China's debt traps a trademark of its imperialist goals

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Last week in Beijing, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that his country was cancelling two multibillion-dollar Chinese projects because Malaysia cannot repay its debts. "We do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism," he told his grim-faced host, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

To say that Tun Dr Mahathir's performance was rich in irony would be an understatement: Here you had Dr Mahathir, an Asian politician who cut his teeth on anti-Americanism, warning China that it, too, risked becoming an imperialist nation. He made his statement in the Great Hall of the People, a veritable temple to China's communist revolution and Beijing's vaunted claims to represent the downtrodden of the earth.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2018, with the headline China's debt traps a trademark of its imperialist goals. Subscribe