To Paint China as Manipulative in its Debt Investment is at Best Misguided and at Worst Hypocritical

Jamie Linsley-Parrish at at JSTOR Daily: If deliberate, predatory lending at a geo-political scale has occurred, evidence points towards Western antagonists. Vladimir Lenin famously accused England of using debt to control colonized lands. Éric Toussaint provides an in-depth analysis of many instances of colonizer countries utilizing the power afforded by debt ownership to further their political and imperialist aims. Toussaint writes that China has historically been a victim of such practices, most severely in the nineteenth century when, in recompense for missed Chinese debt repayments, Britain and France occupied land and infrastructure such as ports and railways, providing the European powers with the means to further their capitalist reach. More recently, the IMF has been accused of complicity in causing debt crises and exacerbating recoveries due to a desire to “encourage the nation to adopt the Washington Consensus, even when it may have been inappropriate to do so.”

China is the largest bilateral lender in the world and its financial influence has grown dramatically over recent decades. While creditor leverage can lead to the erosion of debtor sovereignty, accusations of China attempting to push countries into debt distress for political gain remain unfounded. This doesn’t negate re-colonization concerns and the potential for severely negative consequences of large-scale borrowing from a single, powerful country is significant. Yet to paint China as manipulative in its debt investment is at best misguided and at worst hypocritical.

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