China’s Belt & Road New Paradigm for Development: United States Should Join

April 18, 2019

Belt and Road Creates New Asian Paradigm for Global Economic Integration and Inclusiveness

That is the headline on an April 15 {Global Times} op-ed by Toumert Al, the director of Education, International Bachelor Program at the International School under the China Foreign Affairs University. The article provides a tour d’horizon of BRI achievements to date in infrastructure projects on various continents.

“In South Asia, the Belt and Road Initiative is seen as a main driver for infrastructure construction in a region that must bridge the ever-growing gap between its economic potential and the realities of its insufficient infrastructure. According to the World Bank, South Asia requires about 2 trillion dollars of investment in infrastructure construction from 2011 to 2020 if the region wants to be part of the new economic order shaping the future.” The article then discusses a couple of key projects, such as the Padma bridge in Bangladesh and Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Nigeria’s Mambilla Hydro-Electric Dam-3,000 megawatts (courtesy nigerianmuse.com)

“True to its global status and inclusive nature, the BRI is not merely a regional initiative. Africa can be considered a major beneficiary of  China’s economic drive to support the continent’s development and to help its infrastructure and economy achieve targeted growth plans. The year 2018 could be considered the turning point for the BRI in Africa as the signing of the MOU of cooperation between China and 37 African countries and the African Union raised the initiative to a new level. Infrastructure financing provided by China to Africa averaged $11.5 billion between 2012 and 2016.” Examples cited include the $5.8 billion Mambila Hydropower Plant in Nigeria, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, the $11 billion port in Bagamoyo, Tanzania now under construction, and the Nairobi-Mombasa railway project. “Another project that is moving forward and may have the same implications as CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) has in South Asia is the Suez Canal corridor in Egypt,” the Toumert wrote. In short, the BRI “is a truly new paradigm in international cooperation.”

The Belt and Road Initiative Keeps Growing

China is now engaged in heavy organizing in the countdown to the April 26-27 Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which will bring together representatives of over 100 countries and 29 international organizations. Just how powerful a draw the BRI is to nations across the planet, was shown earlier this week when the tiny Caribbean nation of Jamaica announced that they had signed an MOU with China on the BRI –notwithstanding the withering pressure that Washington and London have brought to bear. A similar, if strategically weightier example of this process was Italy’s signing an MOU with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang yesterday discussed China’s approach to the upcoming Forum: “While the BRI was proposed by China, it has grown into an international public good. The success of the first BRF together with the bumper practical outcomes speaks volumes. The fact that more countries and international organizations are taking an active part in the second forum is further proof to its success.”

Asked about media accounts that India would not be sending a delegation–as they hadn’t to the First Belt and Road Forum–because they view the BRI’s China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as infringing on Indian sovereignty, Lu responded:

“I would like to reiterate that the BRI is an open and inclusive initiative for economic cooperation. It never concerns territorial disputes. In pursuing BRI cooperation, China and partner countries are committed to equality, openness and transparency, to business operations centered around enterprises and to market rules and international norms. For those with inaccurate judgment on the BRI based on misunderstandings due to lack of knowledge of the real situation, I would like to reassure them that China is sincerely and resolutely committed to the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefit, equality and mutual benefit. Since its initiation, the Belt and Road cooperation has been inclusive and open to all countries that are interested in joining and working for win-win cooperation. It excludes no one. If the relevant country would like to take some time to see, we can wait.”

Meanwhile, Xinhua interviewed Cambodia’s Information Minister Khieu Kanharith who said that “the BRI forum will also further promote cooperation between China and ASEAN and between China and Cambodia…. For Cambodia, with Chinese assistance, we can build mega-infrastructure projects, and those projects are crucial to boosting economic growth and making communication easier and faster…. Our first priority is to boost economic growth and to make everybody have a fair share of the economic growth, The BRI can help us through sup-porting infrastructure projects and human resources development.”

He continued: “China has assisted us on equal footing, meaning that although China is a big country and Cambodia is a small country, China always treats us equally. With Chinese support, Cambodia has gained confidence in ourselves and our people are proud and confident in rebuilding the country.”

Chinese Insist the U.S. Should Join the Belt and Road

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank President Jin Liqun told last weekend’s Harvard China Forum that the “infrastructure bottlenecks are the sewage problems of development. I would say that that’s also a problem for the United States”–a statement Americans can agree with. He presented the Belt and Road Initiative as “a platform for all participating countries to work together, including on connectivity,” which he called a matter not only of regional development, but also of “world peace and prosperity.”

When a discussion arose on how China had gone from being a debtor nation dependent on foreign development assistance, to one of the largest contributors to the World Bank’s International Development Assistance facility today, Jin pointedly commented that how much money a country has is not the issue.

“Accumulated wealth cannot buy you respect unless you help do good things for the rest of the world. So China has been trying to invest and help other countries through its own experience,” Jin stated.

At a Center for China and Globalization conference in Beijing over the same weekend, Jin Xin, director of the China Center for Contemporary World Studies of the Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, took on the arguments of former U.S. Ambassador Terry Miller (from the G.W. Bush days), who asserted the U.S. had no interest in participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, which is viewed as “a Chinese show” that “doesn’t have much to do with us.” Jin Xin countered that the U.S. should work with China in third-country markets under the BRI. If it decides not to do so, the U.S. will again find itself “excluded,” just as it excluded itself from the AIIB, in which more than 90 countries are now members, Jin said.

Africa Will Be the Breadbasket of the World With Investment in Physical Infrastructure

Africa Should be the Breadbasket of the World, Says the African Development Bank President

Aug. 9, 2018–Addressing the 2018 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting in Washington attended by over 1,600 agricultural and applied economists from around the world, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said Aug. 5 that Africa should be the breadbasket of the world, and questioned why Africa should be spending $35 billion a year importing food.

“All it needs to do is harness the available technologies with the right policies, and rapidly raise agricultural  productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers,” Adesina said, according to the AfDB website. “Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers,” he stated, not referring to phony “green” environmentalism, but the green revolution that raises productivity and would make Africa food secure.

Adesina, who was the 2017 World Food Prize winner, is advocating the creation of staple crops processing zones across Africa (SCPZs): vast areas within rural areas, set aside and managed for agribusiness and food manufacturing industries and other agro-allied industries, enabled with the right policies and infrastructure. “I am convinced that just like industrial parks helped China, so will the SCPZs help to create new economic zones in rural areas that will help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty through the transformation of agriculture–the main source of their livelihoods–from a way of life into a viable, profitable business that will unleash new sources of wealth,” he said.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, in Tanzania, Calls for Investment in Infrastructure Development

Aug. 9, 2018–Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who arrived in Tanzania today on a one-day trip to discuss regional matters with President John Magufuli, said he requested the meeting to brief Magufuli on the outcome of the July 25-27 BRICS Summit in South Africa, during which Museveni made a case for the BRICS countries to invest in the East Africa Community (EAC) which provides high returns on their investments, higher than Europe,  Latin America and Asia. He said: “Investment in infrastructure development is key, especially in roads, railway and electricity. The Chinese have already helped us construct two hydropower dams, in Karuma, which is 600MW, and Isimba 183MW,” the {Kampala Post} reported today. Museveni attended the BRICS summit as rotating head of the EAC this year.

Uganda is a significant beneficiary of Chinese investments in East Africa. China has extended its hand of investment to many African countries, and continues to do so to uplift their economies. Liaoshen Industrial Park and Mbale Industrial Park in Uganda, launched last March, are set to increase local employment. The Chinese investors will offer training to the Ugandans who will work there. Among other spin-offs could be increase trade between Uganda and China.

Development Leapfrogs in Africa Due to Chinese BRI Investment

Aug. 8, 2018 — In an Aug. 7 op-ed to China Global Television Network, He Wenping, senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute, depicts the dramatic changes she’s seen in Africa after a visit to Djibouti earlier this month.

Prof He states the “two wings” of China-Africa industrial capacity cooperation; infrastructure construction and industrial park construction, have been booming on the African continent. This includes the Nairobi-Mombasa railroad and the Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railroad [see slugs in this briefing], as well as rail lines in Angola and Nigeria. In addition there are over 100 Sino-African industrial parks either in operation or under construction.

“Wherever you go, you can see an upsurge in infrastructure construction in Djibouti and a huge presence of China,” He writes. “For example, the largest free trade zone in Africa, jointly managed by Chinese enterprises and local entities, began construction in early July; the already completed Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway; the port built by China Merchants Group; and the thousands of economic housing projects built with the of Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh when he visited China in November last year. “The Westerners have been around for more
than 100 years but our country is still so poor, and the Chinese came to our country only three years ago but we have already seen great changes and hope,” President Guelleh said.

By the end of 2017, the stock of Chinese investment in Africa had exceeded $100 billion and more than 3,500 Chinese enterprises had invested and operated on the continent.  He points to the example of Dongguan Huajian Group’s investment in a shoe factory in Ethiopia. The Huajian Group has created 7,500 local jobs in Ethiopia, and the Huajian (Ethiopia) Shoe Factory now produces 5 million pairs of women’s shoes annually.

“The hope for development comes from the new impetus provided by the BRI,” He Wenping writes. “Since the Chinese government proposed the BRI in 2013, the African continent, with its abundant resources, huge market potential and strong infrastructure construction demand, has been actively involved in BRI-related projects.

“And in the process of participation, the continent seized an important opportunity for historical development, in order to achieve leapfrog development and transformation from a pre-industrial to a fully industrialized society.”

Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway Revolutionizing Transportation

Aug. 8, 2018– Kenya’s new, up-and-running Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from the Port of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, built with major Chinese participation, is already revolutionizing the country’s transportation according to the {Daily Nation} of Kenya.

The railway runs seven trains a day carrying a total of 752 containers from the port to Nairobi. While roughly 1,300 containers arrive at the port daily, the time necessary for a ship to clear the port has been reduced from 12 days to just a day and half! This has created a quantum leap in the potential throughput the port, without having to physically expand it. By August, the connection of the SGR line to berths at the port will be complete,  increasing the efficiency even further.

Of course this has led to loss of business and employment at the container freight stations (CFS) where the containers were broken down and transferred to trucks. In answer to this problem Transport Principal Secretary Paul Maringa said that SGR has brought more gains to the economy, ensured efficiency at the Mombasa port and saved roads from overloaded trucks.  “We cannot continue having the conversation about Mombasa and Nairobi. We must look at the bigger picture. We are encouraging the CFS owners to come and open their stations in Nairobi and other parts of the country,” Maringa told the {Daily Nation} by phone.  Asked whether players in the sector should concentrate on investing in Nairobi, Maringa said, “We should not lose the direction. Let’s look at things holistically. We have been able to attract more business at the port which is benefitting Mombasa and the country at large,” he said.  “And this is because of the speed that the SGR has been able to transport cargo to the inland container depot in Nairobi compared to the trucks. We have added handling capacity at the port and that is beneficial to all of us,” he said, stating that the port has handle at least 17,000 containers.

Furthermore the SGR has enabled the government to save money for other development projects.  “The accidents cases have also gone down. Those are the silent benefits of the project as Kenyans’ lives are more important than the businesses we are doing,” he said.

Ethiopia Railway on the Road to Self-Management

Aug. 8, 2018–China is now training Ethiopians to independently run the new standard gauge railway line between Djibouti and Addis Ababa. As of now the locomotive drivers, the management, and many of technicians are still Chinese.  While teams of Ethiopians and Djiboutians have been undergoing training in China, the Chinese and Ethiopian governments are cooperating in building an Ethiopian railway academy.

The Chinese Embassy Economic and Commercial Counselor Liu Yu told the {Ethiopian Herald}, “The Ethiopia railway academy is already under design in Bishoftu. The government has donated $60 million for the  construction. Ethiopia and China have been enjoying strong relationship and cooperating in different areas, one of which is human capacity building takes the epicenter.”

The Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Share Company (EDRSC) Director General Tilahun Sarka stressed that human resource development is the top priority of the corporation, as the railway has been under the management of two Chinese companies, China Railway Group (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

Pointing to the high quality of the Chinese training, Tilahun said: “The good thing about Chinese instructors and lecturers, as long as you keep on asking questions you will get what you need.”

“Keeping the ration of the EDRSC share, we are engaged in training about 50 Ethiopian and Djiboutian prospective train drivers. These trainees will exchange ideas on topics related to railway operations technologies and railway management, that could realize and create a competent and skilled labor force to operate the Chinese-built and financed 756 km Ethiopia-Djibouti electrified rail line,” he stated.

One trainee, Eyoba Dubale, told the {Ethiopian Herald}: “The trainers from China are dedicated in assisting us. The training is going well in its schedules and we are happy of the whole process. After the training we will be assistant driver, and after establishing comprehensive skills and knowledge as well as attitude of serving in the system, we will take over charge of the driving responsibility to the service the logistics sector for the common good.”

The EDRSC is part of the five-year growth and transformation plan, which aims to enhance the transportation network within the country by connecting to adjacent countries and ports. The National Railway Network of Ethiopia is believed to provide efficient mobility and improve the export and import activities, boosting the economic development.