BEIJING (Reuters) - China is “fed up” with hearing complaints from the United States about its Belt and Road programme to re-create the old Silk Road, the government said on Thursday, following stinging criticism from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The initiative, a key thrust of President Xi Jinping’s administration, has hit opposition in some countries over fears its opaque financing could lead to unsustainable debt and that it aims more to promote Chinese influence than development.
China sought to tackle those concerns at a summit in Beijing last month, promising to make the programme sustainable and green and follow international standards, especially regarding debt.
The United States has been particularly critical, and Pompeo, speaking in London on Wednesday, slammed China for peddling “corrupt infrastructure deals in exchange for political influence” and using “bribe-fuelled debt-trap diplomacy”.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said various people in the United States had been making “irresponsible comments” on the programme, especially before the summit when, he said, such criticism reached a crescendo.
“But what was the result? One hundred and fifty countries, 92 international organisations and more than 6,000 delegates from various countries attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, including 50 delegates from the United States,” Geng told reporters.
“I think this is the international community taking actual actions to cast a vote of confidence and support in the Belt and Road initiative, and the best response to the words and actions of the United States.”
In the past two days, some Americans have been “singing the same old tune”, seeking to attack and smear the programme, he added.
“They’re not fed up with saying it; we’re fed up with hearing it,” he said.
“I want to remind them again, don’t overestimate your ability to create rumours, and don’t underestimate the judgement of others. If they want to, let them continue talking. We will continue getting on with things.”
The spat has fuelled already tense relations between Beijing and Washington, most notably over their trade war, which the two countries have been seeking to end.
Vice Premier Liu He will hold talks in Washington on Thursday and Friday aimed at salvaging a deal that appeared to be unravelling after U.S. officials accused China of backtracking on earlier commitments and President Donald Trump threatened to hike tariffs on Chinese goods on Friday.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez