China rejects Salvadoran leader’s charge that Beijing ‘intervenes’
By Abhishek G Bhaya

China on Thursday reiterated its commitment to the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in international relations as it rejected the remarks of Salvadoran President-elect Nayib Bukele accusing Beijing of intervening in other nations' affairs.

"When developing relations with countries including El Salvador, China always follows the basic principle of mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, which I believe all countries are well aware of. We never pressurize or threaten other countries," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing.

"The diplomatic relationship between China and El Salvador was established on the basis of the one-China principle. It is consistent with the trend of the times, conforms with international law and basic norms governing international relations, and serves the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples. Such bilateral relationship, upright and aboveboard as it is, has no under-the-table deals or tunneling practices,” Lu asserted.

“China has fully respected the willingness of El Salvador and had in-depth communication with all relevant parties and people from all sectors in the country while advancing the bilateral relations,” he added.

The Chinese response came after Bukele, who was elected last month as El Salvador's next president and is poised to take charge in June, expressed doubts over his nation's diplomatic relations with China.

It was only last August that El Salvado, following the footsteps of other Central American neighbors such as the Dominican Republic and Panama, established diplomatic relations with China after breaking off ties with Taiwan, in support of Beijing's ‘One-China' principle.

China later provided 3,000 tons of rice as relief aid to thousands of Salvadorans struck by drought and also offered financial help for social projects worth 150 million U.S. dollars.

Flags of China and El Salvador are seen hoisted at the Tiananmen Square, Beijing, during the visit of Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez, November 1, 2018. /VCG Photo

Flags of China and El Salvador are seen hoisted at the Tiananmen Square, Beijing, during the visit of Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez, November 1, 2018. /VCG Photo

Related story: El Salvador establishes diplomatic relationship with Beijing, cuts ties with Taiwan

Speaking at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, Bukele accused Beijing of not “playing by the rules” and of leading several countries into a “debt trap”, a narrative pushed by Western capitals and think-tanks.

The Salvadoran leader has been critical and apprehensive of the benefits that his country has received after establishing ties with China.

“China does not play by the rules; they do not respect the rules. They develop projects that are not feasible, leaving countries with huge debt that cannot be paid back and use that as financial leverage,” said Bukele, adding: “They are not a democracy, but they intervene in your democracy.”

The Chinese Embassy in El Salvador promptly countered these remarks, emphasizing that cooperation between China and El Salvador would not be a “debt trap but instead a sweet deal for both nations.”

‘Bukele should make the right choice'

Reminding the Salvadoran president-elect that the establishment of diplomatic relationship between China and El Salvador is hard-won, Lu emphasized that it should be cherished by both sides.

“China respects the choice of Salvadoran people. As El Salvador is a sovereign state, with more in-depth knowledge of China and our bilateral relations, I believe Mr Bukele will independently make the right choice that serves the greater good of international relations and responds to the trend of the times,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said, appealing directly to the Salvadoran leader.

Lu assured Bukele that China honors principles, commitments and responsibilities while also reiterating Beijing's full cooperation towards El Salvador's development.

“Following the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, we look forward to working with Mr Bukele and the government under his leadership to eliminate external disturbances, step up practical cooperation in various areas, and advance our bilateral relations in a sound and stable manner,” Lu remarked.

“It will help Mr Bukele and his government to develop El Salvador's economy, improve its people's wellbeing and deliver benefits to them,” he said.

(Cover: Salvadoran president-elect Nayib Bukele (L) and Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang. /CGTN Photo)