Rethinking Belt-and-Road Debt

Transport trouble: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticizes China’s “new colonialism” at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, and Chinese-built railway connects parts of Africa

More than 75 nations participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 to develop trade and connect Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe with ports, roads and railways. But some countries worry about adding to already heavy debt burdens, and some projects have become an issue in local politics. Among the most vocal critics is Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who has warned about a “new colonialism,” explains veteran journalist Philip Bowring. Mahathir questions infrastructure costs and strategic purposes relating to contentious issues like control over the South China Sea. Many emerging economies can certainly benefit from the infrastructure investment, explains Bowring, but cautious leaders also recognize the value of assessing project purposes and priorities. China, wanting to avoid heavy losses or criticism at home about wasteful spending, has launched a publicity campaign to promote benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative. – YaleGlobal