Loosening the Belt in China

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Loosening the Belt in China

One of the most impor­tant events of the year hap­pened last week­end in Bei­jing, but few U.S. news orga­ni­za­tions gave much notice.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of more than 100 other coun­tries, includ­ing Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan, got together to hash out how to spend nearly $1 tril­lion — that’s TRIL­LION — of China’s money. The United States’ del­e­ga­tion got an upgrade in the grow­ing bro­mance between Pres­i­dent Trump and Xi.

The project, now called “Belt and Road,” is arguably the most exten­sive and expen­sive rebuild­ing pro­gram since the Mar­shall Plan after World War II.


Fol­low­ing the old trad­ing routes of the infa­mous Silk Road, the projects stretch across 65 coun­tries in Asia, Africa and Europe via land and sea in a mix­ture of finan­cial invest­ments and for­eign pol­icy. Here is just a taste of some of the plans:

–China is financ­ing more than a third of the $23.7 bil­lion cost of the Hink­ley Point C nuclear power plant on the Som­er­set coast of south­west Eng­land. The project, in a major west­ern econ­omy, was added to the Belt and Road plan to give added prestige.

–China financed most of the $4 bil­lion cost of Africa’s first transna­tional elec­tric rail­way, which opened this year and runs for 466 miles from Dji­bouti to Addis Ababa, the cap­i­tal of Ethiopia.

–A deep­wa­ter port at Gwadar on the Ara­bian Sea will be linked by new roads and rail to west­ern China’s Xin­jiang region, cre­at­ing a short­cut for trade with Europe. The port is part of $46 bil­lion China says it is spend­ing on infra­struc­ture and power plants in the China-​Pakistan Eco­nomic Corridor.

–China is lead­ing a $6 bil­lion invest­ment to build a 260-​mile rail line from north­ern Laos to the cap­i­tal, Vien­tiane. Moun­tain­ous ter­rain means bridges and tun­nels will account for more than 60 per­cent of the line, and con­struc­tion is fur­ther com­pli­cated by the need to clear unex­ploded land mines left from Amer­i­can bomb­ing of the coun­try dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_97466” align=“alignnone” width=“800”] This map shows the extent of the Chi­nese ini­tia­tive in more than 60 countries.[/caption]

Although most of the work will be done by Chi­nese com­pa­nies, U.S. busi­nesses like GE and Cater­pil­lar are vying for some of the action.

The plan is not with­out its crit­ics. India, for exam­ple, failed to show up for the week­end meet­ing because its lead­ers are not happy about a project that goes through Kash­mir, land claimed by both India and Pakistan.

What­ever the case, the ini­tia­tive will be the sig­na­ture dish of Pres­i­dent Xi — one that is likely to gain more than a few friends through­out the world.

Note: The Wall Street Jour­nal has a funny piece about the PR cam­paigns for the plan at https://​www​.wsj​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​c​o​f​f​e​e​-​c​l​a​s​s​i​c​a​l​-​m​u​s​i​c​-​a​n​d​-​w​r​e​s​t​l​i​n​g​-​c​e​l​e​b​r​a​t​e​-​c​h​i​n​e​s​e​-​i​n​f​r​a​s​t​r​u​c​t​u​r​e​-​1494862432

One of the most important events of the year happened last weekend in Beijing, but few U.S. news organizations gave much notice.

President Xi Jinping and representatives of more than 100 other countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, got together to hash out how to spend nearly $1 trillion—that’s TRILLION—of China’s money. The United States’ delegation got an upgrade in the growing bromance between President Trump and Xi.

The project, now called “Belt and Road,” is arguably the most extensive and expensive rebuilding program since the Marshall Plan after World War II.


Following the old trading routes of the infamous Silk Road, the projects stretch across 65 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe via land and sea in a mixture of financial investments and foreign policy. Here is just a taste of some of the plans:

–China is financing more than a third of the $23.7 billion cost of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant on the Somerset coast of southwest England. The project, in a major western economy, was added to the Belt and Road plan to give added prestige.

–China financed most of the $4 billion cost of Africa’s first transnational electric railway, which opened this year and runs for 466 miles from Djibouti to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

–A deepwater port at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea will be linked by new roads and rail to western China’s Xinjiang region, creating a shortcut for trade with Europe. The port is part of $46 billion China says it is spending on infrastructure and power plants in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

–China is leading a $6 billion investment to build a 260-mile rail line from northern Laos to the capital, Vientiane. Mountainous terrain means bridges and tunnels will account for more than 60 percent of the line, and construction is further complicated by the need to clear unexploded land mines left from American bombing of the country during the Vietnam War.

This map shows the extent of the Chinese initiative in more than 60 countries.

Although most of the work will be done by Chinese companies, U.S. businesses like GE and Caterpillar are vying for some of the action.

The plan is not without its critics. India, for example, failed to show up for the weekend meeting because its leaders are not happy about a project that goes through Kashmir, land claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Whatever the case, the initiative will be the signature dish of President Xi—one that is likely to gain more than a few friends throughout the world.

Note: The Wall Street Journal has a funny piece about the PR campaigns for the plan at https://www.wsj.com/articles/coffee-classical-music-and-wrestling-celebrate-chinese-infrastructure-1494862432