Geopol experts see risks in China’s Belt Road Initiative hype

Geopolitical experts warned of risks amid hyped opportunities in China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) during a recent forum in Makati.

The Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi) recently held a roundtable forum with top geopolitical experts where a special study entitled “The 21st Century Silk Road: Perils and Opportunities of China’s Belt and Road Initiative”, authored by Richard Heydarian, a Non-resident Fellow of the think tank was presented

“Although some analysts say that BRI is a promising initiative for infrastructure global development, it has also been criticized for being too ambiguous and murky, prompting states to exercise more caution in screening Chinese contractors and applying strong safeguards to prevent being trapped into ‘debt diplomacy’, said Stratbase ADRi President, Dindo Manhit.

In the study, Heydarian said that the BRI’s objectives are aligned with its geopolitical goals including facilitating its long-term plans of developing landlocked hinterlands and underdeveloped regions; outsourcing internal productive glut and infrastructure overcapacity; assisting and promoting troubled State-Owned Enterprises; developing trading partners’ basic infrastructure to reverse anemic growth in global trade; gaining foothold across strategically located nations; locking in rare commodities key to Chinese long-term development; and globalizing Chinese technological and industrial standards across emerging markets.

Some Chinese projects in past administrations had become controversial because of corruption, lack of transparency, and problems in accountability.

The study noted that several Chinese contractors have been blacklisted by the World Bank and stressed on the Philippine government’s responsibility to ensure that a competitive bidding process is observed, strict standards in good governance and environmental sustainability are enforced.

Heydarian advised that the BRI should be able to promote inclusive growth and provide jobs for the locals, rather than relying on fully-integrated Chinese supply of capital, technology, and labor.

“If this will not be guaranteed, the Philippines’ engagement with China will be meaningless and unsustainable”, he said.