2018 JUL 30 What Is China’S Belt And Road Initiative?

THE PROJECT IS OFTEN DESCRIBED: as a 21st century silk road, made up of a “belt” of overland corridors and a maritime “road” of shipping lanes.


Beijing’s multibillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been called a Chinese Marshall Plan, a state-backed campaign for global dominance, a stimulus package for a slowing economy, and a massive marketing campaign for something that was already happening – Chinese investment around the world. 

Over the five years since President Xi Jinping announced his grand plan to connect Asia, Africa and Europe, the initiative has morphed into a broad catchphrase to describe almost all aspects of Chinese engagement abroad.

Belt and Road, or yi dai yi lu, is a “21st century silk road,” confusingly made up of a “belt” of overland corridors and a maritime “road” of shipping lanes.

From South-east Asia to Eastern Europe and Africa, Belt and Road includes 71 countries that account for half the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.

Everything from a Trump-affiliated theme park in Indonesia to a jazz camp in Chongqing have been branded Belt and Road. Countries from Panama to Madagascar, South Africa to New Zealand, have officially pledged support.


The Belt and Road Initiative is expected to cost more than $1tn[1]SEE URL: https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/china-belt-and-road (£760bn), although there are differing estimates as to how much money has been spent to date. According to one analysis, China has invested more than $210bn, the majority in Asia.

But China’s efforts abroad don’t stop there. Belt and Road also means that Chinese firms are engaging in construction work across the globe on an unparalleled scale.

GRAPH Total of Contracts Awarded to CCP:

To date, Chinese companies have secured more than $340bn in construction contracts along the Belt and Road.

However, China’s dominance in the construction sector comes at the expense of local contractors in partner countries.

The vast sums raked in by Chinese firms are at odds with the official rhetoric that Belt and Road is open to global participation and suggest that the initiative is also motivated by factors other than trade, such as China’s need to combat excess capacity at home.


More recently, governments from Malaysia to Pakistan are starting to rethink the costs of these projects. Sri Lanka, where the government leased a port to a Chinese company for 99 years after struggling to make repayments, is a cautionary tale.

Earlier this year, the Center for Global Development found eight more Belt and Road countries at serious risk of not being able to repay their loans.

In eight countries, Belt and Road loans could increase the risk of debt distress …

GRAPH 2 Eight Countries, Belt and Road Loans:

The affected nations – Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan and Tajikistan – are among the poorest in their respective regions and will owe more than half of all their foreign debt to China.

Critics worry China could use “debt-trap diplomacy”[2]SEE URL: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/15/warning-sounded-over-chinas-debtbook-diplomacy to extract strategic concessions – such as over territorial disputes in the South China Sea or silence on human rights violations. In 2011, China wrote off an undisclosed debt owed by Tajikistan in exchange for 1,158 sq km (447 sq miles) of disputed territory.

“There are some extreme cases where China lends into very high risk environments, and it would seem that the motivation is something different. In these situations the leverage China has as lender is used for purposes unrelated to the original loan,” said Scott Morris, one of the authors of the Washington Centre for Global Development report.


As Belt and Road expands in scope so do concerns it is a form of economic imperialism that gives China too much leverage over other countries, often those that are smaller and poorer.

Jane Golley, an associate professor at Australian National University, describes it as an attempt to win friends and influence people. “They’ve presented this very grand initiative which has frightened people,” says Golley. “Rather than using their economic power to make friends, they’ve drummed up more fear that it will be about influence.”

According to Shan Wenhua, a professor at Jiaotong University in Xi’an, Xi’s signature foreign policy is “the first major attempt by the Chinese government to take a proactive approach toward international cooperation … to take responsibility.”

Some worry expanded Chinese commercial presence around the world will eventually lead to expanded military presence. Last year, China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti. Analysts say almost all the ports and other transport infrastructure being built can be dual-use for commercial and military purposes.

“If it can carry goods, it can carry troops,” says Jonathan Hillman, director of the Reconnecting Asia project at CSIS.

China’s “maritime silk road” also pushes its strategic advantage at sea

Maritime Silk Road GLOBE

Others worry China will export its political model. Herbert Wiesner, general secretary of Germany’s PEN Center, says human rights are being “left in the ditches by the sides of the New Silk Road”.


Belt and Road is likely to continue, not least because these projects signal loyalty to Xi. The initiative has been enshrined in the Chinese communist party’s constitution, which also eliminated term limits, leaving Xi room to continue Belt and Road for as long as he wants.

It also gives disparate Chinese projects overseas the veneer of being part of a grand strategic plan, according to Winslow Robertson, a specialist in China-Africa relations. It is not a centralised initiative, so much as a brand, he says.

“Who determines what is a Belt and Road project or a Belt and Road country? Nobody is sure. Everything and nothing is Belt and Road.”


Not all of the most ambitious Belt and Road projects are about hard infrastructure. China plans to set up international courts, in Shenzhen and Xi’an, the former hub of the original Silk Road, to resolve commercial disputes related to Belt and Road.

“It’s a reminder BRI is about more than roads, railways, and other hard infrastructure,” said Jonathan Hillman, director of the Reconnecting Asia project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It’s also a vehicle for China to write new rules, establish institutions that reflect Chinese interests, and reshape ‘soft’ infrastructure.”

Officials have said the courts, to be based on the judiciary, arbitration and mediation agencies of China’s Supreme People’s Court in Beijing, will follow international rules and will invite legal experts from outside China to participate.

Legal experts say the courts will likely be modelled on the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts and the International Commercial Court in Singapore, which has already struck an agreement with China to resolve Belt and Road-related disputes.

But critics of the independence of the country’s judicial system, which traditionally answers to China’s ruling communist party, worry the courts will favour Chinese parties over foreign firms.

RELATED: More from the Cities of the new Silk Road series 

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Original Source: Date-stamped: 2018 JUL 30 | Author: Lily Kuo and Niko Kommenda | Article Title: What Is China'S Belt And Road Initiative? | Article Link: theguardian.com


1 SEE URL: https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/china-belt-and-road
2 SEE URL: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/15/warning-sounded-over-chinas-debtbook-diplomacy

2018 DEC 18 BRI equals China Using ‘Debt Trap’ Diplomacy to Seek Hegemony (Control)

A Chinese site engineer is seen on site as the extension of the Southern Expressway from Matara to Hambantota continues under construction near Hambantota, Sri Lanka, on Nov. 16, 2018. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)Through its Belt and Road initiative (BRI), China is pouring billions of dollars into emerging countries to help build massive infrastructure projects. Many of these projects, however, are financed through Chinese state-controlled lenders, leaving some nations distressed by debt burdens and putting their sovereignty at risk.

BRI, also known as One Belt, One Road, is one of the world’s most ambitious development programs, spanning almost 70 countries and covering more than two-thirds of the world’s population. It was first proposed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013.

The Chinese Communist Party has made the initiative a centerpiece of its plans to grow its geopolitical influence. The initiative aims to deliver trillions of dollars of investment for a vast network of transportation, energy, and telecommunications infrastructure linking Asia, Europe, and Africa.

BRI’s massive construction projects are financed mainly through a wide range of Chinese local government and state-controlled institutions. In recent years, however, the initiative has been perceived as a “debt trap,” raising the risk of economic distress in borrower countries, particularly in Central and South Asia.

The issue of whether Beijing is pursuing “debt diplomacy” through this initiative has sparked a new international debate, as well. Contrary to its promises to deliver prosperity to the local people in host countries, China is playing a zero-sum game, according to critics.

Jeff Smith, an expert on South Asia at The Heritage Foundation, says some BRI deals are a one-way street. Speaking on a panel hosted by the foundation, he said that participating nations accumulated large sums of debt owed to Chinese financial institutions and were stuck with high-interest rates.

In addition, Chinese contractors grab the lion’s share of the construction of many infrastructure projects. Participating nations compensate Chinese firms by using Chinese materials and workers.

According to a study by Center for Strategic and International Studies, out of all the contractors participating in Chinese-funded projects, 89 percent are Chinese companies. That’s in contrast with projects funded by multilateral development banks that typically use almost 40 percent local contractors.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called the initiative a “new colonialism” to express his unease about China’s growing political and economic influence in the region.


Westerns countries have raised concerns about Beijing’s ambitious international-development plan, because of issues that include lack of standards, transparency, and accountability in construction deals. According to Smith, these deals have facilitated corruption and nepotism, and undermined existing lending practices and international standards.

The hundreds of billions invested in these countries haven’t produced any economic returns; Beijing is mainly seeking geopolitical returns, which has inflated the debt risk.

“There are certainly questions about financial sustainability and a risk of debt distress” for countries participating in BRI, said Smith.

According to the research firm RWR Advisory Group, 270 BRI infrastructure projects (or 32 percent of the value of the total projects) have been put on hold because of financial concerns. And the sovereign debt of 27 BRI participant countries is regarded as “junk” by the rating agencies, while another 14 have no rating at all.

Countries such as Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, and Pakistan are in serious trouble, according to Smith.

Pakistan’s external debt payment, for example, will surge by 65 percent next year. Meanwhile, its foreign-exchange reserves have fallen by 40 percent over the past two years.

“That is unsustainable,” Smith said.


The debt trap diplomacy has also allowed China to expand its human-rights abuses. There is an increase in harassment of Chinese dissidents abroad, the arrests of foreigners in China, and a crackdown on academic freedom. And China has been using its economic and political influence in the region to silence critics.

Smith said that most China experts will say there’s been a shift over the past decade in not just China’s foreign policy but also its domestic policy toward becoming a more assertive nation, and “in some ways, a more aggressive nation at home.”

“[BRI], as an extension of Chinese influence, has amplified some of these concerns and served as a proxy for some of these concerns,” he said.

The Trump administration has been a vocal critic of BRI and China in the past two years; it has been particularly concerned about the rising debt crisis in the Asia-Pacific region.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier warned of the looming financial crises in the region and pointed to China, calling it a “non-transparent emerging sovereign creditor.”

The issue was also raised at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires and the world leaders agreed to take steps to address “debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries.”

“We will work towards enhancing debt transparency and sustainability, and improving sustainable financing practices,” said the statement.

The G-20 countries also called on “the IMF and World Bank to work with borrowers and creditors to improve the recording, monitoring, and transparent reporting of public and private debt obligations.”

Original Source: Date-stamped: 2018 DEC 18 | Author: Emel Akan | Article Title: China Uses ‘Debt Trap’ Diplomacy to Seek Hegemony | Article Link: theepochtimes.com

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