37 foreign heads of state came to Beijing this week to take part in the second Belt and Road summit hosted by Chinese president Xi Jinping. Some leaders like Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta came with expectations to sign huge infrastructure loan deals, while others, including Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, asked for debt relief.
But amid all of the deals and big announcements at the summit, the underlying message about what exactly is the Belt and Road and what does it stand for is still not clear to a lot of people.
“The BRI is better understood as a mission statement rather than a policy document, since it lacks a list of member countries and a precise definition of what a BRI project is.” — 2017 assessment by the international law firm Baker McKenzie
Is it China’s grand plan for global domination that uses debt as a tool of control, as the United States and others contend? Or, is it a new global development platform that the Chinese say is meant to propel its much-heralded “win-win” diplomacy?
Mired by sloppy deal-making, poor planning, and clumsy diplomacy in recent years, the Belt and Road Initiative has seemingly lost its focus and President Xi, no doubt, wants to use the recent summit as a way to get the BRI back on track again.
Erik Myxter-lino, host of the Belt and Road Podcast, is a close observer of BRI politics and has followed this initiative from the beginning, back in 2013. Erik joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why he thinks it’s so difficult for the Chinese to explain what BRI is really all about.
- The New York Times: Is China the World’s Loan Shark? by Deborah Brautigam
- Quartz: Africa’s resource-rich nations are getting even more reliant on China for their exports by Abdi Latif Dahir
- Deutsche Welle: China’s Belt and Road forum: does Africa need new funding options? by Jane Nyingi and Sylvia Mwehozi
Erik Myxter-lino is a former Peace Corps China volunteer who currently works as a teacher’s assistant and second year’s Master’s Candidate at NCSU’s School of Public and International Affairs. My research focuses on Chinese foreign infrastructure and industrial investment in East Africa.
Prior to graduate school, he led volunteer and paid staff teams as a program manager for The Fresh Air Fund, Work for Progress and the National Security Language Initiative for Youth – China.
Other experience includes audio post-production (intern @ Sinica Podcast), Chinese language (tested HSK-5 advanced) and new media creation and management via his Belt and Road Podcast.
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