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Friday May 22 2020
Web Desk

China takes exception to US official Alice Wells's farewell speech

Web Desk
Wells, the outgoing US State Department official, had a day earlier reportedly asked China to either wave off or renegotiate the 'unsustainable and unfair' debt of Pakistan and raised questions over the multi-billion-dollar CPEC project.

BEIJING: The Chinese embassy in Pakistan on Thursday said it is "firmly opposed" to what it described as "irresponsible remarks" made by outgoing US State Department official, Alice G. Wells with reference to Sino-Pak relations and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The speech by Wells — who exited from her job as the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State — "is totally baseless, just a repetition of her same old tune", according to a statement released by the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Pakistan.

A day earlier, Wells had asked China to either wave off or renegotiate the "unsustainable and unfair” debt owed by Pakistan and raised questions over the multi-billion-dollar CPEC project.

“I enumerated my concerns and the United States government’s concerns over CPEC, over the lack of transparency involved in the project, over the unfair rates of profits that are guaranteed to Chinese state organisations to the distortions it caused in the Pakistani economy including by the massive imbalance in the trade Pakistan now has with China,” she had reportedly said.

China, in turn, reiterated the "all-weather friendship" with Pakistan in the statement released by the embassy.

"For the past 69 years, we have established and consolidated an all-weather friendship. We respect each other and support each other. We cooperate for common prosperity. We work together to promote regional peace and stability,” read the statement.

The embassy said China donated medical equipment and materials of "more than $55 million to Pakistan” in the fight against the pandemic. “We take Pakistan as an equal partner and never asked Pakistan to 'do more'," it said.

According to the statement, China “never” intervened in Pakistan’s domestic affairs and highlighted Pakistan’s “responsible role in regional affairs and never exerted pressure”.

"The CPEC is an important cooperation project between the governments of China and Pakistan. It has always adhered to the principles of mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, openness, and transparency,” the statement said.

According to the handout, the Chinese companies under the CPEC were "all leading companies in their respective sectors and operated in full compliance with local laws and regulations".

“The CPEC has brought $25 billion in direct investment and created more than 75,000 jobs for Pakistan. China has been the major source of FDI (foreign direct investment) for Pakistan in the past five consecutive years,” it added.

The embassy noted that according to the Board of Investment, the FDI from the USA to Pakistan was, in contrast, "a bit over $1billion between 2012 and 2019”.

The statement said that in its bid to help Pakistan, the Chinese companies "have not suspended construction nor have they laid-off a single local staff” during the COVID-19 pandemic and, instead, taken strict precautionary measures.

“The energy projects are generating 1/3 of the electricity for Pakistan now. Phase II of KKH is almost ready for traffic,” the statement read.

"The integrated test and commissioning for the Lahore Orange Line have been successfully completed. The construction of the new airport in Gwadar entered into the second phase. Gwadar has become an economic hub for Baluchistan," said the statement, enumerating the various contributions made to Pakistan's economy by the partnership between the two countries.

Referring to Wells’ remarks, the embassy said it had no intention to comment on the relations between Pakistan and the US but it hoped that the latter could show “basic respect to the choice by China and Pakistan”.

“Irresponsible speech and unscrupulous blames won’t help. We also hope the USA will abandon its cold war and zero-sum mentality, fulfil its responsibilities,” the statement added.

The embassy said it was aware of the impact of COVID-19 had on Pakistan’s economy and was “sparing no effort" to help Pakistan address the challenge.

“According to the State Bank of Pakistan, its debt from multilateral institutions amounts to about 47% of its total external debt, while loans from the CPEC is only $5.8 billion, 5.22% of Pakistan's total debt. It has no pressure on Pakistan at all,” said the statement by the embassy.

“China will never force Pakistan to pay back the debts and China’s loans have no strings attached,” it said.

“While China and Pakistan are cooperating to prevent and control the epidemic, China sent a group of experts to Pakistan to combat the locust plague. China has donated 300 tons of malathion and 50 air-powered high-efficiency remote sprayers to Pakistan in this regard. We are ready to extend more help. The CPFTA Phase-II has taken effect from Jan 1, 2020,” the statement added.

The statement further underscored that all Chinese companies working for the CPEC had “generously donated medical assistance to Pakistan in the current difficult situation".

“Over 20,000 Pakistani students are studying in China on scholarships provided by the Chinese government and Universities. In the next stage of the CPEC, both sides will strengthen the cooperation on health care, industrial development, agriculture, and education.

"The CPEC will give new impetus to Pakistan’s economic revival even in the post-COVID-19 period,” said the statement.

According to the embassy: “China also opposes the politicisation of the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and is working with Pakistan to strengthen its capacity."