China diplomat: Belt and Road no debt trap but pie to be shared
China’s second highest diplomat in the Philippines on Friday allayed fears that Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) had geopolitical aims and would plunge participating countries into a Chinese “debt trap.”
“Firstly, the BRI is a peaceful development platform, not a geopolitical tool,” said Chinese Embassy deputy chief of mission Tan Qingsheng during a forum in Manila on Philippine-China economic cooperation.
“The BRI promotes open and inclusive economic cooperation. It is not aimed at excluding anyone or replacing any other mechanisms, still less forming an exclusive geopolitical alliance,” he said.
“China has no intention to seek any sphere of influence or gain any geopolitical advantages through the BRI. We welcome any country who is willing to contribute to the regional connectivity and integration to join the BRI,” Tan added.
Although China initiated the BRI as a platform, it is “owned and equally participated” by all countries who take part in it under the guiding principle of “consultation and cooperation for shared benefits” with no projects being imposed on any country, he said.
Tan denied accusations that Beijing was using the BRI for debt-trap diplomacy in which a creditor country would intentionally extend excessive credit to a debtor country in order to extract economic or political concessions from the debtor when it becomes unable to pay its loans.
“The so-called China debt trap is completely groundless,” he said. “The BRI is a ‘pie’ for everyone to share, not a ‘pitfall’ that hinders development.”
Tan and other speakers at forum, including former President and ex-Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, focused on how the BRI could be strengthened by more people-to-people ties among participating countries.
Tan said the “strategic goal” for the BRI was to “connect diverse cultures and different civilizations for peaceful coexistence” by promoting extensive cultural, academic, media and other people-to-people exchanges.
Andanar acknowledged Chinese investments in President Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program as part of the BRI’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road aspect, which entails economic collaboration among Asia’s maritime and archipelagic states.
Praise from GMA
Arroyo lauded the efforts of China, which she said was poised to become the world’s largest economy, in becoming “a powerful advocate for safeguarding and developing globalization.”
In dealing with smaller countries, China should play the role of a “senior uncle to many nephews,” with both having responsibilities to work for the common good of the family, she said.
For China and the Philippines to have a “good state-to-state relations” there must be close people-to-people exchanges and heart-to-heart communication, Tan said. The other challenge, he said, was to overcome the “trust deficit.”
Call to media friends
“The relationship between two countries is similar to that of two persons,” he said. “The secret of friendship or love is to put our differences at a suitable place without undermining the overall relations. However, in our bilateral relations, sometimes a simple incident or a single issue can be blown out of proportion.”
The media also has a very important role to play in the development of bilateral relations, Tan added.
“I sincerely hope that our media friends can help us to paint a complete picture of the other country and contribute positively to the promotion of understanding and trust between our two countries,” he said.
The forum, organized by the Global Times Online and the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo de Manila University, was hosted by the China Public Diplomacy Association and the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Aside from the Chinese Embassy, the forum was also supported by the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., LKK Health Products Group and the Philippine Silk Road International Chamber of Commerce.