In an article from early 2017, titled “China’s Debt-Trap Diplomacy,” geopolitics pundit Brahma Chellaney argued that China has sought to purposely ensnare some of its South Asian neighbors in unsustainable loans-for-infrastructure deals.
Since that article was published, the concept of debt-trap diplomacy has become increasingly popular among some journalists, researchers, and policymakers. These individuals are critical of China’s rapidly expanding provision of international infrastructure finance, especially through its ubiquitous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Yet, the emerging conventional wisdom that China gains when the countries it lends to are unable to service their debts risks misunderstanding how China has and will become a victim of its own lending missteps and hubris. No Chinese debt-based relationship is more instructive in this regard than its dysfunctional ties to Venezuela.