24 February 2018
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled in 2013 his country’s ambitious, multitrillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the bold proposal of what McKinsey calls “the world’s largest economic platform” has attracted worldwide attention.
As the Chinese government, banks and state-owned enterprises will be the main financing sources for the construction of hundreds of these transcontinental and transoceanic infrastructural projects, critics have warned that China could become a “new imperial power” pursuing a “debt-trap diplomacy”.
A recent New York Times editorial has raised “concerns that this ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative could burden participating countries with heavy debt”.
In the 19th century, Pax Britannica flexed the pound sterling to fortify its dominance in international commerce. In the post-World War II era, Pax Americana did the same with the mighty greenback to reinforce its global economic and geopolitical primacies.
Summarising their arguments, one has to ask why is it that what Pax Britannica did, and what Pax Americana does, is considered inherently benevolent, but when Beijing (or Pax Sinica) embarks on the same path, it is derided as insidiously conspiratorial.
That China’s financial largesse to emerging economies confers some political clout to Beijing in the recipient countries is nothing but a normal dividend in international relations. The West has gained from similar practices, why not China?
… Friedrich Wu is an adjunct associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
CMS / GPO / Online / Print
Last updated on 26/02/2018