Beijing — China has never forced debt upon participants of its new Silk Road project as “prejudiced” critics have suggested, the country's top diplomat says in a strongly worded defence of a key policy platform of President Xi Jinping Xi's Belt and Road Initiative, as it is formally called, envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with massive infrastructure spending. But it has proved controversial in many Western capitals, particularly Washington, which views it as merely a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and saddle countries with unsustainable debt through nontransparent projects. The US has been particularly critical of Italy's decision to sign up to the plan, the first for a G7 nation. Speaking to the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, Yang Jiechi, who runs the party's foreign affairs committee, said he had noted that some in the international community believed this was a geopolitical tool and would only bring...

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