Follow CGSP on Social Media

Listen to the CGSP Podcast

The U.S. State Department Has All But Abandoned the Chinese “Debt Trap” Line, But Pentagon Officials Haven’t

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro speaking to Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy in October. Image via U.S. Naval Academy.

One of the many differences between the Biden State Department and that of his predecessor Donald Trump is that today’s U.S. diplomats rarely make any public reference to Chinese “debt traps,” very common taking point just a couple of years ago. Inside the State Department, a number of mid-to-senior-level officials who specialize in this topic have come to the conclusion that there just isn’t enough evidence to make the case. They are also aware that this line of attack also generates push-back from African counterparts who reject the idea they’ve been victimized by Chinese predatory behavior.

For example, on his recent tour of Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made some veiled references to “unsustainable debts” but studiously avoided the “debt trap” meme.

  • Get a daily email packed with the latest China-Africa news and analysis.
  • Read exclusive insights on the key trends shaping China-Africa relations.
  • Full access to the News Feed that provides daily updates on Chinese engagement in Africa and throughout the Global South.

China, Africa and the Global South... find out what’s happening.

Subscribe today for unlimited access.

What is The China-Global South Project?


The China-Global South Project is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Global South stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalists and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Global South discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.