Date: May 16, 2018
By Ben Westcott, CNN
(CNN)The Chinese government is leveraging billions of dollars in debts to gain political leverage with developing countries
across Asia and the Pacific, a new report presented to the US State Department claims.
The independent report, written by a pair of Harvard University scholars, identified 16 countries targeted by the Chinese government for “debtbook diplomacy, ” with Pakistan, Djibouti and Sri Lanka identified as being most vulnerable.
According to the report, in some cases the huge debts grow to a size too large to pay back, allowing Beijing to leverage the loans to “acquire strategic assets or political influence over debtor nations.”
This could allow the Chinese government to extend its influence across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, encircling India and Australia as well as helping to consolidate its position in the South China Sea, the report said.
Last month, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he viewed “with great concern” any foreign military bases being built in the South Pacific, following reports Beijing was in talks with Vanuatu to host Chinese forces.
According to the new report, Vanuatu, just 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) off Australia’s coast, has taken at least $270 million in Chinese loans in the past decade, worth 35% of its GDP. Both China and Vanuatu have strongly denied there were ever discussions over a PLA military presence on the island.
There is also concern in Washington that China is poised to gain control of a major commercial port in Djibouti, where the US and China have military bases. [FULL STORY]