In Belt and Road Initiative, Carlos Martinez, China, USA

By Carlos Martinez,
Published Nov. 8, 2023 Global Times

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted a great deal of attention recently, particularly with the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation having taken place in Beijing last month.

Since it was announced a decade ago, the BRI has already become the world’s largest platform for international cooperation, with more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations participating across five continents. A trillion dollars have been spent or committed on projects that are increasingly transforming the development prospects for dozens of countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

A number of these projects have already been delivered. The Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, for example, is the largest infrastructure project carried out in Kenya since its independence. The China-Laos Railway, completed in 2021, has turned Laos from a land-locked country into a land-linked country, thereby stimulating trade, employment, economic opportunities and living standards. The Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway – the first high-speed rail system in Indonesia – has reduced the journey time from 3.5 hours to 45 minutes.

The BRI is becoming green. The prominent Norwegian environmentalist Erik Solheim, former minister of the environment, stated at a webinar hosted by Friends of Socialist China on November 4 that the BRI has become the most important global project in terms of green, sustainable development.

Does the US – the world’s largest economy in nominal GDP terms – have an equivalent to the China-proposed BRI? A few such projects have been announced, to much fanfare.
The Build Back Better World (B3W) was unveiled in 2021. The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) was announced in September this year. But these initiatives are yet to experience any manifestation in reality – and it’s tempting to wonder if they ever will.

But if we look at the actual history and reality of US foreign policy, it becomes clear that the US does actually have its own BRI: the Bomb and Ruin Initiative.

The Bomb and Ruin Initiative started in earnest in 1950 with the launch of the Korean War, in which an estimated four million people were killed. The initiative continued with the Vietnam War, the brutal 1965 coup in Indonesia, the coups and proxy wars in Guatemala, Angola, Brazil, Chile, Mozambique, Argentina, Nicaragua, Grenada, just to name a few.

The flagship Bomb and Ruin Initiative project this century so far has been the illegal war on Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed. The country was flattened and its development set back by decades.

China has taken a significantly different approach with respect to Iraq. Indeed Iraq is one of the major recipients of infrastructure investment under the BRI, with a vast array of bridges, roads and railways being constructed, alongside energy and telecommunications infrastructure. China is committed to building some 7,000 schools in Iraq.

Iraq of course is best known for its abundance of oil – certainly that has been a central motivating factor for a century of British and American interference – but these days China is leading the investment in Iraq’s growing solar energy industry. The world can look forward to the day when Iraq is an advanced, prosperous country, and a green energy superpower.

In Iraq, the contrast between the BRI and the Bomb and Ruin Initiative is quite stark. So much so that there’s a popular saying: “America bombs, China builds.”

This contrast is emblematic of the US’ and China’s role in the world in general.

The US has brought misery and destruction to Afghanistan, that long-suffering country, with a 20-year war and occupation, and now cruel sanctions put in place to prevent the country from getting back on its feet.

The US and its allies bombed Libya into the Stone Age, turning it from a relatively prosperous country – with the highest Human Development Index in Africa – into a failed state.

The US has been a key player in fomenting and perpetuating the devastating war in Syria, supporting the emergence of terrorist groups in a strategy of regime change, and then using the presence of those same groups as a justification for its own uninvited and unwanted military presence in the country.

About two weeks ago, the US responded to attacks on its illegal Syrian facilities not by dismantling the facilities but by carrying out air strikes against Syrian government sites.

It’s no secret that the US is the driving force behind the war in Ukraine. The essential character of this conflict is a proxy war to weaken Russia.

With the sponsorship and total support of the US, Israel is showing no regard at all for the people of Gaza. Already more than 10,000 people have been killed. The UN has called it a “children’s graveyard.” The people of the world want a ceasefire; China, Russia, Brazil and many others have called for a ceasefire. But the US – along with its most dependable ally, Britain – is standing in the way.

The US gets criticized for not building enough infrastructure. However, the US is building plenty of infrastructure of war and aggression: 800 overseas military bases; the stationing of nuclear-enabled missiles and warplanes in Japan, Guam and South Korea, along with tens of thousands of US troops; the placement of the THAAD so-called missile defence system in Guam and South Korea; the AUKUS trilateral nuclear pact between the US, UK and Australia. When it comes to the project of containing and encircling China, the US has no problem with building infrastructure.

The stark difference between China’s BRI and the US’ BRI is clear for all to see.

The US is pursuing a hegemonic, imperialist project; a Project for a New American Century. It is spreading death and destruction in pursuit of its own selfish economic and political interests.

Meanwhile, China is pursuing what it calls a global community of shared future – described by President Xi Jinping as “an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, charting a bright future for human development.”

This is an inspiring, democratic and inclusive vision that is rapidly gaining broad support around the globe.

The author is a British author and independent political commentator. [email protected]


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BRI lauded for role in global power shift