BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE (BRI)
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Recently, Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was convened in Beijing, China.
WHAT IS BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE (BRI)?
- The BRI is an ambitious plan to develop two new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world.
- Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a strategy initiated by the People’s Republic of China that seeks to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks with the aim of improving regional integration, increasing trade and stimulating economic growth.
- Overall, the initiative is about far more than infrastructure.
- It is an effort to develop an expanded, interdependent market for China, grow China’s economic and political power, and create the right conditions for China to build a high technology economy.
- The name was coined in 2013, by China’s President Xi Jinping, who drew inspiration from the concept of the Silk Road established during the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago.
- The BRI has also been referred to in the past as ‘One Belt One Road’.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF BRI:
- It seeks to make Eurasia (dominated by China) an economic and trading area to rival the transatlantic one (dominated by America).
- By investing in infrastructure, Mr Xi hoped to create new markets for Chinese companies, such as high-speed rail firms, and to export some of his country’s vast excess capacity in cement, steel and other metals.
- By investing in volatile countries in Central Asia, he sought to create a more stable neighbourhood for China’s own restive western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet.
The initiative defines five major priorities:
- policy coordination;
- infrastructure connectivity;
- unimpeded trade;
- financial integration;
- and connecting people.
PARTS OF BRI:
- The BRI comprises a Silk Road Economic Belt – a trans-continental passage that links China with south east Asia, south Asia, Central Asia, Russia and Europe by land.
- It also include 21st century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting China’s coastal regions with south east and south Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Africa, all the way to Europe.
NEED OF BRI:
- The Chinese government’s white paper on BRI released this month revealed that over 200 BRI cooperation pacts had been inked with over 150 nations.
- The document also stated that total two-way investment between China and partner countries from 2013 to 2022 touched $380 billion.
- The BRI would provide more public goods to the entire world, highlighting the massive infrastructure deficit.
- According to the World Bank, 675 million people are without electricity globally, around 2.3 billion lack potable water, and 450 million live beyond the coverage of a broadband signal.
CHALLENGES RELATED TO BRI:
- A report from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute on the BRI has highlighted issues related to ecological damage, displacement of people, disputes over payouts and labour unrest.
- The findings detail case studies of Indonesia, where things came to a head over anxieties related to Chinese labourers filling up positions earmarked
- for locals.
- Some critics accuse China of engaging in “debt trap diplomacy” by luring poorer countries to sign up for expensive projects so that Beijing could eventually seize control of assets put up as collateral.
- Some critics also argue that the BRI has become one of China’s “main instruments” in its diplomatic isolation of Taiwan.
- Meanwhile, the United States shares the concern of some in Asia that the BRI could be a Trojan horse for China-led regional development and military expansion.
OTHER GLOBAL ALTERNATIVES:
- In the Donald Trump era, the United States and Japan initiated the “United States-Japan infrastructure investment alternatives in the Indo-Pacific region”.
- The Joe Biden administration announced the ‘Build Back Better World’ (B3W) initiative that seems to have been reorganised as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.
- B3W also aims to channelise private capital into climate change and energy security, health care and health security, digital technology, and gender equity.
- The G-20 Delhi summit posited yet another alternative in the form of the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC) that seeks to link India, West Asia, and Europe through railways and shipping lines.
- Some analysts see the project as a disturbing expansion of Chinese power, and the United States has struggled to offer a competing vision.
- The next decade will show to what extent the Belt and Road will drive green infrastructure, industry, and energy solutions, and its development will also provide a much clearer picture of the implications of the BRI for the rest of the world.
SYLLABUS: MAINS, GS-2, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
SOURCE: Council on Foreign relations, BBC NEWS