ISLAMABAD - China on Wednesday rejected the ‘interference’ by the United States into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Pakistan-China ties.

A spokesperson of the Chinese embassy here said China was “more than glad” to see the US develop its relationship with Pakistan, “but we strongly oppose the US interferes into China-Pakistan relations and the CPEC.”

The spokesperson added: “Although you can never wake up a person who is pretending to be asleep, we have to make our position clear and reject the negative propaganda by the US. We must not let the truth be distorted and the lies run wild.”

Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affair Alice Wells, during her four-day visit to Pakistan, had earlier sharply criticised the CPEC, saying that the companies blacklisted by the World Bank had got contracts in the multi-billion dollar project.

Wells had said that there was no transparency in CPEC projects financed by China and it had lead to Pakistan’s debt burden.

The CPEC is a multi-billion dollar development project, with a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region with Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

Wells also talked about Pakistan’s growing debt problem, saying that the Chinese money for the CPEC was not assistance to Islamabad and the loans given to them will later take a heavy toll on its already struggling economy.

The Chinese embassy spokesperson said China had noted that during her recent visit to Pakistan Alice Wells “made negative comments on the CPEC again.”

The comments, the statement said, “hold nothing new, but the same cliché in her speech in November, 2019, which has been repeatedly rejected by China and Pakistan. However, the US side still ignores the facts and is obsessed with the story it made for the CPEC.”

In CPEC projects, it said, China and Pakistan had been firmly committed to the principles of mutual consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. “We put Pakistani people’s interests first. Major progress has been achieved in the past 5 years, with 32 projects achieving early harvests,” the statement said.

This has significantly improved local transportation infrastructure and power supply, created over 75,000 jobs directly and contributed one to two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product growth in Pakistan, it said.

“It shows that the CPEC is playing an important role in boosting Pakistan’s socioeconomic development and improving people’s livelihood. Whether the CPEC works, the answer should be given by the Pakistani people rather than the US,” the statement said.

Under the CPEC, during its planning or implementation, every project is equally discussed, carefully studied and jointly implemented by both China and Pakistan, the statement stated.

The Chinese government, it said, always requests the Chinese companies to operate according to local laws and regulations. “All Chinese companies joining the CPEC enjoy international reputation. All projects strictly follow the market-oriented and internationally accepted business model, adopt state of art technology and strict environmental protection standards,” the statement added.

“The entire process, the statement said, is open and transparent and is in line with international norm. We keep in touch with the relative accountability agencies of Pakistan and it is agreed that the CPEC is clean. The US holds a stick of sanction all over the world blacklists this and that country, but it is not for global economy, just ways to serve its own political purpose.”

On the so-called debt issue, the statistics from the State Bank of Pakistan reveal, “the total foreign debt of Pakistan is 110 billion US dollars. In fact, international financial institutions including the Paris Club and IMF are the largest creditors of Pakistan. Loan for the CPEC is about 5.8 billion US dollars, accounting for 5.3% of Pakistan’s total foreign debt, with a repayment period of 20-25 years and an interest rate of approximately 2%,” the statement said.

It added: “Its repayments will start in 2021, with annual repayments of about 300 million US dollars. It will never be a burden to Pakistan. Moreover, China has never forced other countries to pay debts, and will not make unreasonable demands on Pakistan. The US keeps fabricating the so-called debt story, their mathematics is bad, and their intention is worse.”

As to the cost of the ML-1 project, the statement said: “We have said many times. The initial design of the project was jointly accomplished by the China Railway No 2 Bureau, National Engineering Services Pakistan Limited, and Pakistan Railway Advisory & Consultancy Services Ltd.”

The project was launched in 2016, and the initial design was submitted in May 2017. In April, 2019, it has successfully passed the initial design review, organised by Pakistan Railways, of the complex, including Mott McDonald Pakistan, Canarail and the Crimson, the statement said.

The statement continued: “As the project has not yet been approved, the amounts of the project will be adjusted according to the actual condition and the needs of Pakistan. After finalising the design of the project, we would initiate bidding in accordance with international practice. This is a completely normal business practice.”

The statement stated: “We also want to advise the US that when you accuse China-Pakistan relations, you should first look back what have you done to Pakistan, and think about how much contribution have you make for Pakistan. Did Ms Wales bring any aid, investment or trade for Pakistan during her visit?”

It added: “If the US truly cares about the development and prosperity of Pakistan and this region, it should bring cash and funds, promote win-win cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, fairness, and justice, rather than act as a world policeman, spreading rumours and provoking China-Pakistan relations.”

The statement said China-Pakistan ties were rock-solid and unbreakable. “China will continue to work with the Pakistani government and people to steadily advance the Belt and Road Initiative and CPEC to promote regional peace and development,” it said.