Debt-Trap Diplomacy & Compromising On Quality
Although China has claimed that its Belt and Road initiative would boost the Global Economy, the real picture is radically different. China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy has helped the African nations realise the fact that it would be a mistake to trust the Asian Giant. Debt-trap diplomacy describes a situation where a powerful lending country or institution seeks to saddle a borrowing nation with debt to increase its leverage over the former. Since 2000, many African, South-east and South Asian countries have rapidly increased their borrowing from China, totalling USD 94.5 billion up to 2014, as they want to end their dependence on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. These two Global Lenders demand Market Liberalisation in exchange for loans. As per a research conducted as part of the Jubilee Debt Campaign in October 2018, the African countries owed China USD 10 billion in 2010, increasing to over USD 30 billion by 2016.
Beijing’s lending to African countries is part of a large-scale overseas investment boom, forming part of its quest to secure access to raw materials and become an economic superpower. As of 2020, the countries in Africa with the largest Chinese debt are Angola (USD 25 billion), Ethiopia (USD 13.5 billion), Zambia (USD 7.4 billion), the Republic of Congo (USD 7.3 billion), and Sudan (USD 6.4 billion). In total, the Chinese have loaned USD 143 billion to African Governments and State-owned enterprises between 2000 and 2017. Many Chinese loans, in fact, have not been publicly disclosed, thus spawning a “hidden debt” problem. Every contract since 2014 has incorporated a sweeping confidentiality clause that compels the borrowing country to keep confidential its terms or even the loan’s existence.
After Sri Lanka and Pakistan, neighbouring Bangladesh has shared its experience of dealing with China with the Global Community, with Bangladeshi Armed Forces raising concerns over the quality of imported Chinese arms! In a statement, the Bangladeshi Army recently said that experts detected a number of technical faults in warships and aircraft purchased from Beijing in the last 10 years. Although the Army technicians are trying their best to solve those problems, the Sheikh Hasina Administration in Dhaka is yet to discuss the issue with the Chinese Government.
It may be noted that Bangladesh had started working on the modernisation of its Navy and Air Force almost a decade ago. As part of that process, Bangladesh Navy acquired two used Type 053H3 (Jiangwei II) surface-warfare frigates from China in 2014. Later, Dhaka purchased two more Type 053H3 (Jiangwei III class) frigates and Type 057 Class corvettes from Beijing. Again, construction of a few more such frigates is underway.
Bangladesh has claimed that there are faults in the control systems of two Type 053H3 (Jiangwei III class) frigates, as helicopters are facing problems while refueling from those two Warships. Problems have also been found in the control system of the Chinese Diamond DA40 training aircraft. The Karakorum-8 (K-8) light attack and jet trainer aircraft, purchased from China, too, is not working properly. The Bangladesh Air Force has three of them. According to the statement, the batteries and other parts of the FM-90 (HQ-7) short-range anti-missile system, acquired from China, have become virtually unusable due to serious mechanical problems.
It seems that Bangladesh would stop acquiring weapons and fighter jets from China in near future. Although Beijing, seemingly, has earned quite a bit by selling weapons to various countries, the Chinese Authorities have never stressed on their Quality. Hence, those weapons have become useless. Unfortunately, some Western countries still believe that the Asian Giant would be able to replace the US as the Superpower in the coming years…
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