A Briefing on the Belt and Road Initiative

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific have released a position paper regarding the Belt Road Initiative. The paper discusses:
1. What is the Belt Road Initiative;
2. Why the Belt Road Initiative;
3. Who is funding, implementing and campaigning on the Belt Road Initiative;
4. How to address the Belt Road Initiative.

According to Sun Xuezhen, Department of Western Development, National Development and Reform Commission, the “Belt and Road Initiative is an economic cooperation framework, the largest cooperation platform. The BRI is inclusive, but it is not exclusive. In the beginning, there were 64 participating countries, and BRI is designed with Asia, Europe and Africa as its focus, but all countries and regions are welcome. It is China’s initiative and any country would propose an initiative for its own benefit. But China aims at win-win outcomes and shared prosperity.”

This position paper discusses the BRI as a “reflection of China’s domestic and foreign interests as it ascends on the international stage to become a major global, political and economic power”.

Friends of the Earth program areas and the Belt Road Initiative

Economic Justice- Resisting Neoliberalism
In just a few years, the neoliberal world order has been challenged by its own contradictions and nationalistic governments. The BRI is the most potent attempt of a single nation to challenge and reform the global order to make room for its own state-driven corporate powers. There is notably less space for peaceful resistance by peoples’ movements and NGOs in this new model.

Climate Justice and Energy
The Belt Road Initiative is intended to export several energy related technologies, most notably, large hydropower, electricity transmission and coal technology.

Food Sovereignty
The BRI Agricultural Cooperation Strategy encourages expansion of large Chinese agribusiness to Asian countries. China also imports significant amounts of food products and therefore supports large scale national agribusiness development in other countries. These trends and policy objectives work against FoEI’s vision of Food Sovereignty and agroecology.

Forests and Biodiversity
The BRI will likely have large impacts on forests and biodiversity through the funding of a number of mega projects

What are the broader challenges of the BRI?

  • Insufficient human rights policies
  • Lack of strategic environmental planning
  • Weak local safeguards
  • Obstacles to public participation
  • Debt trap

What are the opportunities?

  • Potential greater opportunity to influence comprehensive planning and rational development choices of all players involved at region-wide level, because BRI is being promoted as an integration effort with a comprehensive vision.
  • Potential access to readily available new green technologies, green finance mechanisms, and ecosystem-based spatial planning methodologies presently being developed and/or reproduced in China as part of “ecological civilization building”
  • Aspiration of Chinese leadership to equip the BRI with advanced environmental safeguards and comprehensive conservation efforts.

Download the full report here.

For more information contact:
Sam Cossar
Friends of the Earth, Economic Justice campaigner
Email: ​sam.cossargilbert@foe.org.au

Hemantha Withanage,
Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka
Email: hwithanage@gmail.com