China says Maldives is not ‘mired in a Chinese debt trap’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on September 20, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2019

China says Maldives is not ‘mired in a Chinese debt trap’

  • The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion
  • The Indian Ocean island chain has been caught in a battle for influence between India and China

BEIJING: The Maldives are not “mired in a Chinese debt trap,” the Chinese government’s top diplomat told the visiting Maldivian foreign minister, amid fears in the Indian Ocean country of debts as high as $3 billion owing to Beijing.

The Indian Ocean island chain has been caught in a battle for influence between India and China, which invested millions of dollars during the rule of the pro-China former leader Abdulla Yameen as part of China’s Belt and Road plan, designed to improve its global trade reach.

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, which won a landslide in the archipelago’s parliamentary election in April, fears the debts to China could run as high as $3 billion and risk sinking the economy.

Meeting Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said China’s cooperation with the Maldives would not be affected by the change of government, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday.

“China’s cooperation with the Maldives aims to promote the well-being of the Maldivian people, without political intentions and without seeking geopolitical interests,” the ministry cited Wang as saying.

China provides what help it can to the Maldives without attaching political preconditions, and does not interfere in the its internal affairs, Wang added.

“It is totally without basis to say that ‘the Maldives is mired in a Chinese debt trap’,” he said. The Chinese statement quoted Shahid as saying no country in the world had been as generous to helping the Maldives, pointing to the building of infrastructure and “provision of a large amount of aid and loans.”

“In this regard, there is absolutely no so-called ‘debt trap’. To say that is complete nonsense.” China has been stung by criticism, mostly from Western countries, that it loads up poor, developing nations with unsustainable debt they have no hope of paying back, and that it is seeking to use this to leverage political influence.

China says its loans are much welcomed and much needed, and points out that it provides them with no political pre-conditions and gives funds to places that Western donors ignore.


New virus cases in China fall for second day, deaths top 2,000

In this picture taken on February 14, 2020, a Malaysia Airlines hostess (R) wearing a protective face mask checks the temperature of a Chinese passenger before she boards a flight to Beijing at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
Updated 9 min 21 sec ago

New virus cases in China fall for second day, deaths top 2,000

  • China may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year, the annual congress due to start in March

BEIJING: New virus cases in China continued to fall Wednesday, with 1,749 new infections and 136 new deaths announced after China’s leader said disease prevention and control was at “a critical time.”
The much-criticized quarantine of a cruise ship in Japan to avoid spreading the virus ends later in the day. The 542 cases on the ship were the most in any place outside of China and medical experts have called the quarantine a failure.
The updated figures on the COVID-19 illness for mainland China bring the total for cases to 74,185 and deaths to 2,004. New cases have fallen to under 2,000 daily for the past two days.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about the efforts to control the outbreak in a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described in state media.
Separately, the UN secretary-general told The Associated Press that the virus outbreak “is not out of control but it is a very dangerous situation.” Antonio Guterres said in an interview in Lahore, Pakistan, that “the risks are enormous and we need to be prepared worldwide for that.”
China has locked down several cities in central Hubei province where the outbreak hit hardest, halting nearly all transportation and movement except for the quarantine efforts, medical care and delivery of food and basic necessities.
China also may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year, the annual congress due to start in March, to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading. One of the automotive industry’s biggest events, China’s biannual auto show, was postponed, and many sports and entertainment events have been delayed or canceled.
Many countries set up border screenings and airlines canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in around two dozen countries and caused almost 1,000 confirmed cases outside mainland China. Five deaths have been reported outside the mainland, in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and France.
The largest number of cases outside China is the 542 on the Diamond Princess at a port near Tokyo.

Hundreds of passengers began leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday after the end of a much-criticized, two-week quarantine that failed to stop the spread of a new virus among passengers and crew.  Results were still pending for some passengers who’ve been tested for the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people in China and more than 540 on the ship. South Korea evacuated six South Koreans and a Japanese family member from the ship, and they began an additional 14-day quarantine Wednesday. More than 300 American passengers were evacuated earlier and are quarantined in the United States, including at least 14 who had tested positive for the virus.
The US also upgraded its travel advisory for China to Level 4, telling its citizens not to travel to anywhere in the country and advising those currently in China to attempt to depart by commercial means.
“In the event that the situation further deteriorates, the ability of the US Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to US nationals within China may be limited. The United States is not offering chartered evacuation flights from China,” the notice said.
“We strongly urge US citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home,” the notice said. The US previously flew out scores of its citizens on charter flights from Wuhan but does not have any further plans to do so, it said.
Despite, such warnings, the capital Beijing was showing signs of coming back to life this week, with road traffic at around a quarter of usual up from virtually nothing a week ago. While most restaurants, stores and office buildings remained closed, others had reopened. People entering were required to have their temperatures taken and register their contact information.