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China's Global Power Play

China's Belt and Road Initiative, a massive program to develop infrastructure in dozens of countries worldwide, may be the largest construction project in history. Its benefits to host countries—and to China itself—remain far from certain.
November 22, 2019, 8am PST | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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"The Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, includes hundreds of infrastructure projects financed and constructed in part or in whole by Chinese entities in lands far beyond China’s borders. Projects include ports, airports, rail lines, utilities, industrial centers, highways, and even entire new cities and urban sectors....together they aim for nothing less than the unification of almost all of Asia and Africa."

"Analysts estimate that trade generated by the BRI reached $117 billion last year. The total estimated cost, by 2027: up to $1.3 trillion. Whether that investment will pay off for China remains to be seen. Chinese banks and companies hope to profit from loan payments and contracts; the Chinese state hopes to benefit by opening markets and gaining influence. The World Bank estimates that the BRI could reduce transportation times on many corridors by 12 percent, increase trade between 2.7 percent and 9.7 percent, increase income by up to 3.4 percent, and lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty."

"In many cases, benefits to host countries have not materialized. Many projects use little local expertise or labor; rather, they are boons for Chinese engineering firms, construction companies, and suppliers such as steel and concrete manufacturers. Once built, they take on a nearly colonial tenor, moving raw materials out of host countries and moving Chinese goods into them. And no matter how economists feel about BRI projects, the initiative has already alarmed environmentalists." 

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Published on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 in The Architect's Newspaper
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