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CPEC criticism angers Chinese diplomat, has online spat with Pakistani journo


Criticism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has forced Beijing’s usually inscrutable diplomats into overdrive to defend the $46-billion project, with an envoy engaging in a very public spat with a Pakistani journalist.

The CPEC was announced in 2013 but work began on infrastructure that is part of the venture over the past year, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looking to the project to create jobs and ramp up the generation of electricity to counter a crippling energy crisis.

However, many Pakistani experts have repeatedly questioned how China will raise the funds for the CPEC and also the amount that Islamabad will have to pay back as interest on loans for the project, with one estimate putting the annual net outflow at $3.54 billion. India too has opposed the CPEC as it passes through Azad Kashmir.

The allegations and charges appear to have angered Zhao Lijian, the acting Chinese ambassador and chargĂ© d’affaires, who has used Twitter over the past few months to defend the CPEC. Sources in Islamabad described Zhao as an “aggressive” diplomat who did not like criticism of the flagship project.

Zhao took to Twitter early on Tuesday morning after he was apparently angered by an allegation that China was using “prisoners as labour” on the CPEC.

Referring to allegations of graft in the CPEC, the diplomat – who uses the name “Muhammad Lijian Zhao” on Twitter – posted this:

Zhao’s tweets didn’t go unnoticed among Pakistanis, including Dawn columnist Cyril Almeida, who replied:

Almeida, who was recently in the news after the military was angered by his report on differences between the army and civilian government on countering terrorists, also referred to China’s long battle with corruption

Almeida also responded to Zhao’s comment about senior journalists believing stories of “Chinese prisoners in CPEC projects” by questioning whether his remark was a “diplomatic” response:

The Dawn daily also reported that Zhao had dismissed criticism of the CPEC at a seminar organised by a think tank in Islamabad on Monday. “CPEC is working well. But there are some people who are maligning the project, which enjoys the support of most of the people of Pakistan,” he said.



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Muslim Global: CPEC criticism angers Chinese diplomat, has online spat with Pakistani journo
CPEC criticism angers Chinese diplomat, has online spat with Pakistani journo
Muslim Global
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