The “Chinese Debt Trap” and its Sri Lanka Example

HKUST IEMS Thought Leadership Brief No. 29


Barry Sautman, Yan Hairong

The Chinese Debt Trap (CDT) is a conspiracy theory that reflects a US-led counter-mobilization against China’s Belt and Road Initiative. No CDT exists anywhere, including in Sri Lanka, the case ubiquitously cited by media. Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built and leased Hambantota International Port (HIP) is not part of debt trap, not a white elephant, not a debt-for-equity swap, and not a violation of sovereignty. It should be acknowledged that the CDT notion is a political instrument and reflection of racist ideology. Active repudiation of the CDT notion should be encouraged.

Taking Stock of the Belt and Road Initiative 

The author will discuss the insights from the study on which this Brief is based at the event "Taking Stock of the Belt and Road Initiative" to be held on 20 September 2019 in Shanghai.  

A simplified Chinese version of this brief is available here.  



This research is supported by the Strategic Public Policy Research Funding Scheme from the Central Policy Unit of the HKSAR Government. 


About the authors

Barry Sautman is Professor Emeritus of Social Science at HKUST. He is a political scientist and lawyer. More >>

Yan Hairong is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. 



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