BRI designed to strengthen China's strategic influence in Indo-Pacific region

Written By: Sudeep Kumar
Shanghai, China Updated: Aug 29, 2018, 11:04 AM(IST)

File photo: Chinese flag. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

Chinese BRI is a geo-political master stroke, which final aim is to establish the Chinese supremacy by building a world-class military in 2049.

International trade is not just about economic development but, it has direct linkages with foreign and security policy because foreign-economic relations are inextricably linked and cannot be separated from each other. In these contexts, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is meant to safeguard the national interests of China.

The Made-in-China 2025 and Going-Out Strategy are two policies to attain ‘rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Made-in-China 2025 plan is to lead cutting-edge technologies in the field from robotics and agricultural machinery to next-generation Information technology (IT) and new energy vehicles. And, China Inc’s ‘Going-Out Strategy’ is meant to promote, help and develop BRI projects successfully all around the world. 

But, it would be interesting to see, how far these small neighbouring countries can afford to bargain Chinese investments in Indo-Pacific region? Last week, the Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad cancelled two Chinese BRI projects to build a gas pipeline and to construct a high-speed railway across the Malay Peninsula.  

He also denied the selling of ‘Johor State’s apartments’ to Chinese nationals. So far, he has already suspended about $24 billion BRI projects including the East Coast Rail Link and three oil and gas pipelines in Malaysia.  

Mahathir Mohamad has been an ardent critic of former Najib Razak’s government, who sealed many BRI projects in Malaysia. Under the Najib government, the ‘Forest City’s apartments’ were completed in 2017, where the current price starts at $170000, raises economic viability of these BRI projects. Furthermore, there is a high influx of Chinese buyers, environmental concerns, the impact of land reclamation on the local fishing industry and real estate oversupply.  

In this backdrop, he specifically mentioned: "One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners. We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here". During his visit to Beijing, Mahathir blamed ousted prime minister, Najib’s government for this situation and referred all these deals “stupid” multiple times. 

He said: “We are not against Chinese companies, but we are against borrowing money from outside and having projects which are unnecessary, and which are very costly”. One can see clearly these BRI projects are manifestations of neo-colonialism and based on unequal treaties.  

Small nation-states must differentiate between the BRI rhetoric and the political strings attached with Chinese BRI investments. The foreign direct investments (FDI) from India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia can check and balance the Chinese strategic influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

In Myanmar, eighty nine firms from seventeen countries invested in the last couple of years specifically, hence Myanmar scaled back Chinese project in Kyauk Pyu deep water port (from $7.3 billion to around $1.3 billion) after the careful study of Chinese debt trap diplomacy in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. 

Thailand is making more Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in border areas with Myanmar and expecting its trade with Myanmar and India in the backdrop of India’s Act East policy. Moreover, the increasing tariff barriers in midst of the US-China trade war forced many foreign MNCs from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, the USA to Cambodia, Vietnam and India, to relocate assembly plant out of China. 

In conclusion, other political leaders must learn from the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad’s political wisdom and have the courage to act against Chinese debt-trap diplomacy before it’s too late. Chinese BRI is a geo-political master stroke, which final aim is to establish the Chinese supremacy by building a world-class military in 2049.

In short, the Chinese debt-trap diplomacy is a carefully designed CCP’s magical tool to increase strategic influence for the Chinese supremacy in the Indo-Pacific region.  

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

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