11 Oct. 2021 09:18
an analysis by Tom Fowdy
Western mainstream media reported in almost unison last week about a “study” on the Reuters drafted its own crisp headline claiming China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was losing momentum.
The study was, as in ReutersReport, sponsored by the US government through its own international aid organization USAID, and presented the usual stereotypes that China is maliciously burdening other nations with “hidden debts”, promoting corruption and causing widespread environmental damage in the countries participating in the BRI. It also claimed that opposition to the investment program is increasing.
The release of this report happened coincidentally the same week that US officials embarked on a diplomatic tour of Latin America to counter China’s mega-investments under the BRI. This followed a G7 decision last July to launch its own global infrastructure development initiative called Build Back Better World (B3W) to counterbalance Beijing’s BRI.
It seems a bit strange that this B3W initiative seems necessary if the BRI is supposed to be in such a bad position as it is claimed in the “study”. None of this is a coincidence. The report is essentially a sneaky public relations number from the US government aimed at denigrating China. In other words: propaganda. The United States are masters of this art and can look back on a long history in which they prepared the ground for their respective foreign policy goals by means of “studies”, feigning the illusion of independence of the organizations associated with it, whose “studies” subsequently resonated with them always be reinforced in a concerted campaign in the mainstream media. We have seen this on numerous occasions, most recently on the issue of the Chinese Autonomous Region of Xinjiang and the associated allegations of forced labor and oppression of the Uyghurs.
It is remarkable how the weighting of US foreign policy has now shifted from the Xinjiang issue to putting obstacles in the way of the BRI. But you knew it was coming. When the US Senate drafted its “strategic competition” bill earlier this year, it provided $ 300 million in funding to target “negative news” about “the consequences of China’s Belt and Road Initiative” around the world should be disseminated. It is therefore no surprise that this is exactly what happens in the “BRI study” just published. And it is a omen for what will await us in the future.
Is the BRI really failing and losing momentum? At least that’s the twist Reuters in his report. But the facts strongly suggest otherwise. In the coverage of the BRI by the western mainstream media, one reads and hears almost exclusively of a small number of BRI projects that fail or are caught up in local controversy. And these projects are the ones that are hoped to dominate the narrative and help put the overall BRI project in a critical and controversial light. It is true that some BRI projects in Malaysia have been canceled, such as the planned construction of a high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The mainstream media predictably pick up on these developments and weave far-reaching generalizations from them, ignoring the deeper circumstances behind such setbacks. For example, the high-speed railroad in Malaysia fell victim to the global economic slowdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which put a financial burden on the governments involved and forced them to cut budgets. Nevertheless, the construction freeze was reinterpreted as a “setback” for China or the project was simply reinterpreted as a “high-speed railroad into nowhere”. With a program as large as the BRI, which spans nearly $ 1 trillion and thousands of projects around the world, it’s inevitable that some will fail. But western mainstream media reliably ensure that one does not hear or read anything about the successful BRI projects, because viewing China’s achievements in a positive light would effectively amount to a form of blasphemy.
Here’s a taste of what you’d rather keep from you. A study by Refinitiv, one of the world’s largest providers of data on the financial market and infrastructure based in the UK, found that BRI projects worth over $ 516 billion had been completed by 2019, with a cancellation rate of just 0.3 Percent. The study listed 2,631 different projects in more than 120 countries worldwide.
To name just a few examples of the BRI’s successes: China completed a subway system in Lahore, Pakistan last year and put a 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant into operation there last May. China is currently building the largest building on the African continent in Egypt and the largest building in South Asia, the Lotus Tower in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and is about to complete the China-Laos high-speed railroad. Several transcontinental railroad lines through China to Europe were also opened.
Refinitiv’s study also debunked warnings of a “debt trap” that participating countries could find themselves in, finding that a different picture emerged after a review of 40 cases of China renegotiating external debt. The BRI is not imposed on anyone, it is neither dogmatic nor monolithic, and it is more flexible and pragmatic than it is supposed to be. If BRI projects are perceived as too expensive or unpopular, the partner countries often negotiate them with China, which usually adapts its position accordingly.
The idea that developing countries blindly and naively accept unilateral terms, enter into punitive agreements and therefore not know “what their best interests are” is insulting. As usual, it is based on the idea of the West as a “savior” with which colonialism and rule have been justified for centuries. There is an amazing lack of historical awareness and sensitivity among those who make such claims.
The Belt and Road Initiative is probably the most blackened and overly misrepresented and skewed project in history. For years the US has been trying to find an answer to China’s grand plans due to the constraints of its politico-economic system, but most of the time it has simply resorted to attacking and discrediting them.
The USAID-funded “study” is nothing more than a renewed and desperate attack on the BRI, part of a politicized and concerted campaign that Washington hopes will help it win approval for its own foreign policy agenda. This skewed narrative is used to downplay the success of BRI projects at all costs and to ban it from the public consciousness by exaggerating individual examples of failure to portray the system as a whole in a dim light. But that is not true, and the facts will ultimately speak for themselves.
RT DE strives for a wide range of opinions. Guest contributions and opinion articles do not have to reflect the editorial team’s point of view.
Translated from English.
Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations writer and analyst with a focus on East Asia. He tweets under @Tom_Fowdy
More on the subject – Study: New Silk Road participating countries have $ 385 billion in hidden debt