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The Once Frenetic Debate Over Chinese Debt in Africa Has All But Disappeared

China’s top diplomat for sub-Saharan Africa, Wu Peng, posted a tweet today that restated China’s often-repeated position about its commitment to implement the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative and to help “alleviate debt pressure on African countries.”

It’s not exactly clear what prompted Ambassador Wu to post the tweet, given that he shared an image of Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying the same thing from two weeks ago. Nonetheless, it served as a reminder of just how much the debate over Chinese debt in Africa (and, of course, all that rhetoric about “debt traps”) has receded.

Throughout the summer, we heard near-weekly critiques from the likes of David Malpass at the World Bank, representatives from Paris Club lendersthe IMF, and others that China was not doing enough to support the DSSI and African debt relief in general. We don’t hear that anymore.

Nor is there much coming out of Nigeria and Kenya, in particular, where media coverage of China’s feared “predatory lending” practices ran hot throughout much of 2020.

Even Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State and arguably China’s most vocal critic in Washington, D.C., seems to have tired of the “debt trap” narrative that guided so much of the State Department’s Africa policy during his tenure, which will come to an end next month.

Even though the debt crisis in Angola, Zambia, Kenya, and Ethiopia among a handful of other African countries persists, it seems that a lot of people have grown weary of the discussion — at least for the moment.

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