Trade Wars

Top Sri Lankan official debunks ‘China debt trap’ propaganda

– Tahmina Janjua, Mushahid rejects Cold War mentality

ISLAMABAD: Former Sri Lankan Navy Commander Jayanath Colombage on Monday debunked the so-called ‘debt trap’ theory surrounding China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying Sri Lanka owes less than 10% of its external debt to China.

Speaking at an international webinar with experts from China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Commander Jayanath Colombage said 10% debt is actually very beneficial for Sri Lanka because it has created enormous economic prospects for the citizens of the country.

The webinar was organized by the Pakistan-China Institute as part of its flagship series “Friends of Silk Road”, entitled “Big Power competition in the post-pandemic World Order and the Belt and Road Initiative”, with speakers from Pakistan, China, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, UK and USA. Former Foreign Minister Ms. Tehmina Janjua chaired the webinar while Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman of the Senate Defense Committee and the Pakistan-China Institute, delivered a keynote address.

In addition, the Sri Lankan commander urged aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with China’s domestic economic conditions so that the two countries can ensure the development of high-quality BRI projects.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Tehmina Janjua, a former Pakistani foreign minister, noted that China had worked miracles in lifting 800 million people out of poverty. She described the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as an opportunity to leverage the economic potential of countries in the South in the post-pandemic period.

The belief in US political circles that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has strategic rather than economic foundations has hurt China’s aspirations to build a prosperous community. She described the efforts of the United States and its allies to limit China on all fronts as “unfortunate” because they will have major ramifications not only for the South, but also for the United States and its allies, because such a development impacts everyone, not just the one targeted.

In his opening speech, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that Pakistan was in a strategic place where huge transformations and transitions were taking place, including the retreat of American power, the peaceful rise of China and Pakistan’s s striving to be the hub of regional connectivity through CPEC, moving from geopolitics to geoeconomics.

He said that after 42 years of war in Afghanistan, which directly affected Pakistan, the country cannot be part of a new conflict, confrontation or cold war because connectivity and cooperation are the needs. Of time. Likewise, he called for an end to the war in Ukraine, adding that it is stirring new tensions and has had unintended consequences such as food and fuel shortages.

Senator Mushahid Hussain stressed the need to proactively promote the CPEC, which is the flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which he called the most important diplomatic and development initiative. of the 21st century. He hoped that all Asian countries would stay out of any Cold War. He said that while the United States still clung to a military-centric approach, as evidenced by the QUAD, the AUKUS, and the search for a global NATO, conversely, China was seeking a economy-driven vision through connectivity and regional cooperation, especially the BRI which now has 145 countries and 32 international organizations under its umbrella.

Mustafa Hyder Sayed, executive director of the Pakistan-China Institute, said the implications of great power competition, whether intentional or not, affect us all. Growing uncertainty on the world stage has had an impact on Pakistan’s middle class. He said we must learn to balance our relationship and redefine economic and food security as the most important factors.

According to him, CPEC cooperation has become a feature of the Belt and Road Initiative. During the COVID-19 outbreak, it proved to be a tenacious initiative. He explained that the economic alliance between Pakistan and China is “just the icing on the cake” of their “unique connection”, which includes cultural and educational exchanges, with 20,000 Pakistani students studying in China.

Suos Yara, chairman of the Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Media and Information Committee of the National Assembly of Cambodia, said that the foundations of the economies have been shaken by so much uncertainty on the world stage. . Small countries, like Cambodia, face many obstacles in achieving economic prosperity. Cambodia, he pointed out, is not interested in choosing sides since it considers itself the friend of all and the enemy of no one. He said the new world order must be inclusive, sustainable and resilient. The BRI, he said, is a platform for collaboration as it offers many opportunities, such as infrastructure upgrades and respite for the economies of partner countries.

Professor Wang Wen, executive dean of the Chongyang Institute of Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said the United States was replicating the crisis in Ukraine to ignite conflict in Taiwan. US attacks on China’s core interests, he said, will not prevent China from achieving its ultimate goal of economic prosperity not only in China but across the region. He denounced the United States’ active pursuit of a Cold War mentality and argued for collaboration rather than confrontation.

He said China will not be afraid of US provocations, such as trade wars, NATO internationalization, the Five Eyes or the QUAD, and will actively respond to any encroachment on its national sovereignty. Furthermore, he said that China will become the world’s largest consumer market by 2023. This provides opportunities for increased economic growth in developing countries.

Mr. Keith Bennett, co-editor of Friends of Socialist China, said that with the fall of the Berlin Wall more than 31 years ago, Westerners expressed hope that modern democratic values ​​would triumph in the South, which would translate into economic success for the region, but that did not happen. Russia was treated as a humiliated and defeated country, and NATO’s wishes for containment were not fulfilled. In such an environment, he said, China’s transformation has been incredible and the country is poised to take center stage in world politics, a dream dreamed up by President Xi Jinping. He also commended Pakistan-China collaboration on CPEC and called on other BRI countries to follow suit.