Strategy for Global Leadership: China's Belt & Road Project

By Sam Edem
Belt-road-initiative route
Belt-road-initiative route

Before the spread of ideals or culture, history has repeatedly shown that great or powerful nations in a bid to lead the world always resort primarily to economic route: it is perhaps a sure strategy for global leadership and the People’s Republic of China is certainly not ignorant of that.

For at least the last thirty years, it has become clear that despite the gross unacceptance of the communist system or ideology, especially with its entrenched history of a politically oppressed populace where such things as freedom of expression or the press is institutionally relegated to the background, or desperately censored as witnessed in the former Soviet union, Cuba and certainly in today’s China), the Chinese governments are relentlessly committed to peacefully displace the United States as the world’s political or economic super power.

The possibility of this goal being achieved although not to clear to the world now, certainly seems imminent.

Today, the US’ debt to China runs into trillions of dollars (the highest owed to the Chinese by any other nation on earth); in African countries like Ghana, approximately three of every five businesses are owned by Chinese and you will agree that the Asian leader perhaps has more economic affinity with Europe than the United States.

May be the last point would have been different if the world had a different White House – Democrat or Republican: for while President John F. Kennedy (the undisputed leader of a free world at the time) in his 1963 state of the Union address recognized the fact that “closer economic ties among all free nations [was] essential to [global] prosperity” of course under an American leadership, President Trump is a proud advocate of the protectionist view – where you shut other countries out as a nation and live like you are alone in the world.

Flawed as its worst critics may claim, the Trans Pacific Partnership offered some hope to the US in sustaining its grip on global economic leadership but with that behind it, there is no doubt the attention is now largely turned to China.

Beautiful as this healthy competition for a peaceful world domination may be, there are reasons to be concerned for Africa.

While the entry points at the moment are through the state governments for the continent’s largest economy – Nigeria, the likes of South Africa and Ghana are deeply involved with the Chinese on investments.

Even that too is on the surface is a welcomed development but when a wealthy country pledges $2billion dollars in ‘grant’ not ‘long-term loan’ for another who needs the funds to facilitates its government’s economic development agenda(as witnessed last month – June 2017), you cannot but wonder about ‘what they will ask in return’.

Now on a grand scale, the Chinese government has pledged $124 billion for rebuilding ports, roads and rail networks that will ease trade links between Asia, Europe and Africa.

Known as the Belt and Road initiative, the project was first launched in 2013. It includes 60bn yuan ($9bn; £7bn) in aid to developing countries and international institutions that form part of the Belt and Road project.

Speaking on the multi-billion dollar scheme at a forum of world leaders in Beijing, China’s President – Mr. Xi Jinping said: “Trade is the important engine of economic development”.

He claimed that, “in advancing the Belt and Road, we will not re-tread the old path of games between foes. Instead we will create a new model of co-operation and mutual benefit”.

More so, in a typical rhetoric style that can often be credited the leader to a country ‘on the move’ for global leadership – be it political, military or economic, Mr. Xi said: “We should build an open platform of co-operation and uphold and grow an open world economy.

One hopes that Africa as a continent will be ready to participate fairly in such platform for far too long whether under a European or American leadership, the reality has been anything but fair.