Chinese State Media Attacks New York Times for Questioning ‘One Belt, One Road’
Posted on July 4th, 2018

breitbart.comChina’s state-run Global Times published an angry post against the New York Times (NYT) on Monday for a report critical of China’s immense One Belt, One Road” infrastructure project, specifically the controversy surrounding China’s lease on a port in Sri Lanka.

The NYT said on Tuesday that angry Sri Lankan lawmakers launched a social media campaign to discredit two local reporters who worked on the piece.

The New York Times report published on June 25 was entitled How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port.” The gist of the report was that China pumped a vast sum of money into the Hambantota Port Development Project despite years of failure – the port was only visited by 34 ships in 2012 even though it sits near a major shipping lane – and Sri Lanka’s obvious inability to repay the Chinese loans.

Three years after the Sri Lankan president who oversaw the port debacle left office, China called in its markers and pressured the new Sri Lankan government into surrendering the port and 15,000 acres of land to Beijing in a 99-year lease.

Hambantota Port might not have been a moneymaker for Sri Lanka, but it is very valuable to China given its close proximity to China’s rival India and its position on a strategic waterway. The Times portrayed the lease deal as a paramount example of Chinese debt imperialism, in which One Belt, One Road loans become the cheese in a string of debt mousetraps for smaller countries surrounding China’s sphere of influence.

The Times further alleged that China actively interferes in local politics to set and spring its debt traps, citing the suspicious amount of port construction money that flowed into the campaign of the Beijing-aligned former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa. China’s leverage over Sri Lanka did not dissipate with the port deal, either, even though a billion dollars in Sri Lankan debt was forgiven to grease the wheels for the deal. The lease agreement nominally forbids Chinese military activity at the Hambantota port, but Indian officials are highly skeptical that agreement will be honored, or that Sri Lankan officials are in a position to enforce it.

Outright land grabs are but the final stage of China’s debt imperialism, as the Times detailed:

The first major loan [the Sri Lankan Ports Authority] took on the project came from the Chinese government’s Export-Import Bank, or Exim, for $307 million. But to obtain the loan, Sri Lanka was required to accept Beijing’s preferred company, China Harbor, as the port’s builder, according to a United States Embassy cable from the time, leaked to WikiLeaks.

That is a typical demand of China for its projects around the world, rather than allowing an open bidding process. Across the region, Beijing’s government is lending out billions of dollars, being repaid at a premium to hire Chinese companies and thousands of Chinese workers, according to officials across the region.

There were other strings attached to the loan, as well, in a sign that China saw strategic value in the Hambantota port from the beginning.

Nihal Rodrigo, a former Sri Lankan foreign secretary and ambassador to China, said that discussions with Chinese officials at the time made it clear that intelligence sharing was an integral, if not public, part of the deal. In an interview with The Times, Mr. Rodrigo characterized the Chinese line as, We expect you to let us know who is coming and stopping here.”

China’s Global Times was livid, trashing the New York Times in an editorial on Monday that began by quoting China-friendly Sri Lankan officials, arguing that the NYT cherry-picked the worst available data (like the 34 ships that visited the port in 2012) to make the Hambantota project look transparently absurd, and claiming China was the only nation ready to step in with significant infrastructure aid after Sri Lanka emerged from its long civil war.

The Global Times built on that last point to defend One Belt, One Road as a humanitarian endeavor, contrasting it with the alleged callous selfishness of the West:

In the meantime, what have Western countries done? They play up the human rights issue to pressure the South Asian country that was plundered heavily by Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists during its nearly 450 years’ colonization. Last year the Trump administration even proposed to slash its aid to Sri Lanka by 92 percent, which was blocked by the US Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, citing the country’s geostrategic importance.”

As the world witnesses seriously imbalanced development, what is needed most now is not the blame game or a hands-off approach, but authentic investment and aid as well as cooperation. Unfortunately, when China offers such help, these countries do nothing but chime in quickly through biased lenses.

China has been exploring ways to better help other developing countries, such as the Belt and Road initiative. It is always open and welcome to the participation of developed countries toward common development. In this complicated process there are unavoidable problems. Simply exaggerating the problems while suspecting China’s intentions is counterproductive. Instead of the New York Times demonizing China’s efforts, isn’t it better if it explores how the US can participate in aiding impoverished countries?

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that lawmakers allied with former President Rajapaksa held a news conference to denounce Sri Lankan journalists Dharisha Bastians and Arthur Wamanan, accusing them of acting as paid character assassins working for the current governing party. These lawmakers built up to the press conference by running a social media campaign against Bastians and Wamana for several days.

Times international editor Michael Slackman denounced the campaign against the Sri Lankan reporters and said it is unacceptable for journalists to be intimidated in this way.”

This action appears intended to silence critics and curb press freedoms, and ultimately deprive Sri Lankans of information in the public interest,” said Slackman, adding a call for the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure the safety of the journalists.

The NYT noted that journalists were routinely beaten and killed” during Rajapaksa’s ten years in power, with 11 murders still unsolved. It also pointed out that contrary to the Sri Lankan and Chinese complaints about unfair reporting, Rajapaksa and his aides were contacted several times by the authors of the June 26 article on the Hambantota Port but refused to comment on the record. The Chinese embassy also did not respond to requests for comment before the article was published.

Former president Rajapaksa himself threatened on Monday to sue the New York Times for publishing the story. He denied the report’s allegations that he accepted Chinese financial assistance for his political campaign in 2015 and dismissed investigations by the current Sri Lankan government as partisan mud-slinging.

One Response to “Chinese State Media Attacks New York Times for Questioning ‘One Belt, One Road’”

  1. Christie Says:

    Thanks for your article in “Global Times Published:2018/7/4 “.

    This NYT article originates from Delhi, India.

    The main reason for this article is to dampen the recent exposure political financing of the current government of Ceylon by India and Indian Colonial Parasites.

    An Indian Parasite. Mahendran from Singapore was the major financier of the present government of Ceylon during the last presidential and parliamentary elections in the country.

    NYT is trying to kill two birds with one shot?

    But in fact it is India and Indian Parasites in USA are the ones who calling shots.

    Unfortunately the Chinese in USA are not politically active.

    Thanks again.

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