Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Geng Shuang termed United States Assistant Secretary Alice Wells' recent comments on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) programme as "mere repetition of old slanders against China, the CPEC and the BRI".
During a press briefing on Monday, Geng pointed out that Wells' claims had swiftly been refuted by the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan as well as top government officials in Islamabad, including the foreign minister.
He was responding to a question regarding remarks made by Wells last week in which she warned that CPEC will add to Pakistan's debt woes. In a speech, described as “unusually specific” by the international media, the top US diplomat had said that CPEC was not an aid to Pakistan but a form of financing that guarantees profits for Chinese state-owned enterprises, with little benefits for Islamabad. Wells also emphasised the need for Pakistan to know that China was providing loans, not grants, as the US.
In his press briefing on Monday, Geng slammed Wells' statements and said: "China and Pakistan have clarified and refuted such smears time and again. However, some in the US still use the same old script. They don't stop though the show has become a complete disaster, and they don't get off the stage even when booed by the audience."
He went on to say that China puts "Pakistani people's interests first" and insisted that CPEC's projects had led to creation of employment for the locals and improvement in transportation and power infrastructure. He claimed that CPEC projects had also "contributed one to two per cent" to Pakistan's economic growth.
"The US side, in total disregard of facts, has been talking all about the fabricated 'debt issue' with the true aim to disrupt CPEC development and sow discord in China-Pakistan relations with malicious calculations," Geng regretted. He rejected the claims that China was creating a debt trap for Pakistan, saying that more than 80 per cent of the CPEC projects were being funded by direct investment or grants from China.
"According to statistics released by the Pakistani side, debt incurred from the CPEC stands at 4.9 billion US dollars, less than one-tenth of Pakistan's total debt.
"I'm afraid certain individuals in the US are not bad at math, but rather misguided by evil calculations," he said.
Soon after Wells' comments last week, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi declared that Pakistan had " rejected that view". He added: "We do not think that the burden of CPEC will increase our debt burden."
Planning Minister Asad Umar also dismissed Wells' claims and said that Pakistan's mounting debt crisis had "nothing to do with China".
On Monday, US Ambassador to Pakistan Paul W. Jones clarified that Wells' remarks were "meant to generate a debate". He said that Pakistan had the sovereign right to make its decisions.