China’s international development project, BRI – The Kashmir News
Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013 with much fanfare and grand promises and ambitious plans for developing and developed countries, making it a key part of China’s foreign and trade policy. Basically, the BRI was formerly called the One Belt One Road (OBOR). Overall, the BRI is an infrastructure development initiative for Chinese investment in nearly 150 countries and international organizations. It was presented as a global strategy.
Xi Jinping has called the BRI a central component of his strategy of “big country diplomacy,” through which China can play a greater leadership role in global affairs in line with its growing power and status. . As of August 2022, 149 countries had joined the BRI, including 18 European countries. Xi actually announced the new strategy as the “Silk Road Economic Platform” during an official visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013. , in which the various landlocked Central Asian countries could be connected with the famous historical trade routes of the western regions through newly proposed land routes for road and rail transport. Along with this, the “Maritime Silk Road” of the 21st century was also announced, which could actually be established through the Indo-Pacific sea routes through Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In fact, at that time BRI was also considered as a brilliant plan to challenge the US hegemony over global trade and diplomacy. However, this has led some China-watchers to conclude that this may be an indication that the damage to the Chinese economy during the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the BRI. Against this backdrop, we are now in a better position to reassess the global debt web and China’s economic policy relationship with recipient countries.
Let’s take a look at the original purpose of the BRI, its expansion and its long and short-term impact on the recipient countries. How could or still can best cope with it?
In his report in 2020, Rafiq Dosani, director, RAND Center for Asia-Pacific Policy, opined that China’s most important motive behind the BRI is to ensure its long-term economic security. The routes were marked as an alternative to the South China Sea, through which much of China’s trade passed at the time and which was becoming a hotbed of competition between the United States and China. And in recent times, this tension has only increased. Dossani further explained the reasons for the BRI’s initial reception, saying that traditionally, many countries preferred to work with the World Bank and other multilateral lenders, which would have provided better options to borrowers. are, through which financial loans are made available on the basis of the success of projects, i.e. on their merits, rather than on political grounds. Also, they further argue that, from the perspective of developing countries, the world’s development capital Access is difficult because many such investments often involve the risk of project failure, depending on both political and economic fundamentals. The Asian Development Bank estimates that Asian countries need $459 billion a year in infrastructure investment projects that are not readily available.
This logic also explains the sentiment, which proved to be the main reason why BRI projects and Chinese funding were attractive in the early stages of BRI’s launch. But nine years after the launch of the BRI, it seems that due to economic crises in many countries, which have borrowed heavily from China under the guise of infrastructure development, development and prosperity of the countries. Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has publicly blamed the economically unviable Chinese BRI projects for exacerbating the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. Developing countries should think twice about borrowing more through the BRI, he says, as global inflation and slow growth put pressure on indebted emerging markets, making most countries default on loans. I fail. At the same time, Chinese anti-BRI positions are not limited to the Indo-Pak subcontinent, another example of this is in Kenya, where echoes can be heard in the stalled $4.7 billion railway project. Five years after its inception, the project has ended abruptly in an empty field 200 miles from its destination in Uganda with no signs of completion.
In fact, apart from the BRI, the main conflict between China and the US is to gain control over global trade and markets. Some experts have begun to question the intentions of China’s BRI. It is also seen as a debt trap for poorer states and a means for China to expand its territorial control, but is this the reality? Is the United States missing an opportunity to participate or launch parallel activities? The BRI has also been repeatedly labeled a debt trap and power grab, and this may be a possible scenario. . However, a recent study has attempted to debunk this notion. Deborah Brautigam, director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, found no evidence that Chinese banks over-loan or invest in loss-making ventures to gain a foothold in these countries. He has noted this in his research on Chinese lending to Africa, but his authenticity and impartiality have also begun to be questioned.
In fact, instead of bashing China, the US should adopt new policies in infrastructure lending to poor countries. And to ensure the availability of loans on easy terms for multilateral world banks for such projects, thereby reducing bureaucratic corruption in these countries and at the same time the United States in less developed or developing countries. Funding of such development projects should begin. On the other hand, to improve its image, China should improve transparency around the BRI deals. The World Bank and other institutions have also emphasized on increasing transparency in this regard. This can play an effective role in alleviating the concerns of the US and other countries about China’s intentions regarding the BRI. Overall, the BRI cannot be called a complete success or failure at this time, because The way the global economy is trying to recover after the Corona crisis, the reality of the BRI may become clearer in the coming days and years.
(The author is a senior political analyst. In the past, he has also been associated with BBC Urdu Service and Khaleej Times, Dubai.)