Saturday, February 23, 2019 01:57:53 PM
China's massive and expanding "Belt and Road" trade infrastructure project is running into speed bumps as some countries begin to grumble about being buried under Chinese debt.
First announced in 2013 by president Xi Jinping, the initiative also known as the "new Silk Road" envisions the construction of railways, roads and ports across the globe, with Beijing providing billions of dollars in loans to many countries.
Five years on, Xi has found himself defending his treasured idea as concerns grow that China is setting up debt traps in countries which may lack the means to pay back the Asian giant.
"It is not a China club," Xi said in a speech on Monday to mark the project's anniversary, describing Belt and Road as an "open and inclusive" project.
Xi said China's trade with Belt and Road countries had exceeded $5 trillion, with outward direct investment surpassing $60 billion.
But some are starting to wonder if it is worth the cost.
During a visit to Beijing in August, Malaysia's prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said his country would shelve three China-backed projects, including a $20 billion railway.
The party of Pakistan's new prime minister, Imran Khan, has vowed more transparency amid fears about the country's ability to repay Chinese loans related to the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Meanwhile the exiled leader of the opposition in the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has said China's actions in the Indian Ocean archipelago amounted to a "land grab" and "colonialism", with 80 percent of its debt held by Beijing.
Sri Lanka has already paid a heavy price for being highly indebted to China.
Last year, the island nation had to grant a 99-year lease on a strategic port to Beijing over its inability to repay loans for the $1.4-billion project.
o 'Ambiguous partner' -
"China does not have a very competent international bureaucracy in foreign aid, in expansion of soft power," Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder and research director at J Capital Research, told AFP.
"So not surprisingly they're not very good at it, and it brought up political issues like Malaysia that nobody anticipated," she said.
"As the RMB (yuan) becomes weaker, and China is perceived internationally as a more ambiguous partner, it's more likely that the countries will take a more jaundiced eye on these projects."
The huge endeavour brings much-needed infrastructure improvements to developing countries, while giving China destinations to unload its industrial overcapacity and facilities to stock up on raw materials.
But a study by the Center for Global Development, a US think-tank, found "serious concerns" about the sustainability of the sovereign debt in eight countries receiving Silk Road funds.
Those were Pakistan, Djibouti, Maldives, Mongolia, Laos, Montenegro, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The cost of a China-Laos railway project -- $6.7 billion-represents almost half of the Southeast Asian country's GDP, according to the study.
In Djibouti, the IMF has warned that the Horn of Africa country faces a "high risk of debt distress" as its public debt jumped from 50 percent of GDP in 2014 to 85 percent in 2016.
Africa has long embraced Chinese investment, helping make Beijing the continent's largest trading partner for the past decade.
On Monday, a number of African leaders will gather in Beijing for a summit focused on economic ties which will include talks on the "Belt and Road" programme.
o 'Not a free lunch' -
China bristles at criticism.
At a daily press briefing on Friday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denied that Beijing was saddling its partners with onerous debt, saying that its loans to Sri Lanka and Pakistan were only a small part of those countries' overall foreign debt.
"It's unreasonable that money coming out of Western countries is praised as good and sweet, while coming out of China it's sinister and a trap," she said.
THE death toll from the fire in Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka has now risen to 80. Scores were injured in the fire that originated around 10:40pm on Wednesday on the ground floor of the five-storey building named Hazi Wahed Mansion. The flames then quickly spread to three other buildings ...
PTI, Washington :The US military will keep around 200 troops in Syria after President Donald Trump's pullout from the war-torn country, the White House said on Thursday."A small peace-keeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.The announcement comes ...
AP, New York :Chelsea shook off their recent troubles and easily advanced in the Europa League with a 3-0 second leg victory over 10-man Malmo on Thursday, a result that takes some pressure off embattled coach Maurizio Sarri.After a scoreless first half, Olivier Giroud tapped in a cross from Willian ...
Sheikh Arif Bulbon :Last Pahela Falgun and Valentine’s Day popular actress Mehazabien Chowdhury acted in several plays and telefilms those were telecasted in different satellite and YouTube channels. Mehazabien acted BU Shuvo’s First Love, Mabrur Rashid Bannah’s Chhotto Pakhir Basha, Mahmudur Rahman Himi’s An Unexpected Story and Misunderstanding, Mizanur Rahman ...
Sports Reporter :Despite Sabbir Rahman's century Bangladesh lost to New Zealand by 88 runs in the third and last One Day International (ODI) match at Dunedin in New Zealand on Wednesday. New Zealand clinched the ODI series 3-0.Sabbir hit a marvelous 102. His 110-ball innings was laced with 12 fours ...
THE nation solemnly remembers the supreme sacrifice of the valiant souls who laid down their lives to establish the right of our mother tongue Bangla as the state language of Pakistan on this day in 1952. As the pioneering movement that led to our ultimate independence, Ekushey invokes the emotional ...
Reuters, Ramallah, West Bank :The Palestinian Authority (PA) will no longer accept tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel following its decision to trim the sum over the PA's financial support of militants' families, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said.The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, an interim self-government body set up following ...
Actress Kriti Sanon is all set for a superb 2019 with Luka Chuppi, Arjun Patiala, Housefull 4 and Panipat. The characters the actress is essaying are strong-minded and confident as she is drawn towards such empowered characters. Kriti’s role in Bareilly Ki Barfi as Bitti was that of an independent ...
GAS explosion has become very common in the country nowadays. Even if someone escapes death, the victim has to suffer burn injury or loss of valuable organs. The authorities concerned still did not take any effective step to control such incidents. In the latest incident, seven people including a couple ...
Malaika Arora, who is recently making headlines for her relationship with Arjun Kapoor and the couples social PDA, recently opened up about her divorce with Arbaaz Khan on a radio show. Talking about her divorce she revealed that it was a mutual decision to part ways so that they could ...
Reuters, Islamabad :Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday Pakistan was ready to cooperate with India in its investigation of a deadly bombing in the disputed Kashmir region last week, which India blamed on Pakistan, but warned of retaliation if attacked.Tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors has risen sharply over the ...