China’s ambitious policy of exerting its influence in the South China Sea appears blurred as neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Maldives have launched the anti china protest. Notably, the anger amongst these countries is because of the debt trap of massive loans from china and their interference and presence in their country.
The ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, which led to the Chinese occupation of Hambantota port over non-repayment of loans, has added to the problem, according to The Singapore Post. Sri Lanka granted the Hambantota port to the Chinese on a 99-year lease but is now facing the brunt of repaying the debt which is worsened because of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Currently, Sri Lanka blames China for their economic crises. Earlier, several politicians had led anti-China protests as it had declined the restructuring of their loans, according to Nectar Gan, an author in The Singapore Post. “If the Chinese government and Embassy do not look after the interests of our Lankan people… there will be a China go home campaign soon,” Gan quoted a 32-year-old legislator Shanakiyan Rasamanickam. However, China’s loans were opposed in Sri Lanka way back in 2017. Buddhist monks had warned the government of Sri Lanka that it would become a Chinese colony if it fell for the BRI but the government ignored their warning.
Financial experts based in Bangladesh have criticized the Chinese loans for being expensive and with no option of grants unlike the loans given by the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) or Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), reported The Singapore Post. In Bangladesh, the second-highest receiver of Chinese loans Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Dhaka-based think tank Policy Research Institute (PRI) highlighted the deception used by the Chinese contractors. He said they show lower cost while taking up contracts but increase it significantly later. This adds to the debt principal and interest, thus increasing the loan burden, according to The Singapore Post.
Loans defaulted by Bangladesh have now reached USD 12.38 billion approximately. The Singapore Post reported by quoting Bangladesh’s Finance Minister Mustafa Kamal who had warned Bangladesh to think twice before taking Chinese loans. He said, “Everybody is blaming China. China cannot disagree. It’s their responsibility”. Bangladesh sees similar protests against China for its treatment of ethnic minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China.
Maldives, where the political landscape is divided into pro-India and pro-China groups also protested for Uyghur Muslims. Now as the Pro Indian government is in power in Maldives china’s interference in the country has been restricted and an India First policy has been adopted, Gan reported. Both of these investments of USD 12.38 billion approximately in Bangladesh and USD 1.5 billion in Maldives are raising concerns for China as both of these countries are strategically important. The Maldives especially finds itself in problems as it is not able to raise revenue to repay its huge loan to China with its USD 4.9 billion dollar Gross Domestic Product (GDP). All this is the opportunity for India to regain influence with Maldives as it is helping the country with its debt resulting in the recapture of the support that it had lost to China, according to The Singapore Post.
Nepal which signed itself for the BRI in 2017 has now revoked itself from the BRI due to its concerns about a possible debt trap. This comes when China is already facing allegations of encroaching on its territory. Resulting which the block on export and the closure of the border for months. The South Asian countries have now been carefully observing China’s questionable economic activity in the area and trying to save itself from the debt trap. (ANI)