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Laurence Goodchild @LGoodchild_UK
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Michael Ryder and @Bkerrychina kicking off today's @RSAsianAffairs conference on China's Belt and Road Initiative, hosted at KCL, supported by the Wilson Center. Papers will be published as forthcoming issue of Asian Affairs - free to members of the RSAA
What will happen if Belt and Road Initiative leads to significant economic dev - will they lean towards political openness? This would not necessarily be desirable for China. In reality - tendency is NOT for 66 countries involved to move towards democracy with growth @shirleyzeyu
Much talk about possible 'debt trap' for recipient countries. What about risk to China, who will have invested massively via Belt and Road? Autocracies, authoritarian regimes may not uphold their obligations. @shirleyzeyu
Belt and Road aims to achieve economic and political objectives. Political opportunity for China to form a 'common destiny' is based on 66 recipient countries being authoritarian gvnts. or semi-democracies. @shirleyzeyu
US has undisputed military dominance in maritime Asia Pacific. Number 1 will remain number 1, number 2 will remain number 2. Continental Eurasian heartland is different - could be different - remains pivotal @shirleyzeyu
Prof Wang Yi-Wei of Renmin University: What really matters is what the populations of the Belt and Road countries think about the Initiative? Europeans think of the Initiative as a revival of Silk Road - but it's not.
Keyword of Belt and Road is 'mutual connectivity' - not about hierarchy. Many developing countries want to share the experience of China's recent development - Prof Wang Yi-Wei
Up next is @ArifCRafiq of the @MiddleEastInst discussing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Pakistan serves as an interesting case study for those looking at the Belt and Road Initiative. At its starting point, China was viewed extremely favorably in Pakistan
A considerable amount of aid is coming to #Pakistan via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Private investment, but with governmental roles on both sides. Total value initiated and concluded is significant in comparison to other BRI countries. @ArifCRafiq
CPEC served as significant morale boost when it began - successful in fast-tracking the completion of infrastructure projects. In fact, some had been on the government's wish-list for some time - including those that USAID had considered funding in 1990s (but didn't) @ArifCRafiq
However, boom bust cycles have been accelerated. In middle-term, Pakistan's economic disequilibrium has actually been strengthened and the desired transformation has not come about. Consumers will continue to struggle to afford electricity which is on offer to them @ArifCRafiq
Moving ahead, CPEC will need to be retrofitted with an informed economic plan. Current plan does not actually guide decision-making. Lack of focus has lead to a bloating of the CPEC portfolio. Great deal of ambiguity around overland trade between Pakistan and China @ArifCRafiq
Metrics for judging progress of CPEC will need to change - boasting about size of the portfolio is not enough. As portfolio grows so will challenges and liabilities. CPEC needs to be measured in terms of job creation, productivity, export output etc. @ArifCRafiq #Pakistan #China
"Now for something completely different" @JamesSchwemlein will be looking at pockets of resistance to the #BRI in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Could have looked at many more - illiberal democracies make up bulk of BRI countries.
No evidence of beneficiaries of Belt and Road saying 'no' in absolute terms to Beijing - even if some are doing so in the short-term. This point especially needs to be understood by policymakers in the US
Reality is that the army dominates Pakistan's political life - at it's core that's what makes it illiberal. CPEC does not shift the underlying military reality. Pakistan's army has been a remarkably loyal partner for the PLA @JamesSchwemlein
Schwemlein: During the lifetime of #BRI., exports of the involved countries to China has only increased by 4%, whereas China's exports to these countries have grown massively. This is not a reciprocal arrangement
Afternoon panel now being introduced by @MichaelKugelman -- noting that this is actually the second event organized collaboratively by @RSAsianAffairs and @TheWilsonCenter. First was held in Jan 2018 in Washington DC, organized by @NeetiNair
Kugelman: US gvnt does not explicitly oppose the Belt and Road Initiative. There have been some negative comments - but no direct/substantial statement made. It will definitely be of concern through, Trump admin sees Beijing as it's greatest strategic rival and a security threat.
Dr Chun Yi-Lee (Uni of Nottingham): Taiwan's 'New' Southbound Policy - targeting 10 Asean countries + South Asia +Australia & New Zealand, aiming to forge a 'sense of economic community'. More civil society orientated - not just business deals.
Dr Chun Yi-Lee: China's Belt and Road Initiative is a big challenge for Taiwan's New Southbound Policy. China trying to present it's initiative in a more 'polite way' - hence name change from OBOR to BRI.
Dr Chun Yi-Lee: Both Taiwan and China are making similar mistakes, in the sense that they expect investment to simply be accepted by recipient countries. E.g. language barrier between Taiwanese factory owners and Vietnamese workers has been a big issue - lack of real connection
You get a flavour of what the bigger aim of #BRI is if you look at what China has been doing in Central Asia for the last 20 years. BRI is actually a repackaging of what has come before - the concept has been planted on top of preexisting initiatives - @raffpantucci of @RUSI_org
Belt and Road is essentially the internationalisation of the idea of creating security and stability by achieving prosperity - something which has been pursued domestically by the Chinese gvnt. Hope is that the effects in Central Asia will reflect back on Xinjiang @raffpantucci
Central Asia is used as a testing ground for foreign policy or security policy by China. BRI, in some ways, was first tested out in Central Asia. None of this began in 2013 - it goes back to end of Cold War, if not even before. Concern over Xinjiang flared in 2009- @raffpantucci
Economic side: BRI is about opening up markets -- natural resource extraction (not just hydrocarbons) and also infrastructure construction at every level. Also about prestige projects - building roads from President's home town to the capital! @raffpantucci
In terms of security: Central Asian forces often being brought to China to be trained. They are also being provided with equipment and being sold military hardware.
Growing population of Chinese nationals in Central Asia - people that Chinese authorities need to worry about and protect (in context of fragile states). Soft power effect of Middle Classes learning Mandarin and thinking of China as the next big power @raffpantucci
For China, Central Asia has to work because it is about domestic security, stability and prosperity. It's on the border - it's about Xinjiang. Different to approach in Africa or further afield. @raffpantucci
Event now closing out with @RollandNadege - Many countries don't seem to like the BRI's aftertaste, in many ways 2018 was the year of pushback against BRI. Both internal and external resistance - some Chinese academics criticizing state for overstretching, throwing money around
Many countries (Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Malaysia) reconsidering scope of engagement with Beijing. Deals seen as unfair or even corrupt by some. Delays and suspensions of deals that had been taken for granted due to second thoughts - @RollandNadege @NBRnews
Chinese leadership is not dismissive of headwinds that BRI is facing - mentally prepared for possibilities of hurdles. They are aware of wave of discontent, and some tactical changes are on the way. Xi Jinping talking about more people-to-people programs @RollandNadege
BRI is too important to fail or to abandon. But it's still a 'baby' - first time Beijing has launched a project of such scope and scale. Chinese leadership believe it will take time for rest of world to adjust to this reality. @RollandNadege
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