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  • China has just forgiven a chunk of Cameroon's debt.

  • Normally, that'd be something to brag about.

  • Except China kept it a secret.

  • Why is China keeping quiet

  • about writing off Cameroon's debt?

  • Welcome back to China Uncensored.

  • I'm Chris Chappell.

  • Debt relief.

  • When a country lets another country

  • off the hook for paying back loans.

  • As in no more debt, what a relief.

  • If only they did that for student loans.

  • Specifically, *my* student loans.

  • Usually when rich creditor countries

  • forgive the debts of poorer countries,

  • there's a ton of publicity to highlight all that generosity.

  • Like that time twenty years ago when Bono

  • worked with world leaders to get them to forgive

  • more than $100 million in loans

  • to the poorest countries.

  • Take your time and get your head around this fact.

  • The national debt of the 18 poorest countries in Africa

  • has been canceled thanks to Bono.”

  • The point is, everyone loves publicity.

  • Which is why it's weird that when China

  • recently wrote off a chunk of debt

  • of the West African nation of Cameroon

  • it was all super hush hush.

  • And then reporters asked,

  • Why the secrecy?”

  • In fact, the world might not have even known

  • China forgave a chunk of Cameroon's debt

  • if not for a gaffe by the Chinese language edition

  • of the Wall Street Journal.

  • It reported

  • based on a statement from the president of Cameroon

  • that China had agreed to write off

  • 5 billion dollars of Cameroon's debt.

  • Since that's almost all of the debt that Cameroon

  • has ever borrowed from China,

  • that news report caused a bit of controversy online.

  • Last September,

  • Chinese leader Xi Jinping pledged some $60 billion dollars in aid,

  • investment and loans to Africa at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

  • That created some backlash,

  • including netizens asking online why China

  • was giving money away to nearly failed states in Africa,

  • when in China there are at least 30 million people

  • who live on less than a dollar a day.

  • As you can imagine,

  • those questions were then censored.

  • Actually, it was at that meeting in September

  • where Cameroon's president Paul Biya

  • pleaded with Chinese authorities to ease his country's debt burden

  • according to Chinese media.

  • But it turns out, when the Wall Street Journal

  • said China forgave 5 billion dollars in debt,

  • well...it was kind of not quite accurate.

  • The actual amount was 78 million dollars.

  • That's a big difference.

  • It's like reporting that

  • The new tower is a tall as the Empire State Building!”

  • When actually it's only one story tall,

  • with a low ceiling.

  • Now, Chinese media had a field day with this,

  • with the Global Times calling it a huge blunder for US media:

  • And other Chinese media accusing foreign media

  • of planting fake news for Chinese readers.

  • But if it weren't for the Wall Street Journal's mistake,

  • the world might never have known of China's “generosity.”

  • See, Cameroon still owes China about 3 billion dollars in total debt.

  • So the 78 million in debt forgiveness is actually really small.

  • So now it should be clear why China

  • might have wanted to keep it a secret.

  • It's not really a PR win.

  • I mean, 78 million is less than what

  • one rock star with sunglasses can do.

  • But there's another reason the Chinese regime

  • may have wanted to keep news of the debt relief under wraps.

  • Reporters might start to suspect that the Chinese regime

  • plans to use debt relief to get something in return.

  • Remember the story of how

  • China got Sri Lanka to cough up a port”?

  • China lent billions to Sri Lanka,

  • no strings attached,

  • and when they couldn't pay it off,

  • China asked for Hambantota port.

  • And China got it.

  • Sri Lanka was forced to sign a 99-year lease

  • in exchange for waving off about a billion in debt.

  • So I guess there were strings attached.

  • Plus the deal gave China control of territory

  • right near its arch-rival, India,

  • as well as a strategic foothold along

  • a critical commercial and military waterway.

  • Unconditional debt forgiveness

  • that's for suckers.

  • Setting up a long-term lending relationship

  • so that you can get something in return

  • that gives you a geostrategic advantage,

  • now that's the kind of lending relationship

  • the Chinese regime likes.

  • Xi Jinping calls itwin-win mutual cooperation.”

  • I like to call it, “debt trap diplomacy.”

  • For more on that, you can watch my episode

  • “5 Countries That Have Fallen into China's Debt Trap

  • for all the sordid details of how China

  • leverages debt to get what it wants.

  • Wow, I forgot there was a time

  • when I didn't have a beard.

  • Anyway, why would the Chinese regime

  • care about Cameroon?

  • Well, for one: mineral resources.

  • Like bauxite, iron ore, and gold.

  • And don't worry, Chinese gold mining operations

  • there are totally legit and have no problems whatsoever.

  • Ok, a few minor problems.

  • But look, there's another reason China cares about Cameroon.

  • Let's go back to that map.

  • Cameroon sits along the Gulf of Guinea.

  • And that's a good place to be when doing trade

  • with a dozen other countries, like Nigeria.

  • So it should come as no surprise that China

  • has invested 1.2 billion dollars

  • to convert a fishing town called Kribi

  • into the region's biggest deep-water port.

  • Made up of four main parts,

  • a deep water port with roughly 20 wharfs,

  • a zone for industrial and logistics activity,

  • a multi-modal transport corridor,

  • a new city.”

  • And Cameroon's Kribi port

  • is connected to a pipeline project

  • to bring in oil from land-locked Chad.

  • There's also a 436 million dollar highway China is funding there.

  • It ties the port with Cameroon's resource-rich inland area.

  • And there are also plans to build a railroad

  • directly to a deposit of iron ore.

  • And those iron mines will definitely not have problems.

  • So far it doesn't look like Cameroon

  • has had to directly give up any of its infrastructure or resources

  • for the 78 million dollars in debt forgiveness.

  • But the Chinese Communist Party's overall actions in Cameroon

  • are clearly the same strategy it has used around the world:

  • Make generous loans,

  • get countries in debt,

  • and forgive the debt in exchange for small things

  • like all of their resources, or strategic infrastructure.

  • Win-win mutual cooperation.

  • Which means that China-Cameroon relations

  • should be something to keep an eye on.

  • And before we go, it's time for me to answer

  • a question from one of you who supports China Uncensored

  • by contributing a dollar or more

  • though the crowdfunding website Patreon.

  • David Schwimmer asks:

  • Happy Valentines Day!

  • It seems like the recent love that Putin and Xi have shared,

  • particularly in Eastern Europe and Venezuela,

  • could be undermined by recent NBC media exposure,

  • what do you all think OF THIS!

  • Ah, I see you're referring to this um,

  • mapfrom season one of NBC's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

  • There are...several...problems with this map.

  • Among them,

  • China has taken over all of Russia.

  • Plus Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

  • But don't worry, Xi and Putin can't be torn apart that easily.

  • From holding joint press conferences,

  • to cooking delicious Chinese pancakes,

  • to cooking delicious Russian pancakes,

  • to putting friendship medals on each other,

  • it is the relationship between China in Russia

  • that is truly unbreakable.

  • Thanks for your question, David.