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China-US relations

Chinese state media hits out at ‘ignorant and malicious’ Mike Pompeo for Latin America debt warning

  • US secretary of state had warned of risks from ‘too-good-to-be-true’ Chinese investments
PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 9:50am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 5:10pm

Chinese state media sharply criticised US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday after he warned Latin American leaders about the risks of seeking Chinese investment.

During a tour of the region last week, in which he met the presidents of Mexico and Panama, he said that “when China comes calling it’s not always to the good of your citizens”.

“When they show up with deals that seem to be too good to be true it’s often the case that they, in fact, are,” he said on Thursday in Mexico City, according to comments posted on the US State Department’s website.

Pompeo warns Panama about accepting China’s ‘belt and road’ loans

In an editorial on Monday, the state-run China Daily newspaper said Pompeo’s comments were “ignorant and malicious” and criticism that its ambitions “Belt and Road Initiative” was creating debt traps in other countries was false.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushing the plan to expand trade corridors along a modern-day Silk Road linking Asia, Europe and Africa, pumping credit into building roads, railways and ports in a trillion-dollar infrastructure initiative.

The country is keen to bring Latin American countries on board as well, though the initiative has started to face rising scepticism as some countries, such as Sri Lanka, have become saddled with debt that they struggled to repay.

Is America out to undermine China’s Communist Party?

Pompeo said the United States welcomed competition from China, but criticised a lack of transparency at its state-owned enterprises and what he called “predatory economic activity”.

In comments made in Panama he said that counties should have their “eyes wide open” when it came to Chinese investment.

“It’s simply the case that in parts of the world China has invested in ways that have left countries worse off, and that should never be the case,” he said.

The state-owned Global Times said in a separate editorial on Monday that Pompeo’s comments were “disrespectful”, adding that the United States was trying to “drive a wedge” between growing Sino-Latin American relations.

While the United States has traditionally had strong political clout in the region, China has become a major trade partner for many Latin American countries, including Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

“Most countries are disappointed with the US and want to shed themselves of US dependence,” the newspaper said. “Latin American countries know how to weigh their interests.