'US use issues to disrupt CPEC development'

CHINA - PAKISTAN. Photo by Twitter

China on Monday accused the US of trying to drive a wedge in ties with its all-weather ally Pakistan by repeatedly raising the debt clauses in the construction of the USD 60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The CPEC is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

The project was launched in 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Islamabad and it now envisages an investment of over USD 60 billion in different infrastructure projects of development in Pakistan.

"The US ignores the facts and continues to use the so-called debt issue to disrupt the CPEC development and drive a wedge between China and Pakistan. This is so malicious and ill-intentioned," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here while responding to US's top diplomat for South and Central Asia Alice Wells criticizing the CPEC and China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Wells last week said the CPEC would take a toll on Pakistan's economy in the future.

"I think what CPEC exemplifies is what happens when you de-link investment and development from established best practices and infrastructure development," Wells said.

According to Wells, there's been a tendency to conflate the CPEC with grant assistance rather than understanding it to be the loans, and loans not at concessional rates, that it is.

"We want China to be a responsible supporter and funder of infrastructure. No country can do that. We all need to help work to ensure that countries have meaningful choices for sustainable and quality infrastructure," Wells said.

"What I think we all need to question and where we all need to push is, why isn't China adopting international standards?" Wells said.

India has protested the CPEC projects as it is being laid through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

On Monday, Geng said, "Wells' remarks are not new and she just copied what certain people in the US said to smear the CPEC and BRI. Both China and Pakistan have refuted such comments many times in the past.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has asserted the US view on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will have "no impact" on the ambitious project.

"Pakistan does not agree with that (US) view. We have rejected that view. We do not think that the burden of the CPEC will increase our debt burden," Qureshi said.

He said the CPEC would not increase the debt burden of Pakistan as out of the country's total debt burden is USD 74 billion, the CPEC related debt was just USD 4.9 billion.

Geng said, "In fact, the debt held by Pakistan, half of it comes from multilateral financial institutions. In CPEC projects over 80 percent are directly formed by China and built with Chinese free-aid and less than 20 percent used the Chinese loans.

"According to data from Pakistan, the total debt for CPEC is USD 4.9 billion less than one-tenth of total Pakistani debts. I am afraid the problem with certain people in the US is not about arithmetic but evil intention."

"Over the five years, important and positive progress has been made in CPEC. Twenty-two projects have achieved early harvest significantly improving the local transportation infrastructure and power supply as well as creating 10,000 job opportunities," Geng said.

The CPEC investments increased Pakistan's annual economic growth by 1-2 percentage points contributing to its national and social development as well as people's well- being, he said.

"I think facts have given the best answer to whether the CPEC is good or not," Geng said.  

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