World Leaders Gather In Beijing For China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI) Forum
This week, China is throwing a huge party as it marks its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’s tenth anniversary. It’s one of the country’s biggest experiments in engaging with the world.
Officials and leaders from all over the globe are in Beijing to attend the high-level BRI Summit, with Russian President Vladimir Putin arriving this morning.
Chinese media is awash with coverage of the trillion-dollar mega initiative, including a six-part documentary on state TV.
Is Beijing’s Massive Gamble A Win-Win Economic Success?
The Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at stitching China closer to the world through investments and infrastructure projects. Beijing boasts it has transformed the world.
And it is not entirely wrong. It has pumped an unprecedented amount of cash into nearly 150 countries. But the initiative hasn’t entirely gone the way Beijing had hoped.
China has sprawling ambitions, no doubt. From the moment the BRI was unvealed, most of the estimated $1 trillion has been poured into energy and transport projects.
Reaping Huge Economic Benefits In Trade
While Beijing told other countries the investments would stimulate development, at home it sold the initiative as a way to help Chinese companies and boost the economy.
It raked in a huge economic benefit in trade, with about $19.1 trillion of goods traded between China and BRI countries in the past decade.
The diversification has become crucial at a time when China faces increasing tensions with the West and their allies. But the initiative has sparked discussions on debt.
“Debt Trap Diplomacy” In Focus
Having become the lender of first resort for several countries through the BRI, China is now the biggest international creditor in the world.
However, the true scale of the debt is unknown as scores of the loan agreements are shrouded in secrecy. Now, multiple countries are struggling with BRI debt, putting Beijing in a tight spot.
Critics associate China with “debt trap diplomacy”, accusing it of luring poorer countries to sign up for expensive projects so that it could eventually seize control of assets put up as collateral.
BRI Projects Creating “White Elephants”
Although China has restructured BRI loans, extended deadlines and forked out billions to help borrowers pay on time, it has refused to cancel the debt.
Over the years, BRI projects have also been accused of exploiting workers, exacerbating environmental problems and creating wasteful “white elephants”.
Concerns have also been raised over BRI failing to live up to promises of bringing prosperity to local communities. A growing backlash has prompted some countries to cancel deals.