The Chinese ambassador to the United States Qin Gang (R) speaks during a fireside chat, part of a series of discussions hosted by Semafor, in Washington, D.C., the United States, Dec. 12, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
The Chinese ambassador to the United States on Tuesday pushed back against claims that China is creating a "debt trap" in Africa, saying that the continent should be a place for international cooperation, instead of an arena where major powers compete for geopolitical gains.
The remarks by Qin Gang, the ambassador, came on the eve of a summit to be hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden's administration that convenes leaders of 49 African nations and the African Union in Washington.
"China's investment and financing assistance to Africa is not a trap, it's a benefit," Qin said during a fireside chat, part of a series of discussions hosted by Semafor to warm-up for the U.S.-Africa Summit scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday. Semafor is a U.S. news startup launched just earlier this year.
"Over the past decades, China has provided loans to help Africa with economic and social development. Construction works are everywhere in Africa," Qin said. "You can see hospitals, highways, airports, stadiums. Obviously, there is no such trap. It is not a plot. It is transparent, it is sincere."
Citing a study published in July by Debt Justice, a British charity group, Qin said the amount of debt African countries owe to Western private lenders is three times what they owe to China, and interest rates on private loans are double those on Chinese loans.
Those findings, Qin said, are proof that "China is not the biggest creditor of African debts," and that "the debt owed to China is only a small part."
Mentioning the Debt Service Suspension Initiative set up by the Group of 20, Qin said China is an active participant in the initiative, having suspended the most debt service payments among G20 members.
"We call on all other creditors, multinational Internet institutions and private lenders to take active actions to reduce the debt burden of African countries in the principle of fair burden sharing and common actions," he said.
As for the upcoming U.S.-Africa Summit, the ambassador said he would like to see Washington "come up with more concrete and workable measures" aimed at facilitating the development and prosperity of the African continent.
Qin called on the United States to cooperate with China so that the two of them, as the world's top two economies and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, can join forces in promoting peace, security and prosperity in Africa, thus shouldering their shared responsibilities as major countries and meeting the expectations of the international community.
The ambassador mentioned a few examples of China-U.S. joint efforts aimed at the betterment of African people's livelihoods and the promotion of their economic and trade relations with other parts of the world.
In addition to jointly helping the Liberian people fight the Ebola epidemic in 2015, Qin said a textile industrial park that is the result of trilateral collaboration among China, the United States and Ethiopia has proven to be a success story, boosting the export of garments from the east African nation to Europe and North America.
"We need to extend, broaden our vision and expand our cooperation in Africa," the ambassador said of the United States and China. "This is one of the very interesting areas for the two countries to work on."