China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or yi dai yi lu, is a “21st century silk road,” made up of a belt of land corridors and maritime route of shipping lanes. Ranging from South-East Asia to Europe and Africa, the BRI includes 71 countries that make up approximately half of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.
The Belt and Road Initiative is expected to cost more than $1tn (£760bn), China has already invested more than $210bn but the inception of the COVID-19 cast a cloud over the progress of this Chinese vision.
BRI is a state-backed campaign for global dominance and a massive marketing campaign for Chinese investments. The Sri Lankan Government has leased a port to a Chinese company for 99 years after failing to make repayments.
Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan and Tajikistan – are among the poorest in their respective regions and will owe more than half of all their foreign debt to China.
In 2011, China wrote off an undisclosed debt owed by Tajikistan in exchange for 1,158 sq km (447 sq miles) of disputed territory. It’s a matter of worry that expanding Chinese commercial presence around the world will eventually lead to expanded military presence.
It is therefore, a matter of fact that the spectrum of the vision by Chinese Government includes several other motives such as increasing political and military influence on the world and the debt-trap diplomacy to lure and trap underdeveloped countries.
In the past, India had tried to convince countries that BRI has been planned to control and dominate Asia and create heavy debt burdens for its neighbouring countries in order to seize control of the South China Sea. Moreover, India has also been unhappy with China’s years long adoption of it’s arch rival Pakistan.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic from the Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei Province), over 28000 lives have been lost globally with Italy, China and Iran being affected the most. Owing to this pandemic, most of the countries would now be hesitant dealing with China. The so-called positive aspects of the BRI has turned out to be a “menace in disguise” as this initiative has exported China’s troubles to the World. Corona crisis has jeopardized China’s years of construction and investment plans, risking billions of dollars.
Many countries, specially those signatory to the BRI saw a major setback to the economy as well as the well being of the citizens owing to this pandemic, thanks to the ever evolving expansionist policies of China.
India was already aware of the Chinese aspirations to extend it’s political influence via the Belt and Road Initiative. India is less severely hit by the COVID-19 as compared to the countries signatory to the Belt and Road Initiative. President Xi would try his best to return to the track but the host governments would find it hard to extend their support to the Chinese.