Five years of the long-term Belt and Road Initiative

By Rabi Sankar Bosu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 10, 2018
Adjust font size:

The freight train X8044 from Hamburg of Germany arrives at Wujiashan railway container center station in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province, Aug. 26, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

This year marks the 5th anniversary of the China-promoted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Since its formal proposal by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI has emerged as the 21st century's biggest economic cooperation project for both China and the participant countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the entire world. President Xi's vision for the multi-billion-dollar initiative is to boost world trade through an interconnected world, while creating a win-win scenario for all parties. 

Hailed by President Xi as "the project of the century", the BRI came at a time when the rise of protectionism and anti-globalization is sweeping through the developed world. Although some Western countries and analysts are raising concerns about the transparency, debt sustainability and usefulness of BRI projects, within a brief period of five years, this game-changing initiative has won support from more than 100 countries and international organizations, over 40 of which have signed cooperation agreements with China. 

While critics of the BRI have called it an attempt to reorder the global economy in China's favor and modern imperialism using harsh rhetoric such as "China Threat," or "Debt Trap", the initiative has become a particular boon for four countries of South Asia—Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, which are wildly enthusiastic for partnering with China on economic, political, and infrastructural development.

Although China's biggest neighbor, India, is reluctant to join the BRI due to its opposition of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the BRI, on the grounds that parts of the project passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir - every other neighbor including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal have joined the initiative. 

It is important to understand that CPEC is a very significant project, not only for Pakistan but also for the whole world. Under the CPEC framework, already 22 of 43 projects have been completed or are ongoing. On January 29, 2018, the corridor entered a new phase due to the launch of the first phase of the Gwadar Port's Free Zone and the Gwadar Expo 2018. Indeed, CPEC is transforming the lives of ordinary Pakistani people for the better as more employment opportunities are being created with each development. Hailing the scale and the ambition of this project, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif remarked, "Let me make it very clear, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an economic undertaking, is open to all countries in the region." 

Understanding the grand ambition of the project, India's ally and fraternal neighbor, Bangladesh formally joined the BRI after a historic visit by President Xi in October 2016 when the two countries signed several deals worth US$38 billion. Needless to say, the BRI has been supporting Bangladesh's infrastructure development to help it realize its economic development goals. Seven friendship bridges have been completed across Bangladesh under Chinese grants, and the eighth one is under construction. The Chinese-financed project – the Anwara 2 Economic Zone, Karnaphuli Multi-Channel Tunnel, the Dasherkandi Sewage Treatment Plant Project are all vibrant examples of good neighborly relations between China and Bangladesh.

On the other hand, the BRI has also become a ray of hope for the landlocked Nepal. The Himalayan country became a signatory to the initiative on May 12, 2017 with a clear vision to reap benefits from China's exemplary economic development. Under the initiative, China is aiding Nepal in a number of infrastructure projects including roads, hydropower projects, bridges and industrial parks, all of which will surely reduce the country's strategic vulnerabilities and its dependence on India. A Nepal-China economic corridor has been proposed under the BRI. The China-Nepal-India corridor is another proposed trilateral cooperation project which will expand connectivity not only within these three countries but also with other regions.

However, although China has provided significant development assistance to South Asian countries, the BRI has also garnered some negative concerns which are nothing but distortions. Citing the example of the Hambantota Port deal, when some analysts in the West and Asia have been vocal about the fact that Sri Lanka has fallen prey to China's "give loan and in return grab land" policy, they should take an honest and unbiased look at the significant achievements of the BRI projects in the island country through which the country's economy has greatly benefited. 

They should keep in mind that after the refusal to build the Hambantota Port by India, it was China which provided the funding and built Hambantota Port with good intentions. Critics should also keep in mind that after 99 years, China Harbor Engineering Company (CMPH) will transfer all its shareholdings to the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lanka Port Authority (SLPA) at a token price of US$1 upon termination of the agreement.

In the past five years various major Chinese-backed infrastructure projects such as the Lakvijaya Power Station, the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway and the Moragahakanda dam project had brought great benefits to the local people's lives there. The Matara-Kataragama railway extension project in southern Sri Lanka will be officially opened for the public in October this year. It is hoped that the United States and its allies as well as Western media outlets will view the BRI in a fair and objective attitude without acting impulsively.

In addressing the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), President Xi Jinping reaffirmed that the BRI will actively promote international cooperation, increase assistance to other developing countries, and help reduce the development gap between the Global South and North. 

Over the past five years, the BRI has been serving as China's blueprint for global development and coordination based on an open platform concept. In the words of China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the initiative is a "symphony of all relevant parties". The BRI vision statement claims "Principles of Peaceful Coexistence" which include a "mutual respect for each other's sovereignty." It is expected that India should abandon its stereotyped view about BRI and climb on this progressive initiative for the common development and prosperity of the region.

Rabi Sankar Bosu, Secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club, West Bengal, India

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from