Washington and Beijing are vying for influence in Africa, where Chinese banks are major lenders.
The Chinese government says the United States should stop pressuring Beijing to get rid of debt for Zambia and focus on averting a national debt domestically, which could affect the global economy.
“The greatest contribution the US can make to the debt problem outside the country is to face its own debt problem and stop sabotaging the active efforts of other sovereign countries to solve their debt problems,” the Chinese government said. embassy in Zambia in a statement on Tuesday.
The US government has a $31.4 trillion limit on how much it can borrow, and it hit that limit on Thursday.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took “extraordinary measures” to ensure that the US government can continue to pay its bills in the short term and then traveled to Africa. During a visit to Zambia, she said it was crucial for the country to address its heavy debt to China.
The country failed to make a $42.5 million bond payment in November 2020, becoming Africa’s first sovereign nation to default during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has taken far too long to solve this case,” Yellen said Monday.
Washington is trying to woo African countries as its rivals Russia and China gain influence on the continent.
During her visit to Africa, which included Senegal and South Africa, Yellen pushed for expanding trade and business ties with the US.
“The United States is all in with Africa, and all in with Africa,” Yellen said in Dakar on Friday, praising the fruits of a new “mutually beneficial” US economic strategy towards Africa.
In response to Yellen, China focused on the battle between Republican lawmakers and Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration over raising the US debt limit to allow more borrowing to keep the government afloat.
“Even if the US solves its debt problem one day, it is not qualified to make baseless accusations against or put pressure on other countries for selfish interests,” the statement from the Chinese embassy said.
According to Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center, Chinese development banks have emerged as major lenders to poor countries around the world for natural resource, transportation and energy projects, though those loans have declined sharply and steadily since 2016.
New loan commitments fell to eight projects totaling $3.7 billion by 2021, down from a peak of 151 projects worth $80 billion in 2016, according to data collected by the center.
Currently, 22 low-income African countries are already in debt or at high risk of debt, according to Britain’s Chatham House. Chinese lenders account for 12 percent of Africa’s private and public external debt, which has increased more than fivefold between 2000 and 2020 to $696 billion.
Washington has repeatedly expressed concern over Beijing’s alignment with Moscow in recent weeks as Russia launches its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December that he expected his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to arrive in 2023. If it were to take place, analysts say the visit could be interpreted as a public show of solidarity amid Ukraine’s war.
Last month, then-Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggested China strengthen ties with Russia over the coming year.
He also blamed the US for deteriorating relations between the world’s two largest economies, saying that Beijing was using Washington’s “wrong China policy” to pressure trade and technology and criticize China on human rights and has “resolutely rejected” his claims of a wide range of criticism of China. of the Western Pacific.