The Deputy Chief of Mission at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan Lijian Zhao on Thursday rubbished criticism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) published in the New York Times and said it was western countries which pushed Pakistan in a debt trap.
Zhao took issue with the article’s argument that China is ensnaring Pakistan in a debt trap and said CPEC loans constituted only $6 billion of Pakistan’s $95 billion international debt. He also refuted the stated figure of $23 billion owed to China.
In response to a section of the article that says China’s investment in Pakistan comes with “military strings attached”, Zhao said the correct way to phrase the cooperation between the neighbouring countries would be “defence cooperation and technology transfers”.
“Strings are something like Washington Consensus that your master always pulls. BTW, Chinese defence cooperation with Pakistan is not new and has been there since the 1950s” said the Chinese envoy.
The NYT article also claimed that a confidential plan between the Pakistan Air Force and Chinese officials is in place to expand building Chinese military jets, weaponry and other hardware and deepen their cooperation in space projects.
CPEC – a pilot project of Belt and Road Initiative – had been launched four years ago with an initial size of the $46 billion. Over a period, the size grew to $50 billion, although the actual projects that have reached construction stage are $19 billion, according to Chinese estimates.
The B&R Initiative has made headlines across South Asia, where leaders ponder the future of regional economic integration in a bid to pursue the maximisation of their local interests. Some countries in the region have thus witnessed frequent high-level bilateral exchanges.