First named One Belt One Road (OBOR) and now named Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the vision by China and China’s President Xi Jinping to co-operate and influence other nations by creating financial ties with the worlds fastest developing country.
In the Western centres of power China is a main concern. A few days ago the British defense minister had to resign over a leaked document that allowed a partial co-operation with Chinese tech giant Huawei over the 5G network. The US Pentagon and top generals have exhaustively warned about the looming Chinese threat. China has the biggest army in the world and is developing technology faster than anyone. And has aggressively upped its presence in the South China Sea, as its main naval military hub.
So when China decided to enter the economic front rivaling other big Western institutions like the IMF for example, as an alternative economic powerhouse, this was and is alarming. Already countries that were loaned by China seem to have fallen into debt leashes. The concern is who holds the leash-not the leash itself as a financial practice-.
Already Italy signed an MOU with China without consulting the EU, something that shows the emerging persistance of China to enter the Western World through bilateral agreements. Italy’s concerns lie in three things. The first is for made in Italy products to have greater exposure in China where luxury products are in great demand with the higher income class. The second is for more investments under the BRI mantle that could mean millions and billions of money. The third is for Italian bonds to be diversified outside of Italy’s traditional allies. Also the MOU was signed in a way so that it can be used for other countries as well. This shows that China does not plan to stop there with its economic expansionism, of course under the total control of the Chinese government.
We will also add the growing economic relations between Beijing and Moscow with last year the co-operation of the two countries reached $108 billions a growth of 25%. Touted by President Putin as “historically high level”. This is because the US is pushing with sanctions China towards its neighbor Russia.
All this while the trade war between China-US is still unresolved even though there have been public statements of good will and progress.
Of course the BRI is not without its problems meaning that China and the rest of the world operate differently. In China the state is everything and unchanging. In the rest of the world everything changes in a few months. Politicians come and go like the wind. So even though deals are signed, their implementation is a different thing. To implement financial agreements you need stability and confidence.
The most important thing is a win-win agreement and not a master-slave agreement. This is true to all economical deals and unfortunately when it comes to states the second case is practiced.
Regardless the BRI seems that it is here to stay, China could well become a cultural, political and financial powerhouse with global influence but this necessitates worthy partners and states at the same level of quality and understanding, something that is not the case for now.