Napolean Bonaparte once said “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.” Many people argue that the time has arrived when China will indeed move the world and gain its status and power similar to the USA. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an initiative undertaken by China to boost infrastructure and economy around the globe. BRI is a broad term which primarily consists of three different developments. Silk Road Economic Belt (roads), 21st Century Maritime Silk Road ( Connecting ports and channels) and the Economic Corridor ( infrastructure and sustainable developments) which together is called Belt and Road Initiative. China is planning to invest almost $ 1 Trillion for this mega project. They are investing money in 63 different countries by taking debts and giving that money to other countries as a loan on a long-term basis. It looks like a kind gesture from them but what if some countries are not able to pay them back? Are they debiting other countries for forcing them to become their war allies? There is a lot to be answered and thought about before China leads its pathway to the future Utopia.
China is the center of this issue, and it is impacting more than 100 countries. China officially the ‘People’s Republic Of China’ is East of Prime Meridian and North of Equator. It sits in East Asia partially landlocked by other countries except for its Eastern border which is guarded by the South China Sea. Trading with Africa, North America and South America are only accessible by the Indian Ocean. For that, China has to pass the disputed South China Sea and highly congested Strait of Malacca. Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to resolve this problem. China has already cracked its first deal to use Gawdor Port, Pakistan as its commercial port. China is also negotiating with Myanmar to build a deep sea port, railway link and industrial zone in the town of Kyaukpyu. Kyaukpyu is a major town in the westernmost state Rakhine, Myanmar. It has the best strategic location for the access to the Indian Ocean. Chinese Government is also planning to use the port for avoiding the Strait Of Malacca. In one of the speeches Myanmar’s Prime Minister, Soe Win, had said that they would allow Kyaukpyu Port for trading purposes but not as a military base. There has not been any known treaty signed regarding the Military use of Kyaukpyu port. Hence, China’s motives are not clear yet.
The idea of making road and sea trade routes is not a new idea rather an ancient one. Han Dynasty made a ‘silk road’ which flourished from 130 BCE to 1453 CE. It took the world’s economy to a new stage. Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, said that he has decided to recreate the history. Since the beginning of his presidential term in 2013, BRI had been the only mega investment in which Xi Jinping is acting upon. If Xi Jimping tenure lasts more than ten years, then the only possible reason for that would be BRI. Historians argue that BRI is a project to overpower the hold of Asia from the USA. After World War 2, the USA took the initiative to rebuild Europe’s economy. This plan was known as The Marshall Plan named after the Secretary of State, Geroge C. Marshall. The USA did not take this step to help Europe, but for preventing another Great Depression. Similarly, revisionist believes that BRI is a project to settle the excess amount of steel in China (because excess amount might cause inflation) and to gain power.
Revisionist believe that this project is an economic hegemony and a risk. Due to its big – big size, Xi Jinping knows it may strike back on to China giving them big time trouble. However, due to the potential to gain more control over Asia than the USA would be satisfying for China. On a short-term China could be seen as a friend giving a massive amount of money to a friend, but the interest rates are high. China wishes to take money back at a 6 % interest rate. In the long run, China will have more money and friends than they wished for but with the good comes the bad. China would be under massive loans, and it might have to face a hard landing. Most of the countries are scared to let China build something in their country because they have seen Sri Lanka’s unfortunate condition. Similar to Myanmar, China built a deep sea port in 2008 in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka could not repay the debt and lost the port for the next 99 years. China is particularly interested in investing in a lot of deep sea port. Ports help China getting far better control of the Indian Ocean. It brings big questions with it.
The profits involved in this project, BRI, are huge but there is no explicit statement given by China regarding what exactly are their motives. Countries, China is financing to, are run by dictators or dictators running under the name of democracy. Russia, Zimbabwe, North Korea are some of the biggest ill-famed names listed in the project. Is it right to trade with countries who believe in censorship and the right of freedom is not there? China is also interfering and influencing the political events of other countries under the name, BRI. Myanmar has confirmed China’s influence on their politics in one of the interviews. Is it right under the ‘Liberal International Order’ and ‘United Nations’ to influence the political events of other countries? Should China be allowed to gain superiority over the others? We cannot answer these questions in yes or no. These questions need to be ethically considered and well debated before jumping to a conclusion.
Belt and Road Initiative is China’s and Xi Jinping’s most ambitious and biggest project world has ever thought. The primary objective is to boost up the slow economy and settle the resource curse setting to cause inflation in China. Obscuring this project just to the primary objectives will be wrong. China’s attempt to gain power in Asia and strategic control over the Indian Ocean, make deep sea ports for future military bases, debt risk and interference in other countries political affairs all need to be considered and well thought. If, China and other associated countries decide to go on with Belt and Road Initiative then indeed the sleeping giant would have been awakened.