The risk of workers’ unrest

“Who built the seven-gated Thebes?” asks Bertold Brecht’s ‘reading worker’, “in the books are the names of kings.” In the case of the Silk Roads, Chinese workers are at least mentioned, but in most cases with the comment that they were displacing local workers. Labour conditions and trade union rights, on the other hand, feature hardly at all in the debates on Chinese projects and companies. But here there are risks that could jeopardise the whole BRI venture.

Newsletter July 2021

Contents: Blog post on options for Beijing in Afghanistan: ‚From free rider to train driver?’; Guest post by Ying Wang on Chinese NGOs ‚Going global’; Blog roll: The People’s Map of Global China; Blog roll: Workers Struggles along the New Silk Roads (in German); News: Who Funds Overseas Coal Plants? Readings: The Impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on Conflict States.

International Endeavours of Chinese NGOs

The international exposure of Chinese NGOs is not a recent phenomenon. Starting in the late 1970s, China reopened its doors to INGOs and other international organisations, which have since supported the development of a large number of Chinese NGOs. What is new today is that we are starting to see Chinese NGOs branching out of China and acting as donors and partners to organisations in developing countries. However, there remain several key challenges.

From free rider to train driver?

The pull-out of their armed forces by the U.S. and other NATO allies, the escalation of violence, and the spectre of Taliban rule have triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity by neighbouring countries, including India, Pakistan and Iran, Russia and China. Fuelling just as much speculation is how the new situation might unfold. After all, the withdrawal will make the country an epicentre for regional power struggles.

Newsletter June 2021

Contents: Blog post on ‘Build Back Better World’, the US-copy of BRI; European bailout for Montenegro; Call for boycott of Myanmar’s jade industry; Chinese Foreign Direct Investment in Europe in 2020; Chinas technological influence in Southeast Asia through the Digital Silk Road; Environmental Authoritarianism: Review of ‘China goes green’ by Yifei Li and Judith Shapiro.

B3W: New Highway to Heaven

The label for the multilateral copy of China’s New Silk Roads recently announced at the G7 summit by U.S. President Biden is gruesome: Build Back Better World, or B3W. As a “values-driven, high-standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership” it is to compete with China’s infrastructure activities. So far, however, B3W is merely an anaemic PR product.

Newsletter May 2021

Contents: Blog posts on Europe’s geopolitical ghost ride in the Indo-Pacific; “Debt diplomacy” as a popular refrain in the intensifying debate about China’s economic and political expansion. A new book on ‘how a former socialist country rescues world capitalism’; Reviews of Jonathan Hillman’s book ‘The Emperor’s New Road’ and a study on ‘social risks to sustainable development’ in China’s BRI.

My borrowers, your borrowers

The narrative of Chinese “debt diplomacy” is rather simplistic: Lending by state-owned banks is not transparent, encourages corruption, and serves primarily Chinese corporations, it goes. This would lead inevitably into a debt trap. It appears as if Beijing’s policy is fundamentally different from the practices of international financial institutions, governments of Western industrialized countries or large commercial banks.

Indo-Pacific: Europe’s geopolitical ghost ride

It may sound like a matter of routine: The German frigate ‘Bayern’ is about to set sail and spend several months cruising in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. The Defense Ministry merely wants to see this just as a “sign” to fly the flag where Germany’s “values and interests are affected”. However, behind this there is a fundamental paradigm shift.