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One Belt, One Road, One Big Mistake

Source: Foreign Policy
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The headlines coming out of this year’s APEC conference in Papua New Guinea focused on the conflict between America and China that kept the forum from issuing a joint communiqué. Less noticed were two short memorandums released on the sidelines of the conference by the island nations of Vanuatu and Tonga. In return for renegotiating existing debt, both agreed to become the newest participants—following other Pacific nations like Papua New Guinea and Fiji—in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign-policy venture, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

As Xi’s trillion-dollar development strategy has snaked away from the Eurasian heartland and into the South Pacific, western Africa, and Latin America, concern has grown. Many Americans fear that the Belt and Road Initiative is an extension of efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to undermine the security and economic architecture of the international order. China’s growing largesse, they worry, comes largely at the expense of international institutions and American influence.

This angst lies behind another announcement made at last month’s APEC gathering: Australia, Japan, and the United States declared that they had formed their own trilateral investment initiative to help meet infrastructure needs in the Indo-Pacific. For some this is not enough: In its most recent report to the United States Congress, the bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended that Congress create an additional fund “to provide additional bilateral assistance for countries that are a target of or vulnerable to Chinese economic or diplomatic pressure.”

This is the wrong response to the Belt and Road Initiative. Ignore the hype: For the Chinese, this initiative has been a strategic blunder. By buying into the flawed idea that barrels of money are all that is needed to solve complex geopolitical problems, China has committed a colossal error. Xi’s dictatorship makes it almost impossible for the country to admit this mistake or abandon his pet project. The United States and its allies gain nothing from making China’s blunders their own.

In Xi’s speeches, the phrase most closely associated with the Belt and Road Initiative is “community of common destiny.” Xi’s use of this term is meant to link the BRI to the deeper purpose party leaders have articulated for the CCP over the last three decades. China’s leaders believe that not only is it their “historic mission” to bring about China’s “national rejuvenation” as the world’s most prestigious power, but that China has a unique role to play in the development of “political civilization” writ large.

It is the Chinese, Xi maintains (as Hu and Jiang did before him), who have adapted socialism to modern conditions, and in so doing have created a unique Chinese answer to “the problems facing mankind.” Though this answer began in China, Xi is clear that the time has come for “Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach” to benefit those outside of China. The Belt and Road Initiative is intended to do just that. By using the Chinese model of socialism to develop the world’s poorer regions, the initiative justifies Xi’s grandiose claims about the party’s historic mission on the international stage.

To match these lofty aims, Chinese academics and policy analysts at prestigious party think tanks have articulated more down-to-earth goals for the initiative. According to them, the BRI promises to integrate China’s internal markets with those of its neighbours. Doing so will bring its neighbours closer to China geopolitically and bring stability to the region. By increasing economic activity in China’s border regions, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, the Belt and Road Initiative will lessen the appeal that separatist ideology might have to the residents. Another projected benefit is the energy security that will come through the construction of BRI-funded transport routes. Finally, by articulating and then following through on an initiative that puts common development over power politics, China will gain an advantage over other major countries (read: Japan and the United States) who present the world as a black-and-white competition for hegemony. The community of common destiny, these analysts have claimed, is a community that will immensely benefit China.

As the Belt and Road Initiative is only five years old (and many of its main members have been involved for a far shorter time) its full results cannot yet be judged. However, a preliminary assessment can be offered for BRI projects in South and Southeast Asia, the region described by Chinese leaders as the “main axis” of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is here that BRI investment is strongest and has been around longest. The picture is not promising. The hundreds of billions spent in these countries has not produced returns for investors, nor political returns for the party. Whether Chinese leaders actually seek a financial return from the Belt and Road Initiative has always been questionable—the sovereign debt of 27 BRI countries is regarded as “junk” by the three main ratings agencies, while another 14 have no rating at all.

Investment decisions often seem to be driven by geopolitical needs instead of sound financial sense. In South and Southeast Asia expensive port development is an excellent case study. A 2016 CSIS report judged that none of the Indian Ocean port projects funded through the BRI have much hope of financial success. They were likely prioritized for their geopolitical utility. Projects less clearly connected to China’s security needs have more difficulty getting off the ground: the research firm RWR Advisory Group notes that 270 BRI infrastructure projects in the region (or 32 per cent of the total value of the whole) have been put on hold because of problems with practicality or financial viability. There is a vast gap between what the Chinese have declared they will spend and what they have actually spent.

There is also a gap between how BRI projects are supposed to be chosen and how they actually have been selected. Xi and other party leaders have characterized BRI investment in Eurasia as following along defined “economic corridors” that would directly connect China to markets and peoples in other parts of the continent. By these means the party hopes to channel capital into areas where it will have the largest long-term benefit and will make cumulative infrastructure improvements possible.

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China launches meteorological satellite to benefit Belt and Road countries

XICHANG: China on Tuesday launched the new Fengyun-2H meteorological satellite to improve the accuracy of weather forecasting and provide better meteorological services to countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, reported Xinhua News

The Fengyun-2H was launched on a Long March-3A rocket at 9:07 p.m., Beijing Time, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

It was the 277th mission of the Long March rocket series.

A geostationary orbit satellite, Fengyun-2H is the last in the Fengyun-2 series. The Fengyun-4 series will dominate China’s new generation geostationary orbit meteorological satellites, said Zhao Jian, deputy director of the Department of System Engineering of China National Space Administration (CNSA).

In response to a request from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), the position of Fengyun-2H will be changed from original 86.5 degrees east longitude to 79 degrees east longitude.

This means the Fengyun series satellites will be able to cover all the territory of China, as well as countries along the Belt and Road, the Indian Ocean and most African countries, according to the CNSA.

The adjustment will enable the Fengyun series satellites to acquire meteorological data over a wider range, improve weather forecasting accuracy and the ability to cope with climate change and mitigate losses caused by natural disasters, Zhao said.

Equipped with a scanning radiometer and space environment monitor, Fengyun-2H will provide real timecloud and water vapour images and space weather information to clients in the Asia-Pacific region, said Wei Caiying, chief commander of the ground application system of Fengyun-2H and deputy director of the National Satellite Meteorological Center.

The Belt and Road region, which is mainly high mountains, deserts and oceans, lacks meteorological information. Damage from natural disasters, especially meteorological disasters, in the region is more than double the world average.

After four months of in-orbit tests, Fengyun-2H will provide data to help Belt and Road countries better cope with natural hazards, Zhao said.

“The move shows China’s willingness to construct a community with a shared future,” said Zhao.

It also addresses a WMO request to strengthen satellite observation of the Indian Ocean to fill a gap in the region, which is China’s contribution to the international community as a major power of the developing world, Zhao said.

China will offer data of the Fengyun series free to Belt and Road countries and APSCO member countries, said Zhao.

China has helped establish ground stations to receive the data in some APSCO member countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Iran and Mongolia. China plans to upgrade the stations and provide training to technicians in those countries.

If countries along the Belt and Road are struck by disasters like typhoons, rainstorms, sandstorms and forest or prairie fires, they can apply for and quickly get the data, Wei said.

China’s meteorological satellites have played an important role in the Belt and Road region. For instance, the Fengyun-2E satellite captured an indication of heavy rainfall in Pakistan in August 2017 and issued a timely warning to avoid casualties.

China already has 17 Fengyun series meteorological satellites in space, with eight in operation, including five in geostationary orbit and three in polar orbit, to observe extreme weather, climate and environment events around the globe.

The WMO has included China’s Fengyun series of meteorological satellites as a major part of the global Earth observation system. They provide data to clients in more than 80 countries and regions. Weather forecasts in the eastern hemisphere depend mainly on China’s meteorological satellites, according to the CNSA.

Since Fengyun-2A was sent into orbit on June 10, 1997, the Fengyun-2 series satellites have monitored more than 470 typhoons emerging in the western Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.

They helped improve the accuracy of typhoon forecasting. In 2015, the deviation of China’s prediction of typhoon tracks within 24 hours was less than 70 kilometers, among the world’s best, according to the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), producer of the Fengyun series.

The new generation Fengyun-4A geostationary meteorological satellite launched at the end of 2016 can improve observation efficiency by 20 times compared with the Fengyun-2 series, said SAST.

SOURCE:https://nation.com.pk/06-Jun-2018/china-launches-meteorological-satellite-to-benefit-belt-and-road-countries