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EU’s Global Gateway Dovetails with B3W of the US

As China’s draconian BRI gets exposed again with Uganda losing Airport to China

In September this year, Sri Lanka declared an “Economic Emergency”. Foreign exchange reserves have fallen steeply in the past two years. The Sri Lankan rupee has lost 20% of its value in the past year against the US Dollar. This has skyrocketed the price of essential commodities whereas the government doesn’t have enough money to buy food from external sources. The government had to appoint a former army general as commissioner of essential services, who will have the power to seize food stocks held by traders and retailers and regulate their prices.

This is just a few years after, under BRI, China lent money to Sri Lanka to build a major port at Hambantota on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, knowing that Colombo would experience debt distress. This allowed Beijing to seize the port in exchange for debt relief, thereby ensuring its use by the Chinese navy.

Similarly then, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Montenegro, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Tajikistan were in some way or other in process of loosing their strategic assets to China, on non-repayment of BRI loans.

Few nations like Myanmar, Mongolia, Kyrgystan, and Djibouti got support from the US, Russia, India, and France to hold their hand to renegotiate those draconian terms with China.

However many more, especially African nations, the Central Asian countries, and few others in South America and the Caribbean are still vulnerable to China’s BRI debt trap threat.

The US and EU’s answer to Chinese Bullying the Vulnerable

US government recently launched the Build Back Better World(B3W) initiative in Jun 2021,  to place a heavy emphasis on pursuing key democratic principles of development, most of them long-standing: transparency, good governance, sustainable development, high standards, and being climate-friendly.

All of the above were lost on the shady deals that China did with Bribe-susceptible governments, which had the Chinese trademark “non-market policies and practices”.

And similarly, The European Commission in beginning of December has revealed an international infrastructure plan called as the Global Gateway which aims to rally 300 billion euros in public and private infrastructure investment between 2021 and 2027.

European Union(EU) has been alarmed in the manner of China encroaching at its backdoor, in Eastern Europe like Montenegro, Serbia, Greece, and Italy. Hence its own infrastructure push for a European Silk Road shall definitely ensure Dragon’s claws do not impinge on Europe and neighbours too far.

How these World Initiatives to defeat BRI differ?

Gwadar is safely and firmly in Chinese Navy’s clutched, thanking to Pakistan Army Generals sell-out. However, how similar has been Port-Park-City (PPC) model, that dictates that the development of a port will be followed by the construction of a majority Chinese-funded (but ostensibly jointly-managed) industrial park, which is then intended to lead to the establishment of a proxy Chinese city inside another sovereign state?

Very similar to the Forest City in Malaysia, which still currently houses only Chinese, and has been put on freeze by the Malaysian Government.

These Chinese Isles or Pockets of Chinese governance inside Pakistan or Malaysia or inside any other sovereign country mean? Tomorrow, China implements the capability to safeguard them militarily, and viola, you have a sovereign Chinese territory inside another country.

On the other hand, B3W and the Global Gateway provide four key components that gives it the trust, that BRI fails to provide. Technology sharing is the aspect that Chinese BRI does not believe in. Their engineering, equipment, and resources are all sourced from Mainland China, hence depriving the host nation to lay stake to ownership of its own growth trajectory. In fact, it is akin to refusing to let the host nation be part of their own development.

Viability is another aspect which alternatives shall ensure. It is absence of economic viability of BRI projects, that has led to Debt trapping countries like Pakistan, Uganda and Sri Lanka.

China has suggested and created infrastructure that doesn’t even faintly benefit the host country. Hambantota port is an apt example as also the Laos Railway, both of which only help PLA and Chinese Navy to stage forward their military assets in an earlier time frame.

BRI uses its own skilled manpower including engineers, while the host nation provides manual labour. That is very akin to Colonizer’s mindset, especially when you combine it with the fact, that revenue goes back to Chinese National banks.

Instead of declaring the pay-offs in the agreements, what is not mentioned is what concessions China gets, including dumping its Cheap Goods on the host nations. Situation is so severe that Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s cottage industry and long-standing indigenous factories had to be shut down. They couldn’t compete with China dumping its cheap goods on their land.

Viewpoint

Pakistan has been a live example over these eight years of CPEC failure.

The port of Gwadar evidently is becoming another Hambantota.

Other projects also have not boosted local employment either, with the Chinese construction companies preferring to ship their labor from China rather than hire local workers. And Sadly, with Pakistani home industry wiped out due to cheap Chinese goods, stronger trade and road links have helped those same Chinese goods be sold in Pakistan, but not the other way round.

To top it all, an expert pointed out “If you don’t give them what they want in the economic realm(repayment of loans), they push back in the military realm. To keep the military relationship going, they have to give up the economic realm,”

Sri Lanka has learned it the hard way, with this year’s economic meltdown and economic emergency. If the word is to be believed, Pakistan is in far dire straits than Sri Lanka, but the stranglehold of Pakistan Army ensures no word gets out in press.

While India is helping Sri Lanka in this hour, untrustworthy Pakistan is not even being given pennies by the Saudis.

B3W and Global Gateway shall present the bullied nation, to have genuine alternative to BRI, and should China decides to wield the stick, the world including India is now gradually placing themselves militarily to ward off that threat.

This, in the long run, shall ensure, Chinese obscure/rogue BRI terms and conditions shall mean nothing and shall absolve the poor nations of any liability to China.

 

03 Dec 21/Friday                                                                             Written by: Fayaz

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