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The U.S. State Department Has All But Abandoned the Chinese “Debt Trap” Line, But Pentagon Officials Haven’t

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro speaking to Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy in October. Image via U.S. Naval Academy.

One of the many differences between the Biden State Department and that of his predecessor Donald Trump is that today’s U.S. diplomats rarely make any public reference to Chinese “debt traps,” very common taking point just a couple of years ago. Inside the State Department, a number of mid-to-senior-level officials who specialize in this topic have come to the conclusion that there just isn’t enough evidence to make the case. They are also aware that this line of attack also generates push-back from African counterparts who reject the idea they’ve been victimized by Chinese predatory behavior.

For example, on his recent tour of Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made some veiled references to “unsustainable debts” but studiously avoided the “debt trap” meme.

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