Reuters reports that China hopes the United States can learn a lesson and “not blurt things out”, the foreign ministry said on Monday, after Zambia denied claims by a White House official that China is about to take over its state power utility to recover debt.
U.S. 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.
Zambian presidential spokesman Amos Chanda told Reuters that China was not planning to take over Zesco and that the figure of between $6-10 billion given by Bolton was wrong. Zambia’s total external debt was now $9.7 billion including $3.1 billion owed to China, he said.
Speaking in Beijing at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said this wasn’t the first time a U.S. 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, without elaborating.
Bolton had called the business practices of China and Russia in Africa “corrupt” and “predatory” and said the United States planned to counter their economic and political influence.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador Daniel Lewis Foote clarified in Lusaka that USA National Security Advisor, John Bolton referred to widespread international reports on Zambia regarding Chinese loans and state assets.
Ambassador Foote was responding to Zambia’s notice of a letter seeking clarification from the USA government on the matter.
“While I have seen no evidence pointing towards a ZESCO takeover, the White House referred to widespread reports and approaches the Chinese have already taken in other countries.”
He explained that the thrust of USA Government concerns remained the way China was extending its loans to Africa.
“Such non-transparent contracting and debt acquisition impose unsustainable debt on recipients, fueling corruption and limiting the options for the citizens of recipient countries to determine their future.” Foote said