As talks of natural power begin to reemerge, the world is learning quickly and without remorse that China is using its Belt Road Initiative (BRI) to tighten its grip on weaker nations.
In 2013, China enacted a policy to expand its global and economic reach while further developing China’s global infrastructure, transportation, trade, and even production networks. This policy gave Chinese President Xi Jinping the ability to develop his play on Foreign Policy and got vetted by the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The BRI also includes China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and a Digital Silk Road that seeks to promote overseas.
As years passed, it seemed as though the policy continuously evolved without regulation. In 2015, two years following the BRI’s enactment, Beijing altered the English name of the initiative to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Many viewed this act as a way of diverting attention from its original goal of creating global links controlled and centered on China in a hub-and-spoke format.
Countries such as the U.S. grew concerned, picking up on a pattern and pointing out the economic benefits of China’s investments in developing countries. Many noted China’s presence on the African coast and in other less-established nations.
China has emerged as a top global investor and financier as its companies have moved offshore to access raw materials, commodities, and energy. It acquired foreign capabilities, and build infrastructure. While observers gained the impression that China was introducing unsustainable debt obligations rather than loan forgiveness. China extending its loans rather than forgiving them leaves many of the developing countries at the hands of Communist China due to long-term dependencies.
It is essential to recall that the main factors that affect bilateral trade are the potential supply capacity of exporting countries and the potential demand capacity of importing countries.
As of June, debt-stricken, Sri Lanka owed China 10% of its $51 billion foreign debt. The struggling nation was having trouble paying back some of the loans it had given to Chinese corporations even before it descended into a financial crisis this year.
Last year, China seemed to partake in a port-grab, which led to the Sri Lankan parliament passing the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill that effectively turns these 660 acres into Chinese sovereign territory. The territory has since been overtaken by the Chinese Military, further asserting China’s presence in what many would consider an extremely vulnerable nation.
In 2018, the U.S. Congress enacted the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018. The act was passed to form the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and bolster funding for China’s BRI.
Flags were raised again in 2019 when a senior industry official told a meeting of China’s political advisory body of China potentially building thirty nuclear reactors via its BRI.
The Communist Party of China’s Central Committee reestablished the policy’s crucial position in national economic growth and safeguarding China’s supply chains in October 2020, just before the pandemic overtook their country and soon engulfed the world.
Now, as most of the world seems to be reliant on Russian oil, China appears to be on the rise by achieving its goal of having up to thirty nuclear reactors in different countries by 2030. All of the countries that are hosting China’s nuclear powers are indebted to China. The countries are spread through areas in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, making this extremely strategic move with exceptionally positive implications for international politics.
It seems as though the fears from the past about our future are now in the present day. Recently it seems as though China has been playing by its own rules, something its ally Russia seems to support. Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have stood and continue to stand in solidarity. As the potential tightening of an overall energy grip looms, many countries, especially Sri Lanka, struggle to stay afloat.