BRI's Fifth Anniversary Comes Amidst Debate Over Sustainability
On Monday, at a symposium held in Beijing to mark the fifth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese officials defended the initiative
after months of international debate over whether the global development
program is leading developing countries into unsustainable levels of debt. Addressing the
symposium, President Xi said the BRI was an open and inclusive process and not
a "China club."
"The broad support for the BRI shows
aspiration from countries involved, developing countries in particular, for
peace and development," President Xi said.
Five years in, the Belt and Road Initiative
still attracts debate over the outcomes, viability and sustainability of
connected projects. This is perhaps inevitable, as in its completed state, it
would "cover more than 62.5% of the world population," as Christopher H. Lim and Vincent Mack noted in a recent
article on China-US Focus. The debate has intensified this month in
the wake of the Malaysian government's cancellation of two high-profile BRI projects,
and the publication of a letter of concern about "predatory Chinese infrastructure financing"
written by 16 U.S. senators to Trump administration officials. Referring to BRI
projects in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Djibouti, the letter urged the Trump
administration to "present an alternative to developing nations."
On Monday, Chinese Commerce Vice Minister Qian
Keming said at a press conference that in relation to
BRI projects in Africa, China would place a renewed focus on the sustainability
of investments in African economies. "We will focus our funds on projects that
are more sustainable and can promote economic growth, job creation, and
economic efficiency," he said.
Charles Stevens, who travelled the entire length of
the Silk Road Economic Belt this summer, recounted his experiences in an article for China-US Focus this week.
Despite significant Chinese investment in aligned countries, Stevens argues
that the Belt and Road's "vision of promoting trans-Eurasian connectivity is still
far from fruition." Read his "view from the ground" on our website.
Joint Pollution Study Raises Public Health Concerns
Earlier this week, a combined study produced
by researchers in China and the United States suggested there may be a
concerning link between pollution and cognition. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
the official scientific journal of the National Academy of Sciences, the study
examined how long-term exposure to air pollution affected individuals in over
160 countries. Utilizing performance on national math and word-recognition
tests to determine the effects of pollution exposure, the findings concluded
that such exposure can result in serious deficiencies in test scores, with an average impact similar to that of having lost an
entire year of education.
Previous studies have often focused on
pollution's negative consequences for respiratory health. The researchers
behind this project noted that the results "imply that the indirect effect on social welfare could be
much larger than previously thought. . .A narrow focus on the negative effect
on health may underestimate the total cost of air pollution." These
findings are particularly crucial for the elderly, especially elderly men, who
displayed an even more pronounced impact on verbal test scores than other
groups. In addition, high exposure to air pollution increased risk for
cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia in the study subjects.
These findings will be of particular concern
to policymakers in China, where air pollution in urban economic centers such as Shanghai and Guangzhou reached levels of PM 2.5 last winter, despite ongoing government efforts to improve air quality.
US-China Investigation Shuts Down Narcotics Ring
In the first of its kind, a joint investigation led by both China and the United
States has resulted in the dismantling of an international narcotics
ring. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Chinese narcotics
authorities say that the probe stopped more than 20 million doses of fentanyl, an opioid used as a pain medication, from
reaching the U.S.
In August 2017, the New Orleans office of
Homeland Security Investigations learned that a China-based supplier was
exporting the drug to the U.S. With this information, the department's office
in Guangzhou, China, partnered with the Chinese Narcotics Control Bureau to
begin the joint investigation. Cooperation
between Chinese and American investigators has led to the shutdown of the international
supplier, leading officials to now investigate 35 U.S. addresses where the ring attempted to
deliver drugs, The Associated
Press reports. In November 2017, President Trump declared a state of
emergency in the U.S. in relation to the dramatic use of opioids, saying that
he would address the "flood of cheap and deadly" fentanyl between
China and the U.S.
Coordination efforts between the two nations'
narcotics authorities continue as the offices investigate both the locations
and individuals tied to the exposed trafficking ring. "We are firmly committed to. . .leveraging our
international and local partnerships to stop these opioid smuggling rings and
prevent the crisis from spreading further," declared HSI New Orleans
Deputy Special Agent in Charge Thomas M. Annello.
'We're not going back to the Cold War': an interview with Chen Dingding
In the first episode of the At Large Podcast's
long form interview series, host James Chau interviews Professor Chen Dingding,
a professor of international relations at Jinan University in China's
Guangzhou. James and Professor Chen discuss how the exchange of trade tariffs
is reshaping the China-U.S. relationship as well as affecting the behavior of
other states, like Japan and South Korea. They discuss President Trump's level
of political support ahead of the upcoming U.S. midterm elections and assess
points of contention between the U.S. and China in trade negotiations,
including China-U.S. tech tensions and reforms of China's domestic economic
system. Listen to their discussion on Soundcloud or via our website.
Focus' 'At Large Podcast' is available on Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Play Music, Stitcher and via our website.