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Why China’s ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’ Critics Are Wrong

A China in Africa Podcast

China’s critics, led largely by the United States, are determined to warn developing countries about the risks of borrowing too much money from Beijing. They contend China will use these loans to financially entrap economically vulnerable countries as part of a broader effort to exert political influence and control.

Mark Akpaninyie does not agree. A former research analyst at Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, he wrote a provocative article in The Diplomat arguing that China’s debt diplomacy is a “misnomer” and should instead be called “crony diplomacy.”

“Instead of a state-led strategy, Chinese firms—motivated by profit and abetted by a toxic combination of bureaucratic disorganization, incompetence, and negligence at the state level—have exploited poor nations, which are dependent on cheap, and sometimes bad, loans,” Akpaninyie writes. “This practice does not trap recipient countries into taking on unsustainable debt. Instead, it allows Chinese companies to profit from often crooked deals building much-needed infrastructure in some of the world’s poorest countries, exploiting the undersupply of financing and these countries’ appetite for infrastructure projects.”

Akpaninyie joins Eric and Cobus to discuss why he thinks China is not a predatory lender, as critics charge, but rather that corruption plays a much bigger role in China’s overseas lending drive than any grand geopolitical plan.