Among the news items and analyses from this week, an article on International Affairs[Will Trump make China great again? The belt and road initiative and international order]offers a quite comprehensive geo-economic and geopolitical analysis of the motives and implications of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The BRI’s push towards networked capitalism on the one hand, and the focus on Chinese national unit on the other, fuse in ways that reinforce Chinese government narratives that portray China as the new trailblazer of global capitalism, specifically illustrating and justifying what some observers envisage (or fear) as a new Sinocentric order in and beyond East Asia. The likely winners in this constellation, if it is successful, are megalopolises and hubs in Eurasia and, most of all, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose performance-based legitimacy would gain an unprecedented boost. Other places connected to the key network, in areas including East Africa and the South Pacific, may also stand to benefit economically by access to the envisaged lines of connectivity. The likely losers are countries that are not included in the BRI, most notably the United States. As of today, the BRI’s ability to rally support to date stands in stark contrast to the United States' ‘America First’ policy stance under President Trump. Trump’s hostility to multilateralism, which has so far peaked with the US’ withdrawal from TPP, presents a window of opportunity for China, which Beijing seems to be skilfully using to promote its claim to international leadership, allowing China to greatly enhance its standing as a (trade) rule-maker at both the regional and the global level.
The eventual success of the initiative is not, however, a foregone conclusion. The BRI is a new and very complex undertaking, whose development is highly dependent on both the continued and adaptable support from the Chinese government and on the overall state of the global economy. Moreover, despite relentless reassurances from Beijing that the BRI is a ‘win-win’, open initiative, its scale and scope have already generated significant concerns. The authors place special focus on the potential impact of BRI-triggered large-scale migration flows (notably of Chinese workers), and on the fact that so far there seems to have been little preparation in China for dealing with the associated issues and the inevitable repercussions.
Francesco S. Montesano
Will Trump make China great again? The belt and road initiative and international order [International Affairs