Worrying about Chinese debt unnecessary – Ambassador

Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Jie says it is unnecessary to worry that advancing his country’s relations with Zambia will increase this country’s debt burden.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Li has regretted the killing of Zambians by Chinese nationals.

Addressing the press at the Chinese Embassy in Lusaka, Friday, Ambassador Li said China always went for a win-win situation in all its cooperations.

“Now, there are some concerns and voices domestically and abroad that strengthening practical cooperation with China will increase the debt burden of Zambia. This worry is redundant. China always insists to put the interests of the Chinese and Zambian people in the first place and boost cooperation for people’s well-being and benefits people with cooperative achievements. China has always adhered to the principle of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and stayed committed to the vision of consultation, cooperation and benefit for all. China is always ready to discuss the contents of practical cooperation with Zambia, and promote sustainable development for both countries,” Ambassador Li said.

Asked if there was any truth in reports that the Chinese government was eyeing state owned enterprises if Zambia defaulted in repaying loans, Ambassador Li replied in the negative, saying his country was only helping to improve operations at some of these institutions.

“We support Zambia with interest free loans provided by the Chinese government. We also have preferential loans to Zambia which we call the soft loans. The interest rate is very low around two to two percent, and another one is the import and exports soft loan with also very low interests. Developing countries are usually very thirsty when they start to take off their economy because they will have to find funds to support loans needed projects or programmes for their infrastructure, for their social needs [and] for their national security. You have loans also from other countries which are commercial loans. The KK international [airport] loan is supported by a preferential soft loan, the Levy Mwanawasa Hospital is supported by grants, total grants, which is also one way of financial corporation. We have confidence in the economy of Zambia,” he said.

“Let me start with the one about the shareholding of the three state owned enterprises of Zambia by the Chinese. The clarification I would like to offer you first is that the allegations are totally groundless. Zesco is a company of Zambia, ZNBC is a corporation of Zambia and KK international airport is a corporation of Zambia. China has its role with the three projects and programs mentioned. For Zesco it’s clearly a very close partner for the provision and construction of energy of this country and it has very good working relationship with Chinese companies which are taking the technical and business programmes with Zesco as a stakeholder of the project. For the similar allegation with ZNBC corporation with China, I am a new comer to Lusaka but I have noticed the changes where the digital migration has been implemented between Star Times company of China and the corporation of ZNBC. Regarding the KK international airport, this is a strategic plan of the Zambian government to try and make Lusaka Zambia and turn it into a transportation hub of the region. Air connection is very important while China has made this dedication to provide a soft loan for the Zambian government to build and expand the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. And of course the property owner of this property is the Zambian government.”

Ambassador Li said China’s principle was to promote local economic development.

“China sticks to the principle of promoting local economic development. The third issue is the issue arising from the process of development for Zambia. I think there are many reasons for the accumulation of debt (a) I think that has a lot to do with international economic structure which is cheaply monopoly by the Western countries for so many decades (b) because the economic structure of Zambia which relies very heavily on resources and corporate industry, (c) with the urgent need and demand for the development of infrastructure which always requires abundant input of capital. For countries just like man, when it grows up, it will always come across annoyance in that process,” Ambassador Li said.

“So the fundamental solution depends on further economic development rather than seizing any financial economic activities. It is better to teach a man how to fish than give him a fish. The utilization of loans of many countries are in the purpose of getting to know fishing. China also adheres to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win situation and intensive development concept. We put ourselves in African countries position to think about that issue to prevent the debt risks and reduce financial burdens. President Jimping also announced that China will exempt the interest free Chinese government loans due to mature by the end of 2018 owed by Africa’s least developed countries, heavily indebted and poor countries, landlocked developing countires, and small island developed countries that have diplomatic relations with China.”

Ambassador Li also listed some of the bilateral agreements signed between Zambia and China during President Edgar Lungu’s visit to that country.

“When President Lungu met with President Xi Jimping and other Chinese leaders, he said that it is the old generation of leaders, especially the founding father of Zambia, Dr Kaunda and Chairman Mao of China that established and nurtured the Zambia-China relationship. The Chinese side is willing to follow the good tradition of friendly cooperation with Zambia and insists to view and boost bilateral relationship from a strategic plan and with a long term perspective. The Chinese and Zambian Government signed several cooperation agreements including (i) MoU on Cooperation within the framework of best and road initiative, (ii) the bilateral economic and technological cooperation agreement: in which China provides a grant of 200 million RMB Yuan to Zambia, (iii) extension of an interest free loan of 80 million RMB from China to Zambia, (iv) inspection, quarantine and sanitary protocol on export of Honey from Zambia to China,” Ambassador Li said.

“Apart from those agreements I mentioned above, Zambian officials and Chinese companies signed a number of cooperation documents covering dozens of fields, including manufacture, IT, electricity, infrastructure, mining and agriculture. Take two MoUs for example Huawei will continue to promote Smart Zambia and provide ICT service. Jiangxi Copper Corporation will support upgrade the Zambia copper product process to enhance the value-addition of Zambia’s copper export,” Ambassador Jie said.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Li regretted the killing of Zambians by Chinese nationals.

“You talked about an incident that happened on the Copperbelt Province involving Chinese nationals, we also leant about that and we are investigating the incident. Please let me mention here that I wish to express my regret over the loss of life of one Zambian citizen in the incident and our deep condolences go to his family. We respect Zambia’s sovereign judicial system. We hope and we believe that the Zambia Judiciary will handle the incident objectively and fairly based on facts and due process of the law. I would like to emphasize that the vast majority of Chinese nationals and enterprises came working hard here and have established deep friendship with Zambians. We will not cover in illegal behaviour of any Chinese enterprises or people,” said Ambassador Li.

         

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