The Maldives’ China-friendly president, Abdulla Yameen, was defeated in a general election by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reports, taking 58% of a vote in which 90% of the electorate took part.
Solih, in addition to championing relations with Western democracies in his campaign, also pledged to stand up to what is perceived as predatory investment from Beijing. He follows the example of Imran Khan in Pakistan and Mahathir Mohamed in Malaysia, both of whom have renegotiated or withdrawn from China-led infrastructure projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Despite being a relatively small economy, Maldives holds strategic value to China due to its position on a number of major shipping routes.
According to the IMF, the Maldives’ debt-to-GDP ratio grew 11.5% in the years 2014-16, while the addition of new proposed Chinese projects could push the country’s external debt to 51.2% of GDP by 2021.