37 foreign heads of state came to Beijing this week to take part in the second belt and road meaning hosted by Chinese president Xi Jinping. Some leaders like Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta came with expectations to sign huge infrastructure loan deals, while others, including Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, asked for debt relief.
But amid all of the deals and big announcements at the summit, the underlying message about what exactly is the Belt and Road and what does it stand for is still not clear to a lot of people.
Is it China’s grand plan for global domination that uses debt as a tool of control, as the United States and others contend? Or, is it a new global development platform that the Chinese say is meant to propel its much-heralded “win-win” diplomacy?
Mired by sloppy deal-making, poor planning, and clumsy diplomacy in recent years, the Belt and Road Initiative has seemingly lost its focus and President Xi, no doubt, wants to use the recent summit as a way to get the BRI back on track again.
Erik Myxter-lino, host of the Belt and Road Podcast, is a close observer of BRI politics and has followed this initiative from the beginning, back in 2013. Erik joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why he thinks it’s so difficult for the Chinese to explain what BRI is really all about.