China reprimands Alice Wells, says US official’s comments on Sino-Pak relations were ‘baseless’

Wells, the outgoing US State Department official, had a day earlier reportedly asked China to either wave off or renegotiate the ‘unsustainable and unfair’ debt of Pakistan and raised questions over the multi-billion-dollar CPEC project. The News/Files

BEIJING: The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan on Thursday took notice of  the outgoing US State Department official Alice Wells’ speech on Sino-Pak relations, terming her comments “baseless” .

The speech by Wells — who exited from her job as the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State — “is totally baseless, just a repetition of her same old tune”, the embassy said in a statement.

“We are firmly opposed to it,” it added.

A day earlier, Wells had asked China to either wave off or renegotiate the “unsustainable and unfair” debt of Pakistan and raised questions over the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“I enumerated my concerns and the United States government’s concerns over CPEC, over the lack of transparency involved in the project, over the unfair rates of profits that are guaranteed to Chinese state organisations to the distortions it caused in the Pakistani economy including by the massive imbalance in the trade Pakistan now has with China,” she had reportedly said.

However, the Chinese embassy reiterated the “all-weather friendship” with Pakistan in its statement.

“For the past 69 years, we have established and consolidated an all-weather friendship. We respect each other and support each other. We cooperate for common prosperity. We work together to promote regional peace and stability,” the statement read.

The embassy said China donated medical equipment and materials of more than “$55 million to Pakistan” in the fight against the pandemic. “We take Pakistan as an equal partner and never asked Pakistan to do more,” it added.

The embassy explained that it “never” intervened in Pakistan’s domestic affairs and that China highlighted Pakistan’s “responsible role in regional affairs and never exert pressure”.

“The CPEC is an important cooperation project between the Governments of China and Pakistan. It has always adhered to the principles of mutual benefit, win-win cooperation, openness, and transparency,” it read.

The Chinese companies under the CPEC were all leading companies in their respective sectors and operated in full compliance with local laws and regulations, the embassy said.

“The CPEC has brought $25 billion in direct investment and created more than 75,000 jobs for Pakistan. China has been the major source of FDI for Pakistan in the past five consecutive years,” it added.

Reprimanding the US, the embassy stated: “According to the BOI, the FDI from the USA to Pakistan was a bit over $1billion between 2012 and 2019.”

The statement claimed that in its bid to help Pakistan, the Chinese companies had not suspended construction nor have they “laid-off a single local staff” during the COVID-19 pandemic and, instead, taken strict precautionary measures.

“The energy projects are generating 1/3 of the electricity for Pakistan now. Phase II of KKH is almost ready for traffic,” the statement read.

Responding to Wells’ statement, the embassy said it had no intention to comment on the relations between Pakistan and the US but it hoped that the latter could show “basic respect to the choice by China and Pakistan”.

“Irresponsible speech and unscrupulous blames won’t help. We also hope the USA will abandon its cold war and zero-sum mentality, fulfill its responsibilities,” it read.

The embassy said it was aware of the impact of COVID-19 had on Pakistan’s economy and was “sparing” no effort to help Pakistan address the challenge.

“According to the State Bank of Pakistan, its debt from multilateral institutions amounts to about 47% of its total external debt, while loans from the CPEC is only $5.8 billion, 5.22% of Pakistan’s total debt. It has no pressure on Pakistan at all,” it said.

“China will never force Pakistan to pay back the debts and China’s loans have no strings attached,” the statement read.

“While China and Pakistan are cooperating to prevent and control the epidemic, China sent a group of experts to Pakistan to combat the locust plague. China has donated 300 tons of malathion and 50 air-powered high-efficiency remote sprayers to Pakistan in this regard. We are ready to extend more help. The CPFTA Phase-II has taken effect from Jan 1, 2020,” the embassy said.

“China also opposes the politicisation of the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and is working with Pakistan to strengthen its capacity,” the embassy said.

The statement further highlighted that all Chinese companies working for the CPEC had “generously” donated medical assistance to Pakistan in the current difficult situation.

“Over 20,000 Pakistani students are studying in China on scholarships provided by the Chinese government and Universities. In the next stage of the CPEC, both sides will strengthen the cooperation on health care, industrial development, agriculture, and education.

“The CPEC will give new impetus to Pakistan’s economic revival even in the post-COVID-19 period,” it added.

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