Despite anti-China sentiments the Belt and Road Initiative, launched by China in 2013, has emerged as a transformative force, connecting the world through a network of infrastructure projects and fostering economic cooperation across continents.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in September 2013. Sri Lanka partnered in 2014 marking its first mega attempt to grow the land mass with the Port City. Sri Lankans still referring to Trincomalee port as ‘China Harbour’ indicates the impact China had made on Sri Lanka through the centuries.
During the voyages of Chinese Admiral Zheng He, Ven Veedagama Maithree Thero was pivotal in enthroning his nephew Parakramabahu VI. He developed Sri Jayawardenepura as the capital with support from the Chinese (1400s AD). Its impact on Sri Lanka is a gauge to measure the impact Port City will make on Sri Lankan and regional economies in the coming centuries.
In 1949 People’s Republic of China (PRC) was formed by the Communist Party of China (CPC AKA Common Production Party when written in Chinese).
China liberalized its economy in 1979 under Deng Xiaoping after a careful analysis of about 12 countries including Sri Lanka. With consistent policies and no Trade Union obstructions China made a trade surplus by 2013.
Economic dual circulation became a reality when China invested the surplus to expand international trade giving birth to the BRI. By the early 14th century, the Chinese navy networked the Far East, South Asia, the Middle East & Eastern Africa in international trade under Admiral Zheng He.
Since 2013 the BRI has connected the world with locally developed bullet trains, cargo trains, mega ships and aircraft including Chinese-made C919 (Equivalent of Boeing 737).
During the past decade, China penned nearly 200 BRI cooperation agreements with 152 countries and 32 international organizations. It covers 83% of the earth community (Ref. China’s National Economic Planner).
Chinese culture evolved from the teachings of Buddha and Confucius. Many believe this influenced the Chinese not to invade or colonize any nation despite having large armed forces even in the 14th century AD (A century before Western colonization).
The PRC also has never colonized any nation or gotten involved in unnecessary conflicts during its 74 years of existence.
Past 10 years
China - EU Railway (the world’s longest railway) connects 210 cities in 25 EU countries. BRI’s corridors connect nearly 300 ports in 100 nations. This network defended millions during the pandemic. The BRI infrastructure when completed (by 2030) is expected to increase global income by 3% raising nearly 08 million above extreme poverty and nearly 32 million above moderate poverty.
Those concerned about Indian Ocean security due to Chinese ships should know that on average 21 Chinese trains have entered the EU daily during the past 10 years.
With these global trade has benefitted in unprecedented ways during the first 10 years of BRI. In Latin America (2022-23) nearly 1350 km of rail tracks were added to the existing networks (Ref. Nikkei). As of now, the 3,000 plus BRI projects have generated nearly 420,000 job opportunities helping nearly 40 million humans to rise above poverty levels (Ref. World Bank).
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Gwadar Port are raising millions above the poverty line and it was the only supply line for millions of poverty-stricken Afghans when the US ended its occupation after 20 years amidst absolute chaos. During 2022 - 23 nearly 30 international companies handled 600,000 tonnes of cargo through the Gwadar Free Trade Zone which is still passing its first phase (Ref Pakistan stats). Nearly 1,000,000 Sri Lankans have been decently employed with Chinese assistance since 1949. BRI projects in; Asia, Africa, & South America will have a stronger impact on human civilization in the centuries to come. The Middle East is experiencing peace with Chinese mediation ushered with the BRI. China’s approach to the conflict in Gaza is accepted by moderate global players.
The MIT in the USA recommended Huawei as the fastest Internet Services Provider to KSA after research conducted at the request of KSA. France accepting Huawei and getting sidelined in the Submarine deal with Australia explains the tale.
Despite anti-China elements discrediting these projects with the “debt trap”, they are proving to be the realistic & tangible development in the global south. Marshall Plan which reconstructed Western Europe will be 80 years. Build Back a Better World (B3W) of USA and EU. is struggling to gain recognition. In comparison, BRI projects are proving their social impact globally (Ref. World Bank).
“Excellence according to the golden mean is indeed supreme. For a long time, however, few among the people have been capable of it” – Confucius.