China’s Belt and Road Partners Aren’t Fools (Foreign Policy)

Excerpt from article originally published on Foreign Policy - continue reading here https://foreignpolicy.com/author/jacob-mardell/


Bojan is three months unemployed, and his wife earns just 120 euros a month—not nearly enough to feed a family of four. He blames Serbia’s increasingly authoritarian president, Aleksandar Vucic, for his troubles. He also blames the European Union, which he says is Vucic’s ultimate master. He describes Brussels as a vaguely imperialist entity that demands too much of Serbia while delivering little. “And China?” I ask. “China is good. China is here to help,” he says.


That story is surprisingly common among Serbians, who largely view China as a reliable business partner and the country’s billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a wonderful economic opportunity. English-language coverage of Belt and Road largely targets the flaws of the initiative—principally that it lacks transparency, promotes poor standards, and deals in “debt trap diplomacy.” The critical tone contrasts dramatically with the mood on the ground in many countries touched by the BRI. Critics of Belt and Road tend to see the initiative as a conscious exercise in power projection. They are not necessarily wrong, but this focus on Beijing overlooks the agency of local decision-makers and fails to comprehend their attitude toward Chinese funding....


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