For some analysts Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the path to the Asian century; for some it’s the Chinese dream of their rich past legacy unlike American Dream; for poor and developing countries, it’s their only golden opportunity for development and self-reliance; for rich nations, it’s just the Chinese domination in the international arena.
The Belt & Road Initiative with soaring investment amounting to $ 4-8 trillion and surging every day and spreading over 60 countries across the world is one of the biggest development initiative ever witnessed in human history. Many compare the BRI with that of USA’s Marshall Plan but an initiative that big and widespread is extremely hard to assess in multi-dimensional scenario until it is fully realized.
It is skeptical to note that many developed and rich economies are not directly or indirectly part of the project which is very big in size, infrastructure, finance, and trading potential. These rich and sustained economies include USA, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea among many other potential countries. Conversely, it is also very astonishing that many poor, fragile and less developing economies including Eastern African nations, Eastern European economies and Central Asian land-locked countries among many are embracing this initiative with both hands and inking MOUs in haste.
According to the World Bank, this initiative with the group of over 60 countries amounts about 62% of the world population but these countries currently contribute about a mere 30% of the world’s total GDP. This shows that many of the economies involved are either ill-equipped, weak or are not structurally potential economies when it comes to international trade & commerce and industrial development. Notably, these countries have about 75% of the world’s total known energy sources, according to the WB. This means, their infrastructure is either not competent or they don’t have enough financial and technical resources and expertise to use their natural sources. This also shows that China adding these fragile economies with an abundance of natural resources has some other intrinsic plan in mind. This doesn’t mean that China is the only one eyeing on these resources. Thus, there are bigger things going on in the international arena.
The year of 2018 has seen a radical trade-war between two leading economies. It is hilarious to note that these matters on which USA and China are fighting have seen solved and documented over two decades ago in 1995 at WTO forum. Conversely, it is frightening to observe that we are heading towards bipolar world once again after three decades of post-Cold war. China on one side is running the BRI in full swing, many nations, on the other side, are re-aligning their axis in order to better suit the changing circumstances at the international stage.
It is very strange that many of the developed nations are happy merely buying goods from China but they are not willing to buy this idea of Internationalization of China. So far China is even failed to develop an alliance with Asian Giant Economies including Japan, South Korea, and India. On the contrary, the USA’s alliance is perfectly intact and highly influential. This can be proved from the fact that those countries which are under the direct or indirect influence of USA or Western Block account over 60% of the world’s total GDP.
It is vigorously claimed by the Chinese administration that BRI is exclusively economic and infrastructural development projects which has nothing to do with military whereas the West think otherwise. It is blamed by the West including many Asian giants that China is disguising its military expansion policy under the curtain of BRI. This further adds fuel in a fire when China in the year 2017 acquired Djibouti as its first ever military base outside the territory of China. This military base is situated at the strategically sensitive location of Horn of Africa. Similarly, Hambantota Port of Sri Lanka has been taken as suspicion of having dual usage of military and trading. The Port of Hambantota is also taunted as the golden example of the Debt Trap Diplomacy. It was also rumored at the beginning of 2018 that the coastal town of Jiwani of Pakistan’s Balochistan might be given as military base to China which was flatly declined by both countries at all national and international forums.
The BRI is austerely compared with the Marshall Plan but there is a huge difference between the two. The Marshall Plan was proposed and financed by the USA to build war-trodden Europe. A Europe which soon became the powerhouse of the world’s technology, the industrial hub of the globe and developed economy of the world. Europe is now self reliant, independent and seen as the social, political, economy and cultural model for every nation.
It’s been over 5 years since September 2013 when this BRI (which previously known as OBOR) was first unveiled by the China. In over the course of 5 years, many projects have been successfully materialized, some abandoned, many delayed, some in conflict, some yet to see day light and many buried in a pile of documents. The economies of the BRI projects are not at par on many occasions as they were initially promised. The network of trade and commerce can never be developed on ill-faith nations and on sub-standard basic infrastructure projects without autonomy and self-reliance.