Belt and Road at a Glance
Pakistan delays FTA upgrade agreement at last minute
Despite ten rounds of negotiation, a final agreement on upgrades to the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) fell apart just before it was to be made official. While the secret nature of the discussions was a concern, the reason for the failure centers on China’s refusal to remove tariffs on Pakistan’s textile and agricultural products exports. Despite the vast sums committed to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, tensions have run high between the two countries in recent months. In November, for example, the Diamer-Bhasha dam rejected a Chinese financing proposal. Economist Mushtaq Khansupported a tougher negotiating position on the view that Beijing “cannot afford to bankrupt Pakistan.” This has been supported by discussion over just the past few weeks of an additional $1.5 billion in Chinese financing for Pakistan to help overcome liquidity problems, with Pakistan having already taken $2.3 billion last year.Boao Forum: Opening sessions refer to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor “extending” into Afghanistan
The annual Boao Forum for Asia is taking place on Hainan Island (April 8-11), featuring a keynote address by Xi Jinping (as well as remarks from other prominent heads of state). In his remarks, President Xi promised to lower trade barriers, a message that was echoed by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Alibaba chief Jack Ma. The opening sessions included mention of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor “extending” into Afghanistan, although the substance of this claim is not yet clear. The remaining days of the forum may see a push by Chinese officials to secure endorsements of the Belt and Road Initiative by the foreign leaders in attendance – having failed to extract such support from visiting heads of state in recent months.Boao Forum: Beijing propaganda authorities claim domestic, foreign media agree to Belt and Road news cooperation
On the sidelines of the Boao Forum, officials from the CCP Publicity Department and state-run news agencies, Xinhua and People’s Daily, gave keynote speeches at the 2018 Media Leaders Summit for Asia. An official Chinese government website stated that the summit, which had representatives from about 140 Chinese and foreign media organizations in attendance, issued a joint declaration entitled “the Manifesto of the Chinese and foreign media on jointly promoting the construction of the One Belt One Road news cooperation alliance.” The issuance of such joint statements (and disputes over their validity) is a familiar theme at international conferences held in China.China makes aggressive push to strengthen ties with Zimbabwe, talks involve country’s mineral resources
Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa selected China as the first non-African country to visit after assuming office in November 2017. During the April 2-7 state visit, President Mnangagwa said he “was delighted to hear President Xi talk of his commitment to working with our government to build a stronger Zimbabwe,” while Xi said he was “willing to write a new chapter in China-Zimbabwe relations for the benefit of our two peoples.” President Mnangagwa also visited Anhui province, where discussions centered on possible bilateral cooperation in areas such as mineral resources development. Zimbabwe has the second largest platinum deposits in the world as well as the fifth largest lithium reserves. In the same window as his visit, China’s Cloudwalk Technology and Zimbabwe signed a strategic cooperation agreement to supply the country’s finance, public security, and airport sectors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and equipment (the first Chinese AI project in Africa, according to reports). The visiting delegation to China also signed at least $520 million in deals spanning agriculture, mining, transport, machinery and automotives.China, Cameroon strike array of investment deals, including cooperation agreement at Kribi deep-water port
Cameroonian President Paul Biya made a state visit to Beijing March 22-24, during which he signed a large number of important and lucrative agreements, including a $785 million financing package for unspecified initiatives and a $94 million concessional loan from the Export-Import Bank of China to support access to drinking water across the country. Reports indicated Chinese authorities cancelled a portion of Cameroon’s outstanding debt. Several days after Mr. Biya’s visit, China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) announced that it had signed an investment cooperation agreement to build the Kribi Logistics Park, serving the Kribi Deep-Water Port Logistics Distribution Center (where CHEC is a container terminal operator). Kribi is also the terminus of an ongoing project to build a subsea fiber optic cable between Cameroon and Brazil, an indication of the port’s potential strategic value.IMF to hold Belt and Road conference in Beijing
The International Monetary Fund will hold a conference in Beijing immediately following the Boao Forum, on “Macroeconomic and Financial Frameworks for the Successful Implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative” in association with the People’s Bank of China (PBoC). The conference will see keynote remarks from both Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, and Yi Gang, governor of PBoC. As the IMF and China’s policy banks have frequently been at odds with regard to creditworthiness and governance requirements for loan recipients around the world, this effort by the IMF seemingly to find a modus vivendi for Belt and Road projects is noteworthy. Topics of discussion will involve ways that Belt and Road can help participating countries, macro-financial policy implications of the BRI, strengthening fiscal frameworks, and private sector engagementWestern banks look for entry into Belt and Road
Major international banks continue to indicate they see the Belt and Road Initiative as a boon for business. Morgan Stanley published a front-page research report forecasting that “the [Belt and Road] initiative will accelerate China’s transformation into a high-income economy and cement its position as a global economic superpower.” On April 9, HSBC created a dedicated directorship to oversee the bank’s Belt and Road Initiative business. These developments build upon growing support from the financial sector for BRI, highlighted by the establishment of dedicated Belt and Road funds by both Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank.China offers Singapore Belt and Road cooperation in third-party markets
On the Beijing stop of his five-day visit to China, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong oversaw the signing of a bilateral memorandum of understanding calling for greater collaboration between Singaporean and Chinese companies in third-country markets along the Belt and Road. China's Ministry of Trade and Industry, and National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) will form a working group with the Singaporean Ministry of Trade and Industry's Enterprise Singapore board to identify markets and sectors of mutual interest along the Belt and Road. While it's non-binding, the memorandum appears to build on recent efforts by China to improve relations between the two countries. It may be perceived as Beijing dangling economic opportunity in front of Singapore as a means to achieve this goal.Data from IntelTrak, March 26 - April 10.Subscribe to Inteltrak
What They're Saying
FORMER MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER (SEEKING RE-ELECTION)
Interview with Bloomberg Politics
"Here, we gain nothing from [Chinese] investment. We don’t welcome that. Lots of people don’t like Chinese investments. We are for Malaysians. We want to defend the rights of Malaysians. We don’t want to sell chunks of this country to foreign companies who will develop whole towns."
LIN SONGTIAN (林松添)
CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH AFRICA
Interview on Sino-African relations with the South Africa Times Media Group
"[Western companies] have taken cheap crude oil from Nigeria, refined it in their own country, and sold it back to Nigeria as high-priced refined oil. Chinese companies are processing locally, leaving profits to the local people, and creating a lot of employment."
NADÉGE ROLLAND, SENIOR FELLOW
POLITICAL SECURITY AFFAIRS, NATIONAL BUREAU FOR ASIAN RESEARCH
Interview on NBR's Asia Insight podcast
"If China’s objective is to create this new regional order around its own interests, with its own set of norms which are very different from the ones that we have in the West and we have protected over the years, what exactly is it that we want to do? How serious are we about defending this order that we’ve lived in for the past few decades?"
ASIAN COMPETITIVENESS 2018 ANNUAL REPORT
Released at the Boao Forum on Asia press conference
"China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative, has not only improved local infrastructure but also is extending toward Afghanistan, reducing poverty, the hotbed of terrorism, and bringing better prospects for local people’s lives."
BRIG. GURMEET KANWAL, ADJUNCT FELLOW
CENTER FOR STRATEGIC INTERNATIONAL STUDIES (CSIS)
"In China’s grand strategy, Gwadar is an important foothold that is part of its String of Pearls strategy for the Indo-Pacific. Chinese maritime strategy draws heavily from Mahan’s theory of sea dominance. Mahan’s hypothesis was that whoever controls the Indian Ocean will dominate the whole of Asia."
By the Numbers
Data from RWR's IntelTrak tool
Data from RWR's IntelTrak tool
April 8: The annual three-day Boao Forum for Asia, known as “Asian Davos,” began in Hainan with a keynote address by Xi Jinping. The forum was divided into four sub-forums: Globalization & Belt and Road, An Open Asia, Structural Reform, and Innovation. Three reports were released by the forum’s Beijing-based secretariat, including the “Asian Competitiveness 2018 Annual Report,” which stated that the Belt and Road Initiative has become a driving force for regional economic integration, connecting countries and creating new jobs.April 9: The 2018 Media Leaders Summit for Asia, held at the Boao Forum,launched with a keynote address by Huang Kunming of the CCP Central Committee’s Propaganda Department. He Ping, editor-in-chief of Xinhua News Agency, and Zhou Shuchun, editor-in-chief of China Daily, also addressed the summit. According to the Chinese government’s official Belt and Road portal, the summit culminated in representatives from Chinese and foreign media news organizations issued a declaration titled, the “Manifesto of the Chinese and foreign media on jointly promoting the construction of the One Belt One Road news cooperation alliance.”
March 29: The Ruoqiang Loulan airport opened in Xinjiang. There is currently only one inter-Xinjiang air route operating out of the airport, but officials indicate that plans are underway to establish Ruoqiang as a regional transit, trade, and logistics hub. Xinjiang has more airports than any other region in China, and is in the process of building nine more airports and expanding six existing airports.April 6: China National Machinery & Engineering Corporation (CNMEC) signed a contract with Ukrainian private energy company Donbas Fuels and Energy (DTEK) to build a 200MW solar power station in Urumqi, Xinjiang. The project will cost about $280 million, of which CNMEC will provide about $209 million. DTEK will fund the remaining amount.
East Asia and the Pacific
March 29: The Reserve Bank of New Zealand registered Bank of China (BoC) to provide banking services in the country. BoC plans to open branches in New Zealand and increase wholesale lending to local businesses, as well as participate in large-scale projects. BoC already provides banking services in the country through subsidiary BoC New Zealand, which was registered in 2014.April 9: China and Mongolia signed a framework agreement on investment cooperation, under which the two countries will establish a cooperation mechanism under the China-Mongolia Mineral, Energy, and Interconnection Cooperation Committee framework. The mechanism will facilitate production and investment in mineral development and processing, manufacturing, transportation, energy, and agriculture.
March 31: CRRC Corporation was awarded a $1.72 billion contract by the Thaigovernment to supply tracks, electronics, machinery, and locomotives for the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail project. Financing will come from domestic loans instead of foreign loans, as decided by the Thai government, due to concerns about over-reliance on Chinese project funding.April 2: The State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) and LaosMinistry of Science and Technology signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in intellectual property and joint innovation. The Laotian government will recognize Chinese patents as effective in Laos.April 2: The Philippines’ inter-agency Task Force Bangon Malawi (TFBM) selected a Chinese-Filipino consortium to rebuild Marawi, which suffered widespread destruction from the five-month long Battle of Marawi against ISIS-affiliated militants last year. Chinese members of the Bangon Marawi Consortium (BMC) include China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), Anhui Huali Construction Group Company, China Geo Engineering Corporation, TBEA Company, Shandong Jinyuan Homes Industry Development Company. The rehabilitation project is worth an estimated $1.5 billion.April 3: The groundbreaking ceremony for the 190-km Gemas-Johor Bahru electric double-tracking railway project in Malaysia was held. China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC), and China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) will work with local contractors to complete the project, which is part of the greater railway network extending from Johor Bahru at the Malaysia-Singapore border to Padang Besar at the Malaysia-Thailand border.April 4: Yunnan Construction Engineering Group and Laos Planning and Investment Ministry signed a build-operate-transfer (BOT) concession agreement to build Laos’ first expressway. Construction will be completed by the joint venture Laos-China Joint Expressway Development. The 460-km expressway will link the capital of Vientiane with Boten, at the Laos-China border.April 8: China and Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding onthird-party market cooperation during Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Beijing. China’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, and National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) will form a working group with Enterprise Singapore to identify markets and sectors of mutual interest along the Belt and Road. The two countries will also work with banks, insurers, and other financial institutions to facilitate project financing.April 9: The Philippines’ People’s Television Network (PTV) signed amemorandum of agreement with China Central Television (CCTV) on news content exchange, during the 2018 Media Leaders Summit for Asia. The two networks already have a memorandum of agreement that provides forrebroadcasting of CCTV’s English programs on PTV. PTV also signed a framework agreement with China Radio, Inc. (CRI) on broadcasting the Chinese Theatre program.April 9: The Philippines’ Radyo Pilipinas (RP1) signed a memorandum of understanding with China Radio, Inc. (CRI) on joint documentary production and media program exchange, during the 2018 Media Leaders Summit for Asia. The two stations already have a standing agreement on staff exchange and joint radio program production.April 10: Chinese and Filipino officials signed several agreements following bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Boao Forum, including a loan agreement to help implement the Chico River pump irrigation project, an agreement on economic and technical cooperation, and a memorandum of understanding to hire Filipino English teachers in China. The two sides also reached preliminary agreements on technical cooperation on the Filipino-Sino Centre for Agricultural Technology, conducting a pre-feasibility study of the proposed Davao expressway project, and supplying broadcasting equipment to the Philippines’ Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
March 28: Tencent Cloud launched its first data center in Mumbai, India, which will serve as the company’s hub in South Asia. Tencent plans to open a second data center in India within a year’s time, and will implement a dual-center structure.March 29: A joint venture of China’s Harbin Electric International (HEI) andGermany’s Siemens signed a $562 million engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with Pakistan’s Jamshoro Power Company Limited (JPCL) to build a 660MW coal-fired power plant, funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB). The joint venture also plans to sign a contract to build a second 660MW coal-fired power plant, and an operations and maintenance (O&M) contract for the 1,320MW Jamshoro power project, estimated at another $313 million. Pakistan’s Joint Economic Coordination Committee has approved issuance of a sovereign guarantee to support the project.March 30: Bank of China (BoC) opened its first branch in Sri Lanka, in the capital city of Colombo. The bank will help expand Sri Lanka’s ties with overseas manufacturers as part of international supply chains.March 31: The Export-Import Bank of China will provide $147.9 million andSri Lanka’s People’s Bank will provide the remaining $26.1 million to financeconstruction of Sri Lanka’s Thalapitigala hydropower reservoir. Sinohydro Corporation has been contracted to build the 15MW reservoir.April 2: China’s GCL System Integration Technology and Japan’s Softbank Investment signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint venture company in Andhra Pradesh, India to produce and sell solar module components. The joint venture is seeking funding up to $930 million.April 4: China announced plans to develop a 750-acre industrial park inBangladesh’s port city of Chittagong, primarily for Chinese manufacturing use. China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) will develop the park through a joint venture with the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone Authority (BSEZA).April 6: Pakistan delayed signing the second phase of its free trade agreement with China at the last minute due to reservations about Beijing’s list of concessions. The first phase of the agreement had given China duty concessions that led to an influx of Chinese goods and hurt local industries. The Faisalabad textile business community, in particular, has expressed concerns about further concessions in the new phase. A joint meeting of the National Assembly standing committees on finance and commerce will take place in the near future.
March 26: China’s Cloudwalk Technology and the government of Zimbabwesigned a strategic cooperation framework agreement to supply the country’s finance, public security, and airport sectors with artificial intelligence (AI) technology and equipment. This is the first Chinese AI project in Africa. Cloudwalk grew out of the Chongqing Institute of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS).March 27: China and Cameroon signed five agreements during Cameroonian president Paul Biya’s visit to Beijing. These include an economic and technical cooperation agreement; a memorandum of understanding on human development; a protocol agreement between China’s Ministry of Trade and Cameroon’s Ministry of the Economy, Planning, and Regional Development (MINEPAT); a framework agreement between China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Cameroon’s MINEPAT on production capacity building, and a $94 million concessional loan agreement between the Export-Import Bank of China and Cameroon to supply drinking water across the country. Cameroon will also receive an additional $785 million in Chinese financing for various initiatives, to be disbursed in installments. Reports also suggest that Chinese authorities cancelled a portion of Cameroon’s outstanding debt.March 28: The Hubei office of the China WTO Africa Affairs Committee Trade Promotion Center signed a tea trade strategic cooperation agreement with aSenegalese delegation to export tea produced in Hubei’s Enshi prefecture. Senegal is the second largest tea importer in Africa.March 30: The “2018 China and Togo Cooperation Seminar on Combating Imports and Exports of Counterfeit and Inferior Products” was held at the Chinese Embassy in Togo. Togolese government officials were in attendance, and plan to travel to China on an information exchange program with Chinese officials from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine.March 24: A delegation from Zimbabwean companies, Platinum Agriculture and Princewood Enterprises, visited China and signed several deals in the agriculture, mining, and transport sectors. China’s Foton Lovol International Heavy Industry signed a $400 million contract to supply agricultural machinery, Good Agro-Rising signed a $40 million contract to supply tobacco fertilizer, and Dayu Irrigation Company signed a $80 million contract to supply irrigation equipment. Platinum Agriculture and Princewood Enterprises also signed an agreement with Allen Bus to purchase 1,500 fully-assembled buses and 1,000 buses for domestic assembly.April 4: China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and Cameroon’s Kribi Port Authority signed an investment cooperation framework agreement tobuild the Kribi Logistics Park, which will serve the Kribi deep-water port logistics distribution center and industrial area. CHEC is one of the Kribi port’s container terminal operators.April 4: China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) announced plans to make a $550 million equity investment in Nigeria Communications Limited, for an undisclosed stake in the company. The capital will allow NigComSat to increase its satellite fleet by two.April 6: Under the China-Ghana Bilateral Investment Treaty framework, China agreed to provide Ghana with a $16 million grant to implement the second phase of the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS). China will also provide $50 million to support the multi-stage development of the Jamestown Fishing Port Complex.April 6: China Nonferrous Metals Mining Group (CNMC) invested $880 million in the Deziwa copper-cobalt mine in Congo. CNMC owns a 51% stake in the Deziwa mine through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) agreement with Congo’s state-owned mining company Gecamines, and plans to invest up to $2 billion over time to develop its assets.
March 26: Croatia’s State Commission for Supervision of Public Procurement Procedures (DKOM) has rejected complaints against the selection of a Chinese consortium led by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) for the Peljesac bridge construction contract. The companies that filed the complaint were unsuccessful bidders Austria’s Strabag, Italy’s Astaldi Group, and Turkey’s IC Ictas Isaat Sanayi.March 28: Bulgaria awarded a consortium led by HNA Airport Group a 35-year concession to operate the Plovdiv airport, during which time HNA will invest at least $97 million to expand and renovate airport facilities. HNA plans to build the airport into a cargo distribution and regional tourist hub. This is HNA’s second European airport concession, after the Frankfurt-Hahn airport in Germany.March 28: China’s APEC Energy acquired a 50% stake in the Barryroe oil field in the North Celtic Sea Basin from Irish companies Lansdowne Oil & Gas and Providence Resources. APEC will take on responsibility for half of the exploration cost obligations, and will provide operational equipment and services.March 28: China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with Serbia’s Ministry of Construction, Transport, and Infrastructure on constructing the Serbia-Montenegromotorway’s 78-km Corridor XI section from Pozega to Boljare. CRBC is already working on the Surcin-Obrenovac section. The Export-Import Bank of China has provided a $761.3 million loan to Montenegro to help finance the project.March 28: The government of Uzice, Serbia presented China Shandong International Economic & Technical Cooperation Group (CSI), which is currently involved in building the Corridor XI section, with potential newprojects. These include construction of a hotel complex in Tara mountain and renovation of the Ponikve commercial airport in western Serbia.March 30: Chinese smart device operating system Thunder Software Technology completed its acquisition of Bulgarian mobile image software provider MM Solutions for $38.2 million, through ThunderSoft subsidiary AchieveSky Europe SARL.April 4: China’s Guoxin Guotong Fund and CNIC Corporation signed an agreement to jointly acquire a 33.3% stake in Spanish natural gas company Redexis Gas, with support from UK-based Hastings Funds Management. Redexis Gas is the second largest gas transport operator in Spain, operating 9,990-km of gas infrastructure.April 8: China and Austria established a friendly strategic partnership during Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen’s visit to Beijing. In addition to plans for expanding two-way trade and investment, the two sides aredeliberating the possibility of signing a bilateral judicial assistance treaty on criminal cases, on which basis they may also sign a bilateral extradition treaty. China’s Ministry of Commerce and Austria’s Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs also signed a memorandum of understanding on e-commerce cooperation during the state visit. The countries will establish a bilateral e-commerce cooperative mechanism for regular government-level dialogue, local partnerships, and project support.
March 28: Tencent Cloud launched its first data center in northern Virginia and second in Silicon Valley, to provide users with full cloud-computing services. The Tencent subsidiary's U.S. headquarters are located in Palo Alto, California.March 31: The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) designatedBank of China (BoC) and Goldman Sachs as global capital coordinators for AGDC’s Alaska LNG project, which will pipe gas from the Prudhoe Bay in the north to a proposed terminal in the south. BoC and Goldman Sachs will help raise equity and debt financing to continue developing the U.S. gas project. Sinopec and China Investment Corporation (CIC) are also involved in Alaska LNG production.April 9: Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly led Canadian’s first creative industries trade mission to China, with plans to sign nearly $110 million in deals and agreements. The Canadian trade delegation includes representatives from about 60 companies and organizations across sectors, including visual arts, music, film, virtual/augmented reality, museums, and gaming.
Latin American and the Caribbean
April 3: Argentinian state-run train company Trenes Argentinos received its first shipment of high-tech rail maintenance equipment from China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), at the Buenos Aires port. The equipment was designed by local technicians trained in China, and intended for Argentina’s rail network renovation project, for which CMEC provided $32.5 million in credit to help finance