Blog

Die Belt&Road Initiative is like a jigsaw puzzle where you don’t know if and how the countless pieces will fit together.

  • Coal phase-out ‘par ordre de mufti’
    President Xi Jinping’s announcement at the UN General Assembly in September that China will not build any new coal-fired power plants abroad in the future has given the international climate community new hope for an accelerated reduction of CO2 emissions worldwide, like the mirage of an oasis to the thirsty wanderers in the Sahara. For a real energy transition in the countries of the Global South, however, this is only one – albeit important – piece of the puzzle.
  • Newsletter September 2021
    Contents: Blogs: Xi Jinping: “No new coal power abroad” (Guest post by Tom Baxter) / Newsletter August 2021 News: Myanmar: Moving closer to the military regime Readings: Debt debate: Digging into a ‘Black Hole’. 
  • “No new coal power abroad”
    Advocates have been doing everything they can for years to stop the construction of new coal power plants. Xi Jinping’s announcement could bring an end to China’s position as the world’s largest and last major public financial backer and builder of coal fired power plants overseas.
  • Newsletter August 2021
    Contents: Blog post: The Risks of worker’s unrest; News: „Greening“ Belt & Road; Beijings human rights offensive; Readings: Overseas investments and human rights; Public perceptions of BRI and sustainability.
  • 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.
  • Myanmar: Beijing in a fix
    After the ouster of the elected government in Myanmar on February 1 of this year, the Peking government finds itself sitting on the fence: Between the army, the Civil Disobedience Movement CDM, Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD and her elected government, and the international opinion. This is why for some observers it is “not happy with the coup”.
  • Militarization: Adventure Trip to the Pacific
    The deployment of the frigate ‚Bayern’ to a cruise in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific in summer this year is intended to lend substance to the “Guidelines on the Indo-Pacific” adopted by the German government last September and to the pronouncements of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Minister of Defense, that it “will expand its commitment to security policy to the Indo-Pacific”.
  • Pakistan: Fraternal controversy
    „China and Pakistan fall out over Belt and Road frameworks,” trumpeted the Japanese business publication Nikkei Asia on January 19. There is no secret about the exasperation, even alarm, regarding what President Xi Jinping once called “brotherly” Sino-Pakistani cooperation in general and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project in particular. This probably raised some hopeful expectations in New Delhi.
  • Myanmar: Construction Sites off the Silk Road
    When China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar in January this year, he combined the announcement of vaccine supplies with offers of deepened economic cooperation. The timing of the visit was astute, coming after the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD, was re-elected for a second term in November 2020 – and two weeks before the military coup.
  • Ethiopia: Bridgehead at Risk
    Ethiopia has become one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. The rail link between Djibouti on the Red Sea and Addis Ababa, built with Chinese credit and by Chinese companies, provides the landlocked country with a connection to the ‚Maritime Silk Road’. An escalation of the civil war, which broke out in Ethiopia’s Tigray Province in early November, would be damaging to Beijing’s plans for Africa.
  • Chinese Overseas
    Uwe Hoering www.beltandroad.blog January 2021. (update February 27) One of the prevalent complaints about the Belt&Road Initiative is that Chinese labour would provide the bulk of the workforce in many projects. This applies mainly to large construction projects, rather than to factories such as those in Ethiopia’s Special Economic Zones. But these claims, which haveContinue reading “Chinese Overseas”
  • Review: In the Dragon’s Shadow
    Uwe Hoering www.beltandroad.blog Dezember 2020. Heading into the Chinese or, may be more appropriate, into the Asian century, the rivalry between China and the United States is most often in the spotlight. In Europe people are also concerned about how the old continent should and could position itself or whether it will fall by theContinue reading “Review: In the Dragon’s Shadow”
  • RCEP: „Blood, Sweat, and Tears“
    Uwe Hoering, www.beltandroad.blog November 2020. This is the result of “eight years of negotiating with blood, sweat and tears,” Malaysian Trade Minister Azmin Ali reportedly told the press on the occasion of the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. The dramatic characterization echoes the famous inaugural speech of WinstonContinue reading “RCEP: „Blood, Sweat, and Tears“”
  • Supply chains: Competition with China as an excuse
    Merle Groneweg www.beltandroad.blog December 2019. China violates fundamental human rights in its global supply chains and tolerates environmental devastation. That is true. But this should not be an excuse for Western companies and governments to distract attention from their own shortcomings. It would be better to actively involve China in the formulation of comprehensive standards.Continue reading “Supply chains: Competition with China as an excuse”
  • China’s soft belly
    Uwe Hoering www.beltandroad.blog August 2020. At home, China’s President Xi Jinping may be the big man. Under his leadership, the government and the Central Committee seem to have the internal factions in the Chinese Communist Party and self-willed provincial governors, public resentment and the various economic problems more or less under their control. But thereContinue reading “China’s soft belly”
  • Coronavirus infects Belt&Road too
    Uwe Hoering www.beltandroad.blog August 2020. With the infrastructure and investment project of the “New Silk Roads” (BRI) announced in 2013, China promised a worldwide push for development and globalization. But the corona pandemic has thrown all economic forecasts to the winds and intensified the geopolitical confrontation. In mid-March 2020, China’s President Xi Jinping used theContinue reading “Coronavirus infects Belt&Road too”
  • Protests in Kyrgyzstan and the Silk Roads
    Uwe Hoering www.beltandroad.blog Oktober 2020. Kyrgyzstan is not exactly an outstanding pillar of the Belt&Road Initiative. But the current political disputes in the Central Asian country, triggered by the rebellion against the outcome of the parliamentary elections on October 4, 2020, cast a spotlight on how vulnerable China’s prestigious BRI project is. The country isContinue reading “Protests in Kyrgyzstan and the Silk Roads”
  • China’s Chernobyl?
    Uwe Hoering www.beltandroad.blog September 2020. The Corona crisis may well be “China’s Chernobyl”, suggested a columnist in the journal The Diplomat. Will China face a similar fate as the Soviet Union did five years after the nuclear disaster in the Ukraine? The Corona crisis is a serious challenge for the Beijing government. It is jeopardisingContinue reading “China’s Chernobyl?”
  • The Role of the State in China’s Belt and Road Initiative
    Uwe Hoering www.beltandroad.blog Dezember 2019. It is not unusual that in huge infrastructure projects the state plays a crucial role in framing and implementation, often in varying forms of cooperation with private companies, such as Public Private Partnerships. Because of its distinctive regime character and relation with Chinese enterprises, the role that the Chinese stateContinue reading “The Role of the State in China’s Belt and Road Initiative”

Uwe Hoering

Born in 1949, studied in Bonn and Munich. PhD in political science at the Gesamthochschule Kassel. Since the early 1980s working mainly as a freelance journalist for print media and radio, author of several books and policy analyst for development organizations. Extended stays abroad in Iran (1978), India (1979-1982), and Kenya (1988-1990) as East Africa correspondent for German newspapers and radio. Research trips in South Asia and Southeast Asia, to China, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea, in Eastern Africa and in Southern Africa. Reporting on several UN conferences, from UNCED 1992 in Rio de Janeiro to FAO World Summit on Food Security in 2009, as well as on World Water Forum (2006 and 2012). Longstanding editorial member of the journal Peripherie, editor of the Information Website Globe-spotting:

This website is a mirror of my work in the past years. It covers articles, features and analytical papers covering a wide range of topics, countries and problems (see Publications), with some issues coming up frequently:
+ agriculture, and especially the debates around a New Green Revolution in Africa,
+ water issues, in particular privatisation policies promoted by institutions like the  World Bank,
+ food and agriculture in China, and
+ ‘Fish & ribs‘: developments in the livestock industries and fisheries.

My book “Der Lange Marsch 2.0. Chinas Neue Seidenstraßen als Entwicklungsmodell”, published in summer 2018 (VSA-Verlag), provides an introduction to the complex and controversial discussions about the strategies China’s government is pursuing with BRI and beyond. An updated English translation is now also available (“China’s Long March 2.0”).

Blogroll

Arbeitskämpfe entlang der Seidenstraßen

Forum Arbeitswelten: Chinesische Investitionen, Konflikte um Lohnzahlungen, Arbeits- und Umweltstandards und geopolitische Interessen.

Mapping of Global China

The People’s Map of China: “An attempt to trace Global China reflecting the experiences of  the people most affected by its emergence. It tracks China’s international activities by engaging an equally global civil society. Using an online ‘map’ format, we collaborate with nongovernmental organisations, journalists, trade unions, academics, and the public at large to provide updated and updatable information on various dimensions of Global China in their localities.”

BRI: Deal or Steal?

Global Voices: “While the Belt and Road Initiative plays out across all continents, local societies and communities hold differing perceptions of its benefits and potential harms. Working with local researchers and writers in a dozen countries, we explore the ways China advances narratives that bolster its drive for global power, and how local perspectives either support or counter China’s ambitions.”

Belt and Road Podcast

The Belt and Road Podcast: “A podcast that covers the latest news, research and analysis of China’s growing presence in the developing world.”

Paw and/or Claw

Panda Paw Dragon Claw: “This blog is started by those who aspire to tell a better story about China’s involvement beyond its borders. We are journalists, campaigners, analysts, scholars and practitioners with years of experience navigating Chinese politics, bureaucracy, finance and their ramifications overseas.”

Opportunities and risks

RLS Dossier: The New Silk Roads: “Long-established as an economic powerhouse, the country along these New Silk Roads is also making a name for itself as a player in development policy. Many observers are already speaking of an alternative era of globalization. The West, however, remains skeptical. Reason enough to take a closer look at both the opportunities as well as the risks.”

Silk Road Headlines

Die Silk Road Headlines sind zwar kein Blog im engeren Sinne, aber die wöchentliche Zusammenstellung des Clingendael Institute (Niederlande) von Artikeln und Studien, die überwiegend frei zugänglich sind, ist eine gute Informationsquelle.