Maps You Should Know 5
The New Silk Road
The New Silk Road
Maps You Should Know is a series of articles which will provide you relevant information about a certain topic by using maps, graphs and charts.
This episode will be focused on the Belt and Road Initiative adopted by China and how it might become the modern version of the famous Silk Road.
The international strategy adopted by China after Xi Jingping took office in 2012 has been focused on spreading influence throughout the world and solidifying the Chinese role of leadership in the state of global affairs, a strategy which came to be known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – or the New Silk Road. This strategy’s name derives from the web of routes, infrastructure and connections it intends to implement throughout Asia, Europe and Africa.
Its purpose lies in the reinforcement of international relations and partnerships in the 3 continents (by building trust between countries, leading to higher stability in the region – a great omen for economic prosperity), the growth and development of the economic markets (through easier flow of capital and improved land and water connections) and the enhanced integration and sustainable development of the countries throughout the route (namely by aiding the least developed ones), with China acting as the catalyst and the central element of this international strategy. Of course, with major investment and loaning in foreign countries, usually backed by collateral, the BRI also provides China with significant economic and political influence in these countries, a benefit which has not been acknowledged by the People’s Republic of China.
China is implementing the BRI mainly through loaning, financing the construction of several different types of infrastructure in foreign countries, such as ports, skyscrapers, railroads, roads, bridges, airports, dams, coal-fired power stations and railroad tunnels. The money for such investments comes from different sources, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (an asian development bank with an authorized capital of 100$ billion and China as its largest stakeholder) or the Silk Road Fund (a 40$ billion chinese state-owned development fund created to promote the BRI). Through means like these, China lends money, mostly to developing countries, and often with the security of collateral, for instance rights to the infrastructure being built.
Geographically, and as of August 2022, nearly 150 countries are signed up and taking part in the initiative. The routes span throughout Asia, Africa and Europe, through paths once traveled by the likes of Marco Polo or Ibn Battuta – as can be seen in the images above.
More specifically, in the first image we can see one of the causes for concern associated with the BRI – external debt. In countries like Djibouti, in 2020, the external debt to China accounted for 43% of the total Gross National Income. Moreover, Angola and the Maldives are in similar difficult situations, with possibly unsustainable amounts of debt to China. This scenario can lead to the default or re-negotiations of loans in these countries, increasing the Chinese foreign leverage and influence.
Pros vs. Cons
Of course the BRI has deeply divided opinions between those who see it as a legitimate strategy to improve international integration and development and those who see it as a deliberate attempt to increase influence and control abroad.
More specifically, the former usually focuses on the benefits that the BRI might provide, such as:
While the latter centers their opinions on the drawbacks:
And you – in which group do you see yourself? Do you prefer to focus on and give more importance to international development and improvement of relations and partnerships? Or are the possible drawbacks too many and too severe to be ovelooked?
Let us know down below!
by YKW // 15 October 2022
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