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The Real Trouble With China’s Belt and Road

Though Beijing has made inroads in addressing some concerns, the true structural challenges for the initiative remain.

Credit: Pak China News

By Prashanth Parameswaran

Asia, May 12, 2017

The Diplomat

Next week, China will hold the highest-level international forum to date to promote its ambitious, cross-continental development strategy known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Ahead of the so-called Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), Chinese state media has been predictably parroting selective statistics that illustrate BRI’s successes, while other skeptical accounts have repeated the same litany of complaints about it, from the lack of funding to issues with specific projects.

Reality, as it often does, lies somewhere in between these two extremes. But more fundamentally, this always-full, mostly-empty-so-far discussion also misses the central point about the BRI so far: though China has made some inroads in addressing some concerns raised by naysayers since it was launched back in 2013, resolving the structural challenges that have dogged it have so far been nowhere in sight.

The Belt and Road Initiative, a signature foreign policy priority of Chinese President Xi Jinping, is often referred to as the largest initiative of its kind launched by a single country. And its scale  certainly is intimidating. It comprises two large segments: the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land route starting in western China that goes through Central Asia and on to the Middle East; and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a maritime route that goes around Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Horn of Africa. All in all, it includes more than two thirds of world population and more than one third of global economic output, and could involve Chinese investments that total up to $4 trillion.

Read more at The Diplomat

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