File photo: China's President Xi Jinping Photograph:( AFP )
China is building an empire through infrastructure projects, and it's not something that the world can sit and watch
From Italy in Europe to Cambodia in Southeast Asia, the Belt and Road Initiative - the long arm of China - extends everywhere.
China wants everyone on board. It wants an international network of highways and waterways.
But will it accept international regulation? Is it time for BRI to come under an international framework?
As of today, BRI is a zero-sum game. China gains, while the partner countries lose. Six years ago when China proposed the project, the World Bank conducted an independent analysis.
The World Bank stated that for many countries in the BRI net, the cost of infrastructure will outweigh the gains. There are 43 countries in the project right now. Most of them face debt issues. 12 of them have elevated debt levels. And this is just the debt, then there are environmental risks due to carbon emissions.
These countries also face social risks due to labour migration. Today, this project faces opposition both at home and abroad.
In China, it is seen as wasteful spending. When Mahathir Mohamed won the Malaysia election, he cancelled two expensive BRI projects signed by his predecessor. That was China's loss.
China is simply buying influence through indiscriminate lending, it works because China doesn't bother with scruples and scrutiny.
Unlike the IMF and other international lenders that follow rules, China just doles out money - it doesn't ask uncomfortable questions.
BRI member countries have a total population of 4.6 billion that makes 61 per cent of the world population. Their combined GDP stands at 29 trillion dollars. How can this project not attract global regulation and close scrutiny?
Already, there are reports that China is planning to deploy troops in these member countries using ports. Cambodia is the latest example.
China is building an empire through infrastructure projects, and it's not something that the world can sit and watch. It touches human lives across borders, and therefore, it must come under international rules.
The BRI is not just a simple debt trap and is leading to multiple problems. Global regulation is the only way to prevent China from weaponising these projects.
(Disclaimer: WION Edit is the channel's take on the big events of the world)