Crowned with a soaring blue archway, the four-lane China-Maldives Friendship Bridge loops over 2km of the Indian Ocean to connect the Maldivian capital with its international airport and the fast-growing artificial island of Hulhumale. Opened last year, the bridge was the flagship project in a surge of Chinese investment into the Maldives under former president Abdulla Yameen, who left office in November after a shock election defeat brought to an end his five-year rule. But while China has portrayed its Maldivian projects as an example of how its Belt and Road Initiative can drive development in smaller countries, the new government in Male is taking a darker view. It claims that Yameen’s administration saddled the country with vast debts — owed principally to China — through inflated investment contracts that involved personal gain for corrupt Maldivian officials. Over the past two months, the Maldives has been struggling to establish the full scale of its exposure to Chinese debt...

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