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  • On this episode of China Uncensored:

  • Sierra Leone is the first country in Africa

  • to sidestep a debt trap set by China!

  • Will others follow?

  • Hi. Welcome to China Uncensored.

  • I'm your host, Chris Chappell.

  • Sierra Leone.

  • A country in West Africa more or less

  • the size of South Carolina.

  • In fact, it's kind of what South Carolina sees

  • when it looks in the mirror.

  • But unlike South Carolina,

  • where the average life expectancy is 77 years,

  • people in Sierra Leone live to an average of just 52.

  • Still, that's a LOT better than in 1995,

  • when Sierra Leone was in the middle of a bloody 10-year civil war a

  • nd people barely made it to age 35.

  • We were coming through town,

  • searching for food,

  • when they got all of us. T

  • hey captured us in an ambush.

  • They captured all of us.

  • They assembled seven of us. Six were killed.”

  • Luckily that's all in the past.

  • Still, to this day Sierra Leone remains

  • one of the poorest countries in Africa.

  • More than half the population lives below the poverty line

  • of one dollar twenty five cents a day.

  • But recently, things seem to be looking up for Sierra Leone.

  • We are a successful modern, stable democracy.

  • One that has evolved and matured over 20 years

  • from chaos and lawlessness of civil conflict.”

  • That was the country's new president,

  • Julius Maada Bio,

  • elected in April.

  • Here he is in China

  • ...at the recent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation,

  • where Chinese leader Xi Jinping pledged

  • $60 billion dollars of loans to Africa.

  • But President Bio made headlines last week

  • when he overturned a huge deal with China

  • hat his predecessor Ernest Bai Koroma

  • ...signed a few years back.

  • The plan was for a Chinese company

  • to build the Mamamah International Airport

  • ...with funding from a Chinese state-owned bank

  • to the tune of 312 million dollars.

  • A third of that was to be from a loan that Sierra Leone

  • would have to pay back.

  • Sierra Leone's Minister of Transport and Aviation

  • announced the project's cancellation in a letter,

  • part of which was published in the Daily Nation,

  • a Kenyan newspaper.

  • So instead of taking out a massive loan to build

  • a brand new airport that it doesn't need,

  • Sierra Leone is going to fix up the one it already has.

  • That seems like a prudent choice,

  • given that a recent IMF mission to Sierra Leone

  • found thatthe economic environment remains challenging

  • and hailed the new government's efforts to

  • stabilize public debt and reduce it to sustainable levels,

  • and prioritize public investment aimed at

  • reducing social and infrastructure gaps.”

  • It also turns out that an earlier 200 million loan from China

  • for the same proposed new airport was cancelled

  • when the IMF and World Bank

  • did a debt sustainability analysis of Sierra Leone,

  • and expressedstrong concernsabout the deal.

  • And when a formal organization like the IMF

  • says it hasstrong concerns”,

  • in normal language that meansrun!”

  • The risk of taking a loan from China is,

  • let's say,

  • different from taking an IMF loan.

  • If you can't afford to pay back an IMF loan,

  • they may impose some conditions

  • before bailing you out with another loan.

  • Those conditions might include

  • making you adopt free market reforms,

  • clamp down on corruption, or strengthen rule-of-law institutions.

  • But those are generally things that make a country better,

  • and can attract future investment.

  • But if you owe China money and can't afford to pay up,

  • well, they take their pound of flesh.

  • Like Djibouti.

  • The African country of Djibouti.

  • China recently set up a military base there

  • likely through political pressure.

  • China is also helping finance the main seaport in Djibouti.

  • But if it can't pay off its debt

  • and that seems likely

  • it may be forced to hand over its port to China.

  • And this means China would control

  • the key access point in and out of Djibouti.

  • The big fear is that as China hands out loans

  • for huge infrastructure projects around the world

  • as part of its Belt and Road Initiative,

  • it will use the loans that countries can't afford t

  • o pay back as a way to take resources or territory.

  • But by bucking that trend, Sierra Leone

  • has just become the first African country to sidestep

  • one of China's potential debt traps.

  • Some experts even say that Sierra Leone may be

  • the first of a series of dominos that are about to fall.

  • A professor at a college in North Carolina says this cancellation

  • is a sign that African countries are are starting to

  • wise up when it comes to the threat of Chinese loans.

  • Now after the Mamamah airport deal was axed,

  • China was quick to saynothing to see here, folks.”

  • “I don't think this particular project should be overblown

  • as an indication of problems between

  • the Chinese and Sierra Leone governments,”

  • said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang...

  • ...and then between the lines expressed hope

  • other African countries wouldn't develop

  • any hangups about taking Chinese money.

  • When cooperating with African countries

  • that include Sierra Leone,

  • China has always adhered to the principles

  • of equality-based consultations and win-win cooperation.”

  • Of course when you see headlines like this about Sri Lanka...

  • or this about Zambia...

  • ...you wonder if the Chinese regime has

  • a slightly different definition of win-win.

  • I think it means,

  • if you repay the loan,

  • China wins.

  • If you can't repay,

  • China also wins.

  • Win-win.

  • So what do you think about Sierra Leone

  • canceling its loan from China?

  • Leave your comments below.

  • And before we go, it's time to answer a question

  • from a fan of China Uncensored

  • who contributes to us through the crowdfunding website Patreon.

  • David Michael White asks:

  • Chris, do you have a favorite creature from Chinese mythology?”

  • Let's see, I'm going to say a qilin.

  • It's kind of like if you combined a dragon head,

  • the body of an ox,

  • but with the skin of snake.

  • Sometimes they have two horns.

  • Other times one horn,

  • which has led some people to call it a Chinese unicorn.

  • Please. Qilin are way more majestic than unicorns.

  • Oh, and sometimes they're on fire. But not always.

  • They may look fearsome, but they only punish the wicked.

  • In Buddhist thought they're vegetarian

  • and fly because they don't want to step on

  • even a single blade of grass.

  • If a qilin showed up,

  • it meant that there was a wise and benevolent ruler.

  • So I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that

  • a lot of Chinese emperors said

  • they showed up during their reign.

  • But my favorite story about qilins involved the Chinese.

  • He was the Chinese admiral in the Ming Dynasty

  • who sailed all the way to Africa

  • in his fleet of Chinese treasure ships.

  • For a guy who was a eunuch,

  • that took a lot of...guts.

  • Anyway, he brought back two giraffes to the emperor,

  • who by the way was very benevolent,

  • and everyone was like, oh yeah,

  • those are qilin, totally qilin.

  • If you'd like to learn more about

  • Chinese mythological creatures,

  • I'd recommend a book called

  • the Classic of Mountains and Seas.

  • You won't find a crazier collection

  • of strange beasts and monsters.

  • Unless you read a book about the Politburo.

  • Thanks for your question, David.

  • And remember, you too can have

  • your question answered on China Uncensored

  • when you become a Patreon supporter.

  • Join us at Patreon.com/ChinaUncensored

  • and contribute a dollar or more per episode.

  • Once again, I'm Chris Chappell. See you next time.

  • Want to know more about how the US

  • is reacting to Chinese investment in Africa?

  • Well, on our spin-off show America Uncovered...

  • We just did an entire episode about that.

  • So click here to check it out.

  • It's great.

On this episode of China Uncensored:

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B1 US sierra leone leone sierra china chinese loan

Sierra Leone Narrowly Sidesteps China's Debt Trap

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    zijun su posted on 2021/06/02
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