Blog

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

  • Newsletter April 2022
    CONTENT: Blog posts: Ukraine-Russia: Those who are not with us … // News: Greenwashing the Junta in Myanmar / Go Game in the Pacific / China Pakistan Economic Corridor again top priority // Countermovements: Myanmar: Mining / Greece: Piräus / Pakistan: coal power plant // Readings: The complex relationship between China and India in light of Russia’s war in Ukraine / The Specter of Global China revisited.
  • Ukraine-Russia: Those who are not with us ….
    For its answer to the war against Ukraine, the Western world is looking for partners all over the world. But after the unexpectedly widespread support in the United Nations for Russia’s condemnation, many countries of the Global South have since taken a rather more neutral attitude, because the escalation of the conflict goes against their own interests. There are signs of a new alliance emerging, which could benefit China in particular.
  • Newsletter March 2022
    CONTENTS: Blog Posts: Europe’s Global Gateway / Russia-Ukraine: Can China do mediation? / Merry-go-round in South Asia // News: Rückzug aus russischem Gas – und China? / Überraschungsgast aus Beijing in Delhi // Protests: Kampagne gegen Erdöl aus Ostafrika / Bananen für China aus Kambodscha // Literature: Russo-Ukrainian War and China’s Choice. Blog Posts GuestContinue reading “Newsletter March 2022”
  • Merry-go-round in South Asia
    In the last week of March, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi was on a whirlwind tour in South Asia, where the relations of several countries with Beijing, and thus the geopolitical constellations, seem to be shifting. After talks in Pakistan, where a serious political crisis is darkening the future of a Belt & Road flagship, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC, and a fly-by in Kabul, which has already been interpreted as a first step towards recognising the Taliban government, he made a visit to Nepal after a sensational detour into India.
  • Europe’s Global Gateway: To Where?
    In contrast to the widespread scepticism at the beginning (see Newsletter December 2021), Harry Seavey, in his article published by Panda Paw Dragon Claw, argues that there is a chance that Europe’s own infrastructure initiative can become a serious competitor or addition to Belt&Road. For this to happen, however, a similarly attractive narrative would have to be framed to counter “resentments over Europe’s colonial legacy and history of grand plans that have proven to be ‚wishful thinking’“.
  • Russia-Ukraine: Can China do mediation?
    Global geopolitics, especially the conflict between China and the USA, plays a central role in the future of the war against Ukraine: For many observers, Beijing could play a key role in a negotiated solution. The attempt to square the circle of distancing itself from Putin’s war, but not letting Russia go under could be helpful. However, a further intensification of the confrontation with the USA in Asia would stand in the way here.
  • Newsletter February 2022
    CONTENTS: Posts: Going out responsibly / Empire building with DCS? / China imperial? / Ukraine: Wenn Russland und China zusamm’ marschier’n … // News: Green BRI with Nuclear Power / Nepal: An offer, that can’t be declined // NEW: Protests against Belt&Road: Hun Sens Airport in Cambodia / Conflicts in Peru’s copper mining // Reviews:Continue reading “Newsletter February 2022”
  • Going Out Responsibly
    As Chinese companies go global, allegations of social and environmental violations related to their activities overseas have surged in number alongside China’s expanding economic footprint and influence across continents and sectors. A recently published report analysed publicly recorded allegations of human rights abuses linked to overseas Chinese business operations between 2013 and 2020.
  • Empire Building with DCS?
    In the West, China is currently seen as an important driving force behind the global economic recovery after the Corona crisis. But can it continue to fulfil this role – or is “the future of globalisation with China at stake”, according to the European Chamber of Commerce in China? The background to this apprehensive question is the “new economic model” that state and party leader Xi Jinping announced in May 2020, the ‘Dual Circulation Strategy’, DCS.
  • Newsletter January 2022
    CONTENT: Posts: Power struggles in Kazakhstan: Putting out the fuse / Military coup in Myanmar 1: Triple Catch-22 for Beijing / The „Digital Silk Road“ in Central Asia (Guest post) // News: China’s Foreign Minister as a fire fighter / Military coup in Myanmar 2: Foreign investments // Reviews: ‚Less brown’: Two reports on Green BRI Investment.
  • Triple Catch-22 with Myanmar
    One year after the coup in Myanmar, the brutality of the military regime is growing, but so is armed resistance. And civilian protests are also still going on. For Beijing, the situation is becoming increasingly uncomfortable: comments and assessments on the anniversary show that the Gordian knot has, if anything, become even more tangled.
  • The “Digital Silk Road” in Central Asia
    In 2015, the People’s Republic of China proposed the so-called “Digital Silk Road” initiative (DSR) in 2015. The scale of Chinese investment is testament to the government’s immense interest in the project. According to data gathered by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, China is currently participating in digital infrastructure projects in around 80 countries, and has already invested some 79 billion US dollars in DSR schemes worldwide.
  • Kazakhstan: Putting out the fuse
    The situation in Kazakhstan these days is rather obscure: Popular discontent and/or prelude to a ‘colour revolution’ and/or “foreign terrorists” and/or internal coup and/or ….? One thing, however, is clear: After Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and other countries, they show once again how vulnerable China is. And the fossil economy plays a key role: Oil and gas remain explosive.
  • Newsletter December 2021
    CONTENTS: Posts: ‘Dual Circulation Strategy’: China’s „new development model“ / Numbers mystique at ChinAfrica Forum // News: Europe’ response to Belt&Road: ‘Global Gateway’ / 20th Anniversary of China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation / Debt debate: Highway to Disinformation? / Frigate ‚Bayern’ demonstrates to Beijing where the hammer is hanging // Readings: Changes in Beijing’s economic involvement: Adaptation and Agency.
  • Numbers mystique at ChinAfrica Forum
    If the ‘8th Forum on China Africa Cooperation’ at the end of November was an indicator of the intensified competition between the United States, Europe and China for Africa, Beijing kept a fairly low profile. The limited media attention given to the meeting, which was scheduled only at the ministerial level, gives the impression that most observers wanted to quickly and graciously spread the cloak of silence over FOCAC8 and its results.
  • China’s „new development model“
    With the ‘Dual Circulation Strategy’ (DCS), the government in Beijing has once again thrown a stone into the water to test the effects of the announcement. However, after a few critical articles, the international discussion has remained surprisingly quiet. Yet the deliberations could have far-reaching implications for further globalization and China’s leading role in it.
  • Newsletter November 2021
    CONTENTS: Posts: Beijing reports boom in foreign trade / Konflikte um das Südchinesische Meer // News: Courting the Bride Africa / Under Observation by the Regional Rival / Kämpfe entlang der Seidenstraßen / Webinar: China and the World // Reviews: Patrick Bond, China’s Role in Africa’s Development / Zeitschrift ‘Wissenschaft und Frieden’: Chinas Welt? – Konflikte und Kooperation.
  • Beijing reports boom in foreign trade
    China’s authorities report soaring foreign trade figures, despite of the on-going Corona pandemic. A further shift towards the BRI countries is emerging, a trend that plays into the narrative of the ‘Dual Circulation Strategy’ announced this summer. This “new development model” intends, on the one hand, to further enhance the internal economy, while ‘external circulation’ refers to further integration into the global economy through foreign trade and investments.
  • Newsletter October 2021
    CONTENTS: Posts: Coal Phase-out top down / Kohleausstieg ‘par ordre de mufti’ // News: ASEAN’s emergent key role / China and Europe: Cooperation in Africa / „Global Gateway“ – Europe’s connectivity competition / Update: Compensation for “no more coal-fired plants abroad” // Readings: How ‘multilateral’ is the AIIB? / Global Perspectives on China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • 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: Risks of labour 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: Posts: Options for Beijing in Afghanistan: ‚From free rider to engine driver?’ / Guest post by Ying Wang on Chinese NGOs ‚Going global’ / Blog roll: The People’s Map of Global China / 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 engine 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: ‘Build Back Better World’, the US-copy of BRI / News: European bailout for Montenegro / Call for boycott of Myanmar’s jade industry // Readings: 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: 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 // Readings: A new book on ‘how a former socialist country rescues world capitalism’ / Jonathan Hillman, ‘The Emperor’s New Road’ / 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
    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 have also translated into tangible protests as in Laos, Vietnam and Turkmenistan, are major scratches on the image of Silk Road projects and their promises of prosperity.
  • Review: In the Dragon’s Shadow
    Hardly anyone outside Asia and academic circles is really looking at Southeast Asia – except just now, when the world’s largest free trade zone was agreed with RCEP. But this is a passing interest that is also mainly focused on the question: What does this mean for China, what games is Beijing playing? And in Europe it raises the anxious expectations: What does this mean for our economy, our companies, our exports?
  • RCEP: „Blood, Sweat, and Tears“
    When fifteen Asia-Pacific countries signed the free trade agreement RCEP in Mid-November it was an event with exceptional dimensions: It creates an economic zone with a population of 2.2 billion people and around one third of the world’s economic output. There are three of Asia’s four leading economies – China, Japan and South Korea – first time together involved.
  • Supply chains: Competition with China as an excuse
    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. China has already made progress in the area of environment, in particular.
  • China’s soft belly
    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 there can be no denying that Corona has also rocked China.
  • Coronavirus infects Belt&Road too
    In mid-March 2020, China’s President Xi Jinping used the delivery of medical equipment and the dispatch of doctors to Italy to bring the close cooperation on a “Silk Road of Health” agreed with the World Health Organization (WHO) three years earlier into the media spotlight. . Beijing is in need of positive news, as the Covid-19 crisis is being used by US President Donald Trump and others to undermine China’s international reputation.
  • 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?
    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 jeopardising its ambitions to transform the People’s Republic into a full-fledged world power by 2049, the 100th anniversary of its founding.
  • The Role of the State in China’s Belt and Road Initiative
    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. Because of its distinctive regime character and relation with Chinese enterprises, the role that the Chinese state plays in the implementation of the ambitious infrastructure initiative BRI seems to be clearly different from similar initiatives.

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.”

Subscription of Monthly Digest

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.

Latin America – China

Diálogo Chino is the only independent journalism platform dedicated to better understanding the China-Latin America relationship and its sustainable development challenges.” Diálogo Chino