The European Union’s ambassadors to China have issued a scathing criticism of Beijing’s highly vaunted Belt and Road Initiative, on the grounds that it undermines free trade and international transparency norms, and serves primarily to advance Chinese interests.
27 out of 28 of the EU’s national ambassadors have signed off on a report claiming that Belt and Road “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalising trade and pushes the balance of power in favour of subsidised Chinese companies,” according to a report from Handesblatt Global.
The Belt and Road Initiative is the centrepiece of the Xi administration’s foreign policy, ostensibly aiming to foster trade and investment between countries lying along the historic Silk Road via a raft of ambitious infrastructure projects.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser said to the World Economic Forum in January that Belt and Road will be the “new World Trade Organization.”
Others have been scathing in their assessment of the project, with Indian academic Brahma Chellaney from the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research claiming that Belt and Road will perpetuate a form of Chinese “creditor imperialism.”
The new report from the EU ambassadors claims that Belt and Road primarily serves China’s domestic interests “like the reduction of surplus capacity, the creation of new export markets and safeguarding access to raw materials.”
The report said that European companies could lose contracts if China isn’t held to the same levels of transparency, as well as environmental and social standards.
The report also claims that China has put pressure on European politicians during official visits – and in particular smaller EU states such as Greece and Hungary, to sign Belt and Road agreements.
“This bilateral structure leads to an unequal distribution of power which China exploits,” said the report.