Pakistan owes its “all weather friend” China at least $10 billion for the construction of the Gwadar port and other projects, a top US general said as he underlined Beijing’s “predatory economics” to expand its global influence.
The strategic Gwadar Port in Balochistan province is being built by China under the multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is considered to be a link between Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and Maritime Silk Road projects.
“Let us look at just a few examples. Saddled with predatory Chinese loans, Sri Lanka granted China a 99-year lease and 70 per cent stake in its deep-water port,” General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
The Maldives owes China roughly $1.5 billion–about 30 per cent of its GDP –for construction costs, he said.
“China is diligently building an international network of coercion through predatory economics to expand its sphere of influence,” he said, adding that nations around the globe are discovering the hard way that China’s economic “friendship” via OBOR can come at “a steep cost” when promises of investment go unfulfilled and international standards and safeguards are ignored.
General Dunford warned that if China’s predatory debt tactics are left unaddressed, it will have serious implications on the US military.
Alleging that China is extending its reach by increasing its overt military and coercive activities through its neighbours, Dunford said China’s increasingly provocative behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, particularly the South China Sea (SCS), should concern all.
Between 2013 and 2018, China increased its air and sea incursions into the SCS twelve-fold. Within those five years, it also increased deployments of offensive and defensive weapons systems to the SCS by the same order of magnitude, he said.