The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Xi Jinping’s global infrastructure project, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. To celebrate the completion of one of its most extensive global engagement ventures, China is holding a sizable gathering. Leaders from around the world, including Vladimir Putin of Russia, have gathered in Beijing to celebrate a highly anticipated occasion.
Through the effort, China’s ties with Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have strengthened and power plants, railways, roads, and ports have been created all over the world. It is a key component of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s campaign to increase China’s influence in international affairs.
Smaller incentives for initiatives that are more environmentally sustainable are now being prioritized by the government. These events demonstrate how China’s growing debt and economic challenges are limiting its ability to project financial power internationally.
What is the Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as “One Belt, One Road” in Chinese, began as a programme for Chinese enterprises to build energy, transportation, and other infrastructure abroad with loans from Chinese development banks.
By strengthening China’s ties to the majority of the globe and creating a 21st-century equivalent of the Silk Road commerce channels through Beijing to the region of the Middle East and into Europe, the declared goal was to increase trade and the economy.
During his 2013 trips to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, Xi gave a general overview of the idea, which developed over the following years and sparked the building of significant projects ranging from power stations in Pakistan and Indonesia to railroads being built in Kenya and Laos.
China surpassed the World Bank as a major financier of initiatives for development under the Belt and Road Initiative. According to the Chinese government, over three thousand projects worth around $1 trillion (about Rs 8,32,52,50 crore) have already started in BRI nations.
According to Kevin Gallagher, the head at the Boston University’s Global Development Policy Centre, China filled a void left by other lenders who moved away from infrastructure and towards sectors like health and education after receiving backlash over the potential negative effects of large-scale construction projects on the environment and nearby communities.
Similar criticism has been leveled at Chinese-financed projects that have resulted in human displacement or the release of massive amounts of greenhouse gasses that alter climate.
The head of Griffith University’s Asia Institute, Christoph Nedopil, thinks China will still take on certain major projects, like high-profile ones like railroads and others like pipelines for gas and oil that will generate income.
The plan has also come under fire for the significant environmental damage brought on by large-scale infrastructure projects, as well as its enormous carbon footprint.
Scholars from China, the US, and the UK said in 2019 that the construction of megaports, pipelines, railroads, and motorways could make the Paris climate targets impossible to achieve.
Chinese-led hard construction initiatives pose more hazards to indigenous territories and ecosystems, according to an analysis by professionals at Boston University’s Global Development Policy. This is because China is still a relatively new player in the global development finance space and is still developing its stringent policies and procedures for social and ecological risk management.
Although several previously agreed-upon initiatives are still in process, China has made a commitment in 2021 to refrain from constructing additional coal-fired power plants abroad in an effort to calm environmental anxieties.
These include solar and wind farms as well as electric vehicle battery facilities, including a sizable lithium-ion batteries plant that has sparked environmental worries in Hungary, a BRI partner.