Geopolitical Influence Not BRI Goal But BRI Consequence


China’s Silk Road economic belt and 21st century maritime Silk Road (BRI) does not aim at gaining geopolitical influence but will result in tremendous rise of China’s geopolitical influence in BRI-related areas.

To that consequence, the US has made and is making great contributions.

The US knows well that BRI win-win cooperation may bring prosperity to and thus enhance China’s geopolitical influence in participating countries. It is afraid that such consequence may cause China to take over world leadership from the US. In order to hinder BRI, the US and pro-US media have made great efforts to spread the lies that China exploits BRI to attract participating countries into China’s debt traps so as to control and dominate them.

China certainly may not benefit from such debt traps. China provides cheap finance to help participating countries grow prosperous so that it may utilize their labor and natural resources and expand its market there. If those countries have grown prosperous to enable China to obtain resources and expanded market, China will still gain lots of indirect returns from the debts even if those countries fail to fully repay relevant Chinese loans.

However, if China’s loans have caused borrower countries to be insolvent, China will not only lose the money it has lent but also get no indirect returns from access to natural resources and expanded market. Moreover, failures of BRI projects may make participating countries suffer so that the people there will hate China. That is what China must strive to avoid.

Chinese leaders are wise. They do not become hostile to the US, but remain active in resolving trade disputes friendly through negotiations with the US. US lies make Chinese leaders more careful in providing loans to avoid making borrowers insolvent. Moreover, they became more prudent in assessing the results of the projects built with the loans provided by China.

For example, Malaysian new prime minister Mahathir suspended the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project funded by China due to his worry that Malaysia would not be able to repay the loan.

At that time, China’s negotiations with Myanmar had been successful to enable China to build a deep-water port at Pyaukyu, Myanmar. To utilize that port, Myanmar had to build a railway linking the port with China; therefore, China was sure that it could bypass the Malacca Strait through Myanmar, As a result, the route through Laos, Thailand and ECRL to bypass the strait was not so indispensable to China. However, the railway will enable Indochinese countries to bypass the strait and thus greatly benefit Malaysia.

Still, Chinese leaders were considerate as win-win cooperation with Malaysia, though not so indispensable, would after all improve China’s connection to Southeast Asia and thus benefit China. They allowed Malaysia to renegotiate the project resulting in substantial reduction of the cost of the project by alteration of the route of the rail link.

China has thus convinced Mahathir that BRI indeed aims to pursue mutual benefits instead of geopolitical dominance. I had a post today titled “Belt and Road Initiative not China’s plan to dominate: Dr Mahathir (Updated)” on that, which is a reblog of The Sun Daily’ report “Belt and Road Initiative not China’s plan to dominate: Dr Mahathir (Updated)”
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The report says that previously PM Mahathir thought that BRI was China’ attempt to dominate Southeast Asia, but now he sees that BRI is a cooperative efforts to develop participating countries through development of infrastructures with Chinese financial assistance.

US media Bloomberg also sees that in the Second Belt and Road Forum. It says in its report “Xi Jinping’s Second Belt and Road Forum: Three Key Takeaways”, “The president (Chinese President Xi Jinping) stuck to discussing steps China is taking to clean up the project, and vowed ‘zero tolerance’ on corruption.”

The report says that the joint statement of the forum “repeatedly called for ‘high-quality’ projects and standards.”

No wonder with such improvement BRI has become even more successful. At the first forum, China promised additional investment of 100 billion yuan ($14.8 billion) without any deals being signed for that amount of investment. At the second forum however, $64 billion worth of deals were signed. The US has indeed made great contributions to China’s success in BRI with its lies on debt trap, geopolitical dominance, etc.

BRI’s success will certainly raise China’s geopolitical influence. What shall the US do? Bloomberg says at the second forum “developed countries including Austria, Switzerland and Singapore signed up for so-called third-party market cooperation. Japan, France, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Australia have already signed the document, agreeing to help build infrastructure in developing countries.” Those countries’ geopolitical influence will also be enhanced along with China’s. Will the US join them?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on The Sun Daily and Bloomberg’s reports, full text of which can respectively be viewed at https://www.thesundaily.my/local/belt-and-road-initiative-not-china-s-plan-to-dominate-dr-mahathir-updated-CA828400 and https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-28/xi-jinping-s-wins-and-losses-at-his-second-belt-and-road-forum.