Will China Let Belt and Road Die Quietly?
The news for China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been unrelentingly bad.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia has canceled two mega BRI projects, including a $20 billion railway, citing high costs. Pakistan's new government has called for a review of the crown jewel of BRI -- China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), to which China has committed more than $60 billion in funding. Myanmar's government has just told Beijing that construction of a suspended China-funded hydropower dam would not be allowed to resume. The Maldives, the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, is trying to renegotiate down the $3 billion debt -- equal to two thirds of its gross domestic product -- it has borrowed from China to fund BRI projects.
But, inside China, it is hard to detect overt signs of any wavering in support for BRI the pronouncements from top Chinese leaders, especially President Xi Jinping. For Xi, BRI's architect, this vast project spanning half the globe with infrastructure links connected to Beijing represents his vision to project Chinese power and influence.