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  • You might find this hard to imagine but for years, China firmly believed

  • it had to keep a low profile in international matters.

  • In former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's words, it was important tohide your strength and bide your time.”

  • That's why the Belt and Road initiative marks a huge change in China's foreign policy.

  • And it's not just a small shift.

  • It's a plan that will have serious implications for how the world develops.

  • Calledyi dai yi luin Chinese, the Belt and Road initiative was first announced

  • by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.

  • It's a globe-spanning plan with the purpose of strengthening trade, infrastructure

  • and investment links between China and an estimated 65 other countries.

  • Together, potentially participating countries account for more than 30 percent of global GDP,

  • 62 percent of the world's population and 75 percent of known energy reserves.

  • Despite what the name may imply, “the roadactually refers to a maritime network

  • of shipping lanes running from China, through Southeast Asia, Africa and all the way to Europe.

  • Thebelt,” on the other hand, refers to overland routes stretching through central Asia to Europe.

  • The most visible part of the Belt and Road so far has been infrastructure.

  • In Kenya, for example, China built a $3.2 billion railway,

  • connecting the port city of Mombasa to the country's capital Nairobi.

  • It now takes just four and a half hours to get between the two cities

  • about a third of the time it used to take on the old rail system.

  • But it's not just Kenya.

  • Across the world, the Belt and Road has meant billions of dollars in investment from the Chinese.

  • In Sri Lanka, about $200 million of Chinese funding went into the country's second international airport.

  • After all that investment, though, it's been dubbed the world's emptiest international airport.

  • From Africa to Asia, there are many infrastructure projects involving railways, roads and bridges,

  • but that's just one part of China's Belt and Road Initiative.

  • Some say it's also serving as a huge marketing campaign for Chinese money looking for investment.

  • Yet despite the public nature of the Belt and Road, there is a lot about this huge plan that we don't know about.

  • The number of countries estimated to be in this initiative is between 60 and 115,

  • while the money committed is said to be between $1 trillion and $8 trillion.

  • And then there's the question of who's coordinating this.

  • It's definitely backed by President Xi,

  • while China's powerful state planner NDRC was involved in initial policy planning.

  • But in terms of execution?

  • Experts believe Chinese state-owned enterprises have the most influence

  • in terms of what the Belt and Road will ultimately look like.

  • What we do know is that the Belt and Road will be made up of several economic corridors.

  • All but one of the corridors connect several countries, like this route which connects China to the Netherlands.

  • It will include projects like this cargo train that carries goods from east China to London in about two weeks.

  • But let's take a closer look at the only corridor connected to just one country,

  • the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

  • Pakistan is seen as the buckle in the belt.

  • It was reportedly promised more than $60 billion in Chinese investments,

  • although experts think the actual figure is closer to $20 billion.

  • This corridor would link China's far western region of Xinjiang to Pakistan's port city of Gwadar.

  • This is an important trading route for China, particularly because of the country's location

  • between China and its energy suppliers in Africa and the Middle East.

  • You see, China has a huge appetite for energy.

  • It's the world's largest oil importer and is set to be the biggest gas importer too.

  • But Pakistan may have gotten more than it was expecting when it took China's loans.

  • The country's prime minister, celebrity cricketer Imran Khan, is fighting to keep the economy afloat,

  • and some are worried that Pakistan's debts to China may ultimately hurt those efforts.

  • But it's not just Pakistan or even China which got more than it bargained for.

  • There's a lot of talk now on debt trap diplomacy, which involves the Belt and Road.

  • The Washington-based Center for Global Development raised serious concerns

  • about eight nations receiving Belt and Road financing.

  • They include Pakistan, the Maldives, Mongolia and even Djibouti,

  • a country of less than one million where China has its only overseas military base.

  • The think tank said those nations' mounting debts to China

  • put their economies at risk of potential widespread defaults.

  • China faced setbacks when some countries' leaders,

  • who had signed onto Belt and Road projects, did not regain power.

  • One example: Malaysia's new government which moved to cancel a $20 billion dollar rail project.

  • And there's the Maldives, which opened a bridge with Chinese funds.

  • Now, it wants to renegotiate its debt to China.

  • Even when it looks like China has a winning hand, like when it took control of Sri Lanka's Hambantota port

  • after the country couldn't make repayments, locals protested what they called a colonial invasion.

  • And then there are the reports about geopolitical ambitions underlying the Belt and Road.

  • Beijing says the Belt and Road is purely a peaceful economic project without geopolitical or military intent.

  • But developments like its military projects with Pakistan have some experts questioning that.

  • They worry Beijing has military intentions for some of the ports at which it has a large presence,

  • like that Sri Lankan port it took over.

  • The Belt and Road provides financing for infrastructure, which a lot of countries are desperate for.

  • But now, as worries mount, we're left to see what's next for China's ambitious program.

  • Hey everyone, it's Xin En. Thanks for watching!

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You might find this hard to imagine but for years, China firmly believed

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What is the Belt and Road initiative? | CNBC Explains

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    Summer posted on 2020/12/26
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