China tells US to learn from Zambia denial: ‘Reflect, before blurting things out’

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CHINA’S foreign ministry on Monday said it hoped that the United States has learned ‘not to blurt things out’, following Zambia’s denial of claims by a White House official that China is about to take over its state power utility to recover debt.

Speaking in Beijing at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said this wasn’t the first time a US official had been caught out on this kind of issue, though she gave no details on that.

‘I hope the they can learn a lesson and reflect on things, and going forward not blurt things out again,’ Hua said.

US claims

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Thursday that China’s quest for more power in Africa was evident in nations like Zambia, where China was poised to take over utility company Zesco to collect the $6-10 billion debt.

Zambia responds

Zambian presidential spokesman Amos Chanda told Reuters that China was not planning to take over Zesco and that the figure of between $6-10bn given by Bolton was wrong.

Zambia’s total external debt was now $9.7bn including $3.1bn owed to China, he said adding, ‘It is regrettable that such information can come from such a high-ranking official. In fact, Zesco is not within the scheme of Zambia’s debt to China.’

Chanda said Zambia valued its relations with both China and the US and would not deal with either of them exclusively.

In June, Zambia decided to delay all planned borrowing indefinitely, slowing down the accumulation of new debt amid worries about the risk of debt distress.

President Edgar Lungu said last month Zambia is committed to improving the transparency of its debt management and will ensure that debt levels remain sustainable.

The IMF rejected Zambia’s borrowing plans in February, saying they risked making its debt load harder to sustain.

Finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe also said last month the government plans to send a delegation to China by the end of this year to discuss Zambia’s debt and debt restructuring.

 

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