China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative: ‘Debt trap-Diplomacy’, or Friendship and Infrastructure?
Written By: Tom Published: 27/09/2020
In 2013, during successive visits to Indonesia and Kazakhstan; Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China’s most ambitious foreign policy initiative in decades; the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
The initiative comprises of a series of land trade routes through the middle east, including infrastructure construction and deepening of bilateral ties between the partner nations, and China. It also contains the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, a series of newly established naval trade routes which aim to strengthen Chinese ties with their key exporters.
According to the World Bank; China has already invested over $575 billion into the 70 ‘corridor countries’ that have signed onto the initiative. Further, The World Bank (2018) lists the potential opportunities of the Belt and Road as: 12% reduction in travel times (through corridor countries), 2.7-9.7% increase in trade between China and her neighbours, and the lifting of over 7.3 million people from poverty. (March 29, 2018).
Examples of the effects of the Belt-and-Road can be seen in China’s ‘iron friendship’ with Pakistan. As part of the BRI Initiative, China and Pakistan agreed to the construction of the ‘China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’ (CPEC) at a cost of over $60 billion. As part of this deal, China has helped to construct roads from Kashgar in Xinjiang, to Gwadar in Pakistan. Two large bridges, port-infrastructure at Gwadar, and a liquified petroleum gas plant have already been completed under the initiative. China expects completion of the project by 2030. (CPICGlobal, 2020.)
Countries initially planned to join BRI
Countries signed up to BRI
(as of the time of publication)
Economic zones to be built following the Shenzen model worldwide
Spent by Chinese state-owned banks on BRI infrastructure deals
Spent alone by China Development Bank on BRI infrastructure
Chinese debt written off in the last 18 years
The initial plan of the BRI was to comprise 52 countries and to cost China approximately $5 Trillion. As of September 2020, 138 nations have signed Memorandum’s of Understanding (MoUs) with the BRI. (Green BRI) The majority of the BRI’s partner nations are those left behind by Capitalism’s ‘trickle-down’ system, including much of the Global South. (Green BRI).
As such, it is unsurprising that the Capitalist Hegemon would oppose this scheme, for it intends to unite the ‘third-world’ in solidarity, and enrich the lives of the poor. According to Michèle Flournoy, the ex-Undersecretary of Defence for the Obama administration is responsible for the widespread prevalence of the term ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’; A term that has become synonymous with the Belt and Road initiative in the ‘free western press’. The actual origin of the terminology is a right-wing Indian Think tank called the “Centre for Policy Research” located in New Delhi. (Brautigam, D., 2019).
While working for the Obama administration, Ms. Fluornoy was partly responsible for pushing President Obama into his brutal imperialist assault of Libya. (Inside Obama’s War Room, Rolling Stone, 2011). Obama’s military intervention saw the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the return of open-air slave markets, and the pillaging of Libya’s sovereign mineral wealth; but in 2013, Fluornoy defended the assault under ‘humanitarian concerns.’ (Marcetic, B., 2019).
Since her resignation, the author of the phrase ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ has been employed in multiple bipartisan Think Tanks, and directly as an advisor to the CIA; information publicly available on Fluronoy’s ‘Waco Conference 2018’ biography page.
Besides creating 60,000 jobs in Pakistan; the Belt and Road initiative is helping the poorest and most adversely affected Global South nations with infrastructure, loans, and free trade. This rise in Chinese soft power due to legitimate philanthropy is a direct challenge to the United States’ brutal ‘Free-Market Imperialism’ approach; which has done nothing but cause the economic and social destabilisation of the Third World.
America is furious that they are losing their global hegemony that they thought secure following the collapse of the USSR. As such, they have lashed out. Many of the Cold War tactics are being repurposed for modern ends; lies are spread, the CIA funds terrorism in regions likely to be necessary to the BRI (I.e., Xinjiang.), fake news is disseminated to discredit China and dissuade potential partner nations. Sanctions have even been placed on any factory that hires Uyghur workers in China by the United States, in a brutal act of repression aimed at making the Uyghur populace unemployable, and more likely to turn to radical extremism; accomplishing the CIA’s goals.
It is telling that the BRI is simply not discussed in Western media, save for the few examples that they can weaponise. Many people in the West know next to nothing about the initiative that is currently reenergising the Middle East, Africa, and many South American nations. Those who do may say ‘Hanbantota!’ Or ‘Djibouti!’, citing the two most weaponised, least understood aspects of early Belt and Road initiative schemes.
Ask yourself, why do 134 of the 195 UN member states, or 68% of the world (Green-BRI) now ascribe to the Belt and Road initiative? Perhaps these countries see the economic, cultural, societal, and diplomatic benefits of closer ties to China, as superior to the current situation of economic subjugation to the West.
World Bank Belt & Road Brief (March 29, 2018.)
CPIC Global Pakistan Overview (2020).
Green BRI. (n.d.).
Fluornoy, M. (2018)
World Uyghur Congress a US-backed network seeking the ‘fall of China’: (2015)
‘Debt Trap Diplomacy is a meme’ Brautigam, D. (2019)
Inside Obama’s War Room
Meet the Hawkish Liberal Think Tank Powering the Kamala Harris Campaign
HSBC – Belt, Road & Beyond: Understanding the BRI opportunity