China says projects in Africa must be sustainable, hits out at critics

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese development projects in Africa must be sustainable, the government’s top diplomat told senior African ministers on Tuesday, as he denounced “external forces” seeking to vilify cooperation by blaming the China to create debt traps.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion to African nations at a China-Africa cooperation summit in September, matching the size of funds offered at the previous Johannesburg summit in 2015.

Beijing has denied engaging in “debt-trap diplomacy” and Xi said in September that public debt of Chinese interest-free loans due by the end of the year would be canceled for the most African countries. poor.

Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi told foreign ministers and others from some 50 African countries in Beijing that his country does not pursue selfish geopolitical gains in Africa and would never impose its will on others.

He said China’s approach to cooperation with Africa is different from that of traditional powers.

“For some time, however, some external forces have been trying to defame and undermine China-Africa cooperation by concocting (charges of) so-called neo-colonialism and debt traps, which are totally unfounded and not accepted by Africans,” says Wang.

“Such attempts reveal a complete lack of respect for Africa, a lack of understanding of China, a lack of knowledge of the true friendship between China and Africa that has stood the test of time,” he said. he declared.

Joint projects must be sustainable, he said.

“We should push forward project cooperation in a way that ensures real economic and social benefits and adheres to market principles,” Wang said.

African countries racking up debts they cannot repay, including to China, should not expect to be bailed out by Western-sponsored debt relief, the top US diplomat warned on Sunday. for Africa.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank launched the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative in 1996 to help the world’s poorest countries write off billions of dollars in unsustainable debt.

However, Africa faces another potential debt crisis, with around 40% of low-income countries in the region currently in debt distress or at high risk, according to an IMF report released a year ago.

Wang said the world should respect Africa.

“The African continent is the independent homeland of 1.4 billion Africans, not a sphere of influence for a big country,” he said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait

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