the Western institutions did to African nations following their independence from colonialism. Whether out of ignorance and/or prejudice, Africans and Westerners have been repeating unfounded propaganda that China is the new colonizer of Africa. It is time to finally end this malicious mantra.
“The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies curates a database on Chinese lending to Africa (Brautigam & Hwang, 2016). It has information on about more than 1000 loans and, so far, in Africa, we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberately entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’. Angola, for example, has borrowed a huge amount from China. Of course, many of these loans are backed by Angola’s oil exports, but this is a commercial transaction. China is not getting huge strategic advantage in that relationship. Similarly, others have examined Chinese lending elsewhere in the world – some 3000 cases – and while some projects have been cancelled or renegotiated, none, aside from the single port in Sri Lanka, has been used to support the idea that the Chinese are seizing strategic assets when countries run into trouble with loan repayment (Kratz, Feng, & Wright, 2019).
The evidence so far, including the Sri Lankan case, shows that the drumbeat of alarm about Chinese banks’ funding of infrastructure across the BRI and beyond is overblown. In a study we conducted using our data on Chinese lending and African debt distress through 2017, China was a major player in only three low-income African countries that were considered by the IMF to be debt distressed or on the verge of debt distress (Eom, Brautigam, & Benabdallah, 2018). A similar country-by-country analysis that included use of our data shows that the Chinese are, by and large, not the major player in African debt distress (Jubilee Debt Campaign, 2018). Therefore, the role of China in African debt distress was limited when one remembers that there are 54 countries in Africa.”