China’s motive to push the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is to replicate what has turned out to be successful in China and help other countries to achieve the same economic success, said Branko Milanovic, Senior Scholar with the Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center.
Milanovic said the accusations from the West on the initiative are baseless.
“The part of the Belt & Road Initiative which attracts lots of attention is also having to do with Africa. There, the Chinese are criticized for doing the projects basically using only their own technology, manpower and so on. Well, that, according to the studies that have been done, is not exactly true.
Actually, the involvement of people from the countries where the projects are being taken is quite significant in terms of work and labor, even engineering,” said Milanovic in a recent interview.
The BRI is mainly about upgrading the infrastructure of participating countries. And the West has continuously criticized China for what they call putting Africa on the debt-trap express through infrastructure loans. Milanovic refuted such claims.
“The story about the debt trap, that basically you borrow so much and you’re then unable to repay, and then the Chinese take over different things that belong to you, I think it’s overdone. Because, if the debt was such a big issue, it would’ve been a big issue not only with China, it could be a big issue with any country. So, I think it’s overdone,” he said.
Milanovic defended the BRI policy by saying that unless a country have good infrastructure, foreign investors won’t come.
“I actually believe that the Chinese approach, which goes after infrastructural project, replicates what really turned out to be successful in China.
In other words, unless you have good infrastructure, you really cannot have economic growth; you cannot attract foreign investors; you cannot actually have people come there and participate in economic activity. So, I think actually one should support that rather than permanently claim their negative sides,” he said.
Milanovic also said that the Chinese approach to support African development by carrying out “hard” projects are what the West did in the past.
“What I wanted to mention and to explain is that these two parts of the Chinese approach, hard projects plus non-interference were something that the West did in the past as well.
So, it’s not something that neither China invented nor is it something that we have to criticize China for as if the West had never done it,” he added.
The Belt & Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, refers to the initiative on the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.