US Should Not Politicize the ‘Belt and Road’ Mega-Infrastructure Project

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 14, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

By Caleb T. Maupin

May 16, 2017 – The biggest and most important international gathering of 2017 has taken place in Beijing. Over 100 countries were represented. 1,500 people attended, including various heads of state, the United Nations Secretary-General, the leaders of the International Monetary Fund, as well as some of the most well known and respected scientists and engineers.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) was not a place of ideological podium pounding. The gathering of world leaders from all different backgrounds had only one real theme: Progress.

The forum did not discuss the merits of philosophers. Rather, it discussed the construction of high speed trains, power plants, highways, hospitals, airports and schools. The forum made specific plans for the China-led initiative of bringing impoverished countries into a more prosperous state of being, with infrastructure and investment in public services.

Over 100 countries and 50 intergovernmental agencies are on board with this New Silk Road initiative. Investment in the project has increased by 36 percent in 2016, with over 126 billion US dollars being spent. High speed rail is connecting the countries of Southeast Asia. Bangladesh has signed agreements for over 25 projects. An airport is being built in Nepal, along with a hydro-electrical power plant, and railway.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is bringing new hope to millions, as are the railway lines providing ocean access to landlocked regions in Central Asia. This is just to name a few of the hundreds of projects launched in the last four years.

It is those poorest corners of the world, the sections of the planet most affected by drug cartels, terrorism, extreme poverty, illiteracy, and lack of access to medical care and gainful employment, that so far have been the focus of the project. Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are filled with hope as cooperation in the project offers access to a better life for millions of people.

At the center of it all is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, an institution devoted to sustainable development and providing an opportunity to historically impoverished countries.

It should be deeply reflected upon as to why the head of the state of U.S. was noticeably absent from this historic gathering while the heads of state of China, Russia, and Turkey spoke at the opening ceremony, along with the UN Secretary-General. Comments from some high ranking U.S. leaders view the project with cynicism, and present it as some kind of sinister plot to ensure Chinese world domination. At a Senate hearing in Washington last Thursday, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said, "The Chinese have a strategy. You name a part of the world, they are investing in it."

Some U.S. leaders have referred to the New Silk Road as China’s Marshal Plan. However, unlike the Marshall Plan, the New Silk Road has no political stipulations. While the United States required Marshall Plan countries to be anti-communist and partisan in the Cold War, China makes no such demands on participating countries. In his remarks to the forum Chinese President Xi Jinping stated, "We have no intention to intervene in the affairs of other countries or to export our social system." (Continued)

Is China working in its own self-interest? Absolutely. China is not giving purely out of the generosity of its heart. China has seen the horror of terrorism in places like Xinjiang, where extremists of the Al-Qaeda and ISIS variety have revealed themselves. Naturally, it is in China’s interests to stabilize the Middle East and Central Asia and destroy the atmosphere of poverty that gives rise to terrorist groups.

Furthermore, China has done a great deal in combating narcotics and the criminal organizations involved with them. It is in China’s interest that the conditions giving rise to drug trafficking are being eliminated.

The crisis of mass migration, in which workers in third world countries are fleeing to the United States and Europe, is creating security problems all across the globe. It is in China’s interest to see that people have opportunities in their home countries, and are not driven by economic conditions to flee.

Yes, China is working in its own interest. But its interest in creating economic opportunity and better living conditions through sustainable development around the world are mutually beneficial. The problems facing the global community cannot be solved in isolation. China sees its own opportunities to grow and continue working toward prosperity as intrinsically linked with other countries continuing to move in the same direction.

Xi Jinping stated in his remarks to the forum, "Development is the key to resolving all problems." So many of the problems which are of deep concerns to Americans, problems such as terrorism, mass migration, drug addition, low wages, and economic stagnation, can be resolved by issues addressed at the forum.

Sustainable development should not be a partisan issue. Statements politicizing progress and casting suspicion on such promising global initiatives are deeply mistaken.


Caleb Maupin is a journalist and political analyst who resides in New York City focusing on U.S. foreign policy and the global system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism.