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There is little doubt that the Chinese expect many of the nations in their Belt and Road Initiative to default on their payments for the infrastructure the Chinese are building... And that the Chinese expect to be repaid in other ways.  They are buying a stake in nations that are often dysfunctional and were quite challenging to the colonial nations that ran them generations ago.  Any predictions as to the long term success or failure of the Belt and Road Initiative?

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It's been difficult to track the progress and set backs of many individual projects. I think the projects are partly tied to geopolitical decision making in host countries that are either trying to balance the larger powers against each other or play the bigger powers against each other for squeezing out a little extra investment mony. But as smaller countries that are unlinely to snatch a hold in top level industry markets, hard to blame them. Perception of the bigger powers will also factor into it so if overall perception goes better or worse towards one of the bigger powers, then they'll go on that for passing an investment project with or against one of the other big powers. Pure economics are also a factor such as the covid effect caused some projects to cancel. Examples of infrastructure projects were multiple train lains spanning fram Bangkok to the north and west of it. Another is Indonesia HSR. Another was some infrastructure link between Singapore and Malaysia. Another was a port on Sri Lanka. There's a bunch that don't get much attention for the whole duration of the process from initial MUA signing to starting of actual construction to finishing. So its hard to get a sense how successful China's side of it has been, thus difficult to give a prediction due to fuzzy sense of progress thus far.

Edited by JasonJ
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4 hours ago, Mikel2 said:

Any predictions as to the long term success or failure of the Belt and Road Initiative?

Define your metrics for "success" and "failure". It's a move to spend money on infrastructure to purchase political influence. How do you measure political influence?

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And at the same time, countries have become increasingly aware of the tangles connected to the Chinese money. Starting with Hungary and Poland in 2015, East and South European countries happily embraced BRI, but six years later the impact remains negligible, in part because China can't operate the same way under EU regulations as it first did in Africa. Hungary officially still displays the most enthusiastic commitment - they're practically sucking Xi's dick on their English-language government website - but by more critical reports is disappointed by results so far, even though or maybe because the Chinese offers haven't come with some of the usual debt traps.

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6 hours ago, Mikel2 said:

There is little doubt that the Chinese expect many of the nations in their Belt and Road Initiative to default on their payments for the infrastructure the Chinese are building... And that the Chinese expect to be repaid in other ways.  They are buying a stake in nations that are often dysfunctional and were quite challenging to the colonial nations that ran them generations ago.  Any predictions as to the long term success or failure of the Belt and Road Initiative?

When you pour money into unstable countries there's a high likeliness the money will be lost and no influence will be bought. Europeans learned this in the XIX and XX centuries when engaging with Latin American nations :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_crisis_of_1902–1903

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_French_intervention_in_Mexico

etc. You need stable regimes in order to buy them off, so that should be the first point of business before building anything.

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Sometimes it seems like China throws money into countries with poor credit ratings in order to get their support at various UN resolutions. There's been several resolutions that have been a little startling as to how many countries in Africa and elsewhere that make expressions favorable to China's 9 dash line. Another area that China throws money into for trying to get influenece is to buy countries into doing things that don't recognize Taiwan in an official capacity. Soft ways are like pressuring airlines to not list Taiwan cities in a separate Taiwan tab. More hard approach is literally just buying countries into switching off their recognition of Taiwan at the UN. Whether or not all that money being used for salami slicing is paying off is another questuon but that answer to that question won't effect China's decision to try throwg money at it.

Edited by JasonJ
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Here's a Greek perspective regarding the effectiveness of BRI. Under COSCO ownership (30 year lease since 2009), the Piraeus port in Greece has seen great growth the past 20 years when it comes to container and car transport, with modernization of outdated facilities and expansion of container handling piers. Also the investments to cruise ship handling (new piers and handling facilities) that are starting soon are expected to greatly boost income and jobs from tourism too. I hope the lease gets renewed as it is very positive in economic terms for Greece.

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31 minutes ago, ferongr said:

Here's a Greek perspective regarding the effectiveness of BRI. Under COSCO ownership (30 year lease since 2009), the Piraeus port in Greece has seen great growth the past 20 years when it comes to container and car transport, with modernization of outdated facilities and expansion of container handling piers. Also the investments to cruise ship handling (new piers and handling facilities) that are starting soon are expected to greatly boost income and jobs from tourism too. I hope the lease gets renewed as it is very positive in economic terms for Greece.

Did anyone in Greece share his misgivings about Communist Chinese bearing gifts?

There is that sentence in Virgil's Aeneid: "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes"...

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Hungarian language article about our Dear Leader's Other Love Affair, conclusion is about the same as BansheeOne's.

More details about the spy and spying issues. I am not brave enough to translate Chinese names from Hungarian transcript to English transcript. The article starts with a case when a classical music on Classic Radio was cut, and some Chinese music played for a high ranking guest - this way they were able to show him that even Chinese music is part of the daily radio menu while flying under the radar - who listens to the Classic Radio? It was running on Chinese money, anyway.

As BansheeOne pointed out, big money did not arrive (now huge amount of vaccine via the usual fidesz money laundry), but spies are. The Hungarian realpolitik is summed up as in hard conflicts we are with the NATO and the USA, in the grey we do what Germany does. Remember, 60% of the export to China is car engines from the Audi factory in Győr.

It is mentioned an mszp MP, who was asked for turning down his connections with a Chinese contact. The former Hungarian counter-intelligence represantatives mentioned that the Chinese intelligence is different, they trust native Chinese who have "friends" in the country. The Confucius Institutes were mentioned, which were place of injecting propaganda, and bridging the cultural gape. Hungary allowed them because there was no other way to get enough Chinese speaking people for the economy. The Chinese push is now visible on many levels, we allow them to enter the university market, and it is allowed to tech Chinese medicine on the medical colleges.

The anti-spy countermeasures turned down, US personnel openly followed and photographed by Asian looking people. We don't even fight for a Canadian-Hungarian snatched in China in the retaliation for the Huawei daughter.

 

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When the plan was to replace EU subsidies with their annoying attachments regarding democratic standards and good governance with Chinese money as fuel for Orban's crony system, they didn't think that quite through. As the "Diplomat" article linked to above states, the chief value of Hungary etc. for China is as a bridgehead in the European Single Market. At the same time operating under the rules of the latter means they can't just use the robber baron tactics they applied elsewhere. Which probably means the huge investments seen elsewhere just aren't worth it for them.

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One other aspect are the international banks. ISTR an argument elsewhere about how World Bank and the IMF are also bit like debt traps. Its hard to evaluate whether more of the fault of the bank or the borrowing country for any bad examples. There's also the ADB which seems to avoid criticism. Then there's the China-led international bank, the AIIB, which received much coverage and hype of various sorts during its formation in 2013-2016. One often reported part was how the US and Japan never signed up to it but many other countries, along with the major European countries announced one by one that they were going to join it. Today, the US and Japan are the only major countries not in it. Regardless, since then, there's been no coverage at all throughout the various media. A glance on its wiki shows that its lending seems to be functioning quite normally, but a list of projects can't be enough to know for sure if the given list items are just MUA stage or actually in process or if any delays or cancellations. But maybe its a good list. Something that might be worth a closer look if much time on hand. An interest bit in the list though is that some of the projects are co-financed with other international banks, so there's some cooperation going on, or at the vary least, peaceful competition. Well, lots of devil details might be the point to take out of it.

 

About Africa, there was one aspect that ISTR that China was still very low in. I can't recall what it was. China has done a lot of infrastructure be it mostly by Chinese crews, but the infrastructure itself, like in Kenya does seem appreciated, kind of like the example in Greece mentioned by Ferongr. But ISTR one other form of money/finance/institution or something (money isn't really my storng point) but some economic thingie that the Europeans were actually still really strong in Africa and in this aspect, whatever it was, China still lagged by a lot. It's been a few years when I was looking into that. FWIW

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think this best fits here.

Quote

Date 27.03.2021

Iran, China sign 'strategic' deal in Tehran

The signing of the "strategic cooperation pact" follows uproar in Iran's Parliament about executive-level "secrecy" and China's call to boost bilateral trade tenfold.

China and Iran inked a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement in Tehran on Saturday, Iranian state TV reported. 

Few details of the deal were publicly released as Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, took part in a signing ceremony.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described it as a "deep, multilayered and fully fledged" pact to deepen trade, economic and transport cooperation that would be "very effective in deepening" relations with China.

Iranian news agencies quoted Wang as saying that ties — forged when bilateral exchanges began 50 years ago — would be "permanent and strategic."

Negotiations for the deal sparked controversy in Iran in 2020. In July, Zarif had assured lawmakers in Iran's Parliament that there was "nothing secret" after ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alleged that talks on the "new, 25-year" accord were being held without the knowledge of the Iranian people.

Back in 2016, a "reciprocal" road map was agreed in Tehran by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a champion of the Belt and Road initiative to expand continental infrastructure, including rail and ports.

[...]

https://www.dw.com/en/iran-china-sign-strategic-deal-in-tehran/a-57025741

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How China Lends: A Rare Look into 100 Debt Contracts with Foreign Government

March 2021

China is the world’s largest official creditor, but we lack basic facts about the terms and conditions of its lending. Very few contracts between Chinese lenders and their government borrowers have ever been published or studied. This paper is the first systematic analysis of the legal terms of China’s foreign lending. We collect and analyze 100 contracts between Chinese state-owned entities and government borrowers in 24 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Oceania, and compare them with those of other bilateral, multilateral, and commercial creditors. Three main insights emerge. First, the Chinese contracts contain unusual confidentiality clauses that bar borrowers from revealing the terms or even the existence of the debt. Second, Chinese lenders seek advantage over other creditors, using collateral arrangements such as lender-controlled revenue accounts and promises to keep the debt out of collective restructuring (“no Paris Club” clauses). Third, cancellation, acceleration, and stabilization clauses in Chinese contracts potentially allow the lenders to influence debtors’ domestic and foreign policies. Even if these terms were unenforceable in court, the mix of confidentiality, seniority, and policy influence could limit the sovereign debtor’s crisis management options and complicate debt renegotiation. Overall, the contracts use creative design to manage credit risks and overcome enforcement hurdles, presenting China as a muscular and commercially-savvy lender to the developing world.

https://www.ifw-kiel.de/publications/journal-article/2021/how-china-lends-a-rare-look-into-100-debt-contracts-with-foreign-government-16100/

 

Quote

Date 31.03.2021

Author Kristie Pladson

China's secret loans to developing nations pose problems, study finds

Chinese state banks lend money to poorer countries at terms that may affect foreign policy, a new study has concluded. Financial stress brought on by the pandemic has made these deals a matter of global concern.

China, the world's largest public lender to developing countries, imposes unique conditions on borrowing nations which could be giving Beijing undue influence over their economic and foreign policies, according to a study from Germany's Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) released Wednesday.

The study analyzes 100 Chinese loan agreements with 24 countries, the first systematic analysis of the legal terms of China's foreign lending, the report's authors write. Carried out with support from several US research institutions, it compares agreements made with Chinese state-owned banks against 142 publicly available contracts of other major creditor countries.

The contracts in question "use creative design to manage credit risk and overcome enforcement hurdles," the report's authors conclude, revealing China to be a "muscular and commercially savvy lender to the developing world."

Much of the lending has been in the context of China's Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious global infrastructure investment strategy involving over 60 countries.

Sworn to secrecy

In these agreements, China's financing state banks establish new lending terms or adapt standard ones in ways that "go beyond maximizing commercial advantage," researchers found.

"Such terms can amplify the lender's influence over the debtor's economic and foreign policies," the report said. It goes on to list several examples.

Over 90% of the reviewed Chinese contracts include a clause that allows the creditor to terminate the contract and demand repayment in the case of significant law or policy change in the borrowing country. While policy change clauses are standard in commercial contracts, the researchers argue that this takes on a different dimension when the lender is a state entity and not a private firm subject to standard financial regulation.

The contracts also contain "unusually far-reaching confidentiality clauses," researchers found.

"Many of the contracts contain or refer to borrowers' promises not to disclose their terms — or, in some cases, even the fact of the contract's existence," write the authors, who obtained access to these documents only through a multi-year data collection initiative carried out by AidData, a research lab at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, United States.

This secrecy prevents other lenders from reliably assessing a country's creditworthiness. "Most importantly," the authors write, "citizens in lending and borrowing countries alike cannot hold their governments accountable for secret debts."

A privileged position for China

The contracts also give Chinese state banks priority over other creditors. At the same time, many of the agreements give China "great leeway to cancel loans or accelerate repayment if it disagrees with a borrower's policies."

The severance of diplomatic relations with China is also classified as a default and breach of contract. Policy changes in the recipient country can also trigger a breach of contract, requiring the debtor government to repay the entire loan amount immediately.

In a normal case, the lender would choose to accelerate principal and interest repayments, rather than demand the loan be returned in full.

"Default triggers of the sort we have identified in Chinese debt contracts potentially amplify China's economic and political influence over a sovereign borrower," the report says.

Researchers also found that 30% of the contracts require loan-receiving countries to deposit collateral in special escrow accounts, often held by a Chinese state-owned bank. Borrowing countries may also be required to deposit the revenue from projects backed financially by these banks into said accounts. In the event of bankruptcy, the Chinese bank could then seize these assets. Only 7% of OECD bilateral creditors and 1% of the multilateral creditors in the benchmark set had similar stipulations, the report says.

We'll always have Paris —  or will we?

The majority of the contracts also hinder borrowers from accessing standard debt restructuring mechanisms. Nearly three-quarters of the contracts contain an explicit "No Paris Club clause." The Paris Club is an informal body of donor countries that convenes if a country has trouble paying its debts in order to look for a way to cancel or restructure it. In such contracts, however, China explicitly obliges borrowers to exclude Chinese lenders from collective restructuring initiatives.

Such a provision conflicts with an agreement reached in November 2020 by China and other G20 countries not belonging to the Paris Club, which laid out roughly the same terms for restructuring the debt of the poorest sovereign borrowers.

[...]

https://www.dw.com/en/chinas-secret-loans-to-developing-nations-pose-problems-study-finds/a-57066390

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On 3/15/2021 at 9:56 AM, BansheeOne said:

Starting with Hungary and Poland in 2015, East and South European countries happily embraced BRI, but six years later the impact remains negligible, in part because China can't operate the same way under EU regulations as it first did in Africa.

Quote

Date 05.04.2021

Author Konstantin Eggert

Opinion: Lithuania's challenge to China is risky, but clever

The Baltic country's decision to leave the Beijing-sponsored "17+1" format is a reminder of what trans-Atlantic solidarity will mean in the 21st century, writes Konstantin Eggert.

Founded in 2012, the "17 + 1" format, which brings together China with 17 Central European, Balkan and Baltic states, is officially dedicated to developing mutual investment and trade.

But it is better known as a vehicle for China to promote large-scale infrastructure projects within its global "Belt and Road" initiative.

Lithuania's demonstrative rejection of its engagement with Beijing, coupled with its intention to seek trade relations with Taiwan, is an extraordinarily bold move for an EU country, especially after the European Union and China recently reached a comprehensive deal on investments. It also contrasts sharply with the China-friendly stance of some other Central European states, for example, Hungary.

Lithuania prepared to make sacrifices

Lithuania prides itself on having a cross-party foreign policy which emphasizes the importance of NATO and principled anti-authoritarianism. Lithuanians like to call their country "a front-line state," facing off with President Vladimir Putin's Russia and recently Alexander Lukashenko's Belarus.

Despite being a country of less than 3 million people, Lithuania is one of the major supporters of Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia, providing training and medical treatment for Ukrainian military personnel, as well as firm political and diplomatic support. It is also one of the major destinations for Russian opposition emigres.

Such a stance frequently raises eyebrows, especially in the EU. "Why is a small middle-income EU country so keen to challenge giants like Russia and China?" is a question that many ask.

The answer lies in history. Lithuanians drew lessons from it, especially in the 20th century when they as well as neighboring Latvia and Estonia lost their independence to Stalin. The main lesson is simple: Respect is the main political currency in dealing with authoritarian regimes. If you want to be respected - stand your ground and be prepared for sacrifices. That approach brings reciprocal if grudging appreciation from the likes of Putin and Xi Jinping.

Now, Lithuania's move is calculated to irk Beijing and dare it to retaliate. If Beijing decides to "punish" Lithuania in the area of trade, then local exporters may benefit from their previous experiences of pivoting to new markets.This happened after Putin introduced an import ban on many EU-produced foodstuffs in retaliation for the EU decision to punish the Kremlin with sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine.

Message to Joe Biden

Lithuania hopes that its firm stance against the Chinese regime will be noticed in Washington — the Baltic states' most important NATO ally. The Lithuanians' robust support for the alliance stands in contrast to many other European member states suffering from NATO fatigue.

The Biden administration is developing its China strategy which, it seems, will not differ much from the one developed by its Republican predecessors. Sooner or later other NATO allies will have to formulate their attitude towards the challenges from China.

Lithuania sets a rare European example of firmness and readiness to forsake material gain in the face of the Chinese regime's growing global intimidation tactics. By doing so, it punches well above its political weight and secures attention in Washington. It seems that politicians in Vilnius understand that trans-Atlantic solidarity in the 21st century will mean accepting a new global challenge.

https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-lithuanias-challenge-to-china-is-risky-but-clever/a-57071394

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On 4/1/2021 at 6:52 PM, Mikel2 said:

A few years old, but an interesting view of some of China's activities in Africa:

 

Chinese version of the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere?

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On 4/1/2021 at 11:08 AM, Ssnake said:

Oh noes!

Accepting someone else's money creates dependencies, who could imagine such a wretched concept?

Depends on how much money you get, if you get 1 billion, you are owned by China, if you get 10.000 billions, you own China!

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As Hungary started to give out the state-owned universities to foundations...

Hungary gives 100E9 HUF and gets a Chinese loan of 450E9 HUF for building a campus for Fundan in Budapest. It is more money than the government spent on all Hungarian universities in 2019. It would be built by a Chinese company known for bribery and espionage, without public procurement.

Of course the Chinese company would build it for 650E3 HUF per square meters, but Orban calculates with 1E6 HUF per square meters :)

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The above has now made international news it seems. 

Quote

Uproar in Hungary over plans for €1.5bn Chinese university in Budapest

13 April 2021 | By David Rogers and Rod Sweet 

A political row has broken out in Hungary over plans to build a Chinese university campus in Budapest after a report claimed it would be financed almost entirely by a Chinese loan, built by a Chinese company and would replace a major accommodation complex promised to Hungarian students.

Opposition politicians from across the political spectrum have spoken out over the unpublicised details, saying the plan would deny help promised to students, leave Hungary in debt to China, and increase China’s influence over the country.

In February, the government of Prime Minister Victor Orbán announced a declaration of intent between Hungary and China to establish a Budapest campus for Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University, following the December 2019 signing of a memorandum of understanding to that effect.

But last week on 6 April, the investigative news site Direkt36 claimed to have seen government documents saying that Fudan Hungary University would cost €1.5bn, of which €1.3bn would be covered by a loan from China.

Direkt36 said the documents further indicated that Fudan campus would be situated in Budapest’s southern 9th District, Ferencváros, at the site of the planned Budapest Student City development which had been intended to provide affordable housing for up to 12,000 Hungarian students, easing the high cost of living in the capital.

Budapest Student City is a component of the Budapest South Gate Master Plan, whose design by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta won an international competition in December 2018. 

The documents also indicated that the job of building the campus would likely go to China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) with no competitive bidding process in a bilateral, state-to-state arrangement designed to bypass EU procurement rules, Direkt36 said.

“Can no longer be stopped”

In the documents it was stated that “it is necessary to reach the point where the investment process can no longer be stopped”, and that “a certain number of Chinese workers will be involved in the construction and Chinese building materials will be imported”.

Key among the documents obtained by Direkt36 is a draft proposal for the Fudan campus co-authored by Hungary’s Minister for Innovation and Technology, László Palkovics, and its Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó.

Direkt36 claimed this draft approval was discussed and accepted at a government cabinet meeting on 24 February.

The website noted that the campus’ price tag of €1.5bn, which Hungarian taxpayers would be liable for, was more than what Hungary spent on its entire higher education system in 2019.

It also raised the issue of covert Chinese government influence in Hungary, noting that in 2019, chapters in Fudan University’s charter on academic freedom of thought were replaced by a declaration of allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party.

[...]

https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/uproar-hungary-over-plans-15bn-chinese-university-/l

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Quote

Date 01.05.2021

Author Thomas Kohlmann

Cracks appear in China's New Silk Road

Australia has canceled infrastructure projects that were meant to boost trade with Beijing. The move is a loss of face for Chinese President Xi Jinping and could prompt other countries to back away from similar deals.

The Australian government may have only halted a couple of small joint-infrastructure projects with China, but the response from Beijing to the decision was one of rage and threats. The Chinese embassy in Canberra called the halt "unreasonable and provocative" and vowed revenge.

Canberra stepped in last year to pass a law that allows the federal government to overrule agreements made by Australian states with foreign countries. The decision followed deals signed by the state of Victoria in 2018 and 2019 to cooperate with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — often dubbed the New Silk Road — a massive infrastructure plan that aims to smooth trade links with dozens of countries.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the deals were incompatible with Australia's foreign policy and were not legally binding. The cancellation could also mean an end to further Sino-Australian cooperation in the fields of industrial production, biotechnology and agriculture.

Loss of face for China

Heribert Dieter, from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), thinks that the cancellation is an "extremely difficult loss of face" for China. He said Australia's relations with Beijing had "been bad for two or three years and are getting worse."

China has imposed tariffs on Australian exports after Canberra's criticism of Beijing's more aggressive foreign policy. The Australian government has led calls for a full investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and was the first Western country to ban Huawei from its 5G network.

Dieter told DW that the Australian government's decision could prompt delays or pullouts by other countries involved in the BRI. The initiative has already lost momentum recently, partly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many of China's other partners facing economic ruin — mainly poor Asian and African countries.

[...]

Opaque contracts have become the standard for the BRI, Dieter said, and "corruption" has also helped conclude several deals. He gave the example of Montenegro, "where they built an absurdly expensive highway, probably as a result of graft within previous governments."

Fears of a chain reaction

Australia could be the canary in the coal mine for the world's increasing unwillingness to be bullied by China. A marked increase has been noticed in the willingness of Indo-Pacific countries to build alliances against China, Dieter said, giving the example of the new military collaboration between Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

"It would be a severe blow to the Chinese narrative to find that not only Australia, which is comparatively small in terms of population, but also larger players are saying goodbye to the Belt and Road Initiative and thus to the prospect of closer cooperation with the People's Republic of China," Dieter said.

EU grows wary

The European Union, too, is showing signs of a change of heart about China's ambitions. EU states that used to be rather friendly to China, such as Italy, are increasingly backing a return of closer ties between Europe and the US, Mikko Huotari, the director of the MERICS China think tank in Berlin, told DW.

"There is already a danger that the German government, in the last few months of Merkel's chancellorship, will remain wedded to a course in its China policy that fails to recognize that the wind has also changed in many other EU member states," Huotari said.

That assessment is shared by Dieter, who said Germany's government was the "biggest obstacle to the development of a common China policy among Western industrialized countries." He said the government had also sent the wrong signal by pushing through the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, which is meant to bind Beijing to open up its economy.

Though criticism of China is now very strong in almost all European capitals, Berlin is only "tapping the brake," Dieter said.

https://www.dw.com/en/cracks-appear-in-chinas-new-silk-road/a-57388521

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Date 04.06.2021

Author Felix Schlagwein

Planned Chinese university in Hungary rouses widespread protest

Plans to set up a Chinese university in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, are proving unpopular. Two-thirds of the country’s population are against the project, while the opposition is threatening to block construction.

There are no signs of any excavators or cranes yet in the Budapest district of Ferencvaros. But Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government is hoping to see them roar into action soon. China's renowned Shanghai-based Fudan University intends to open its first foreign campus here in 2024 as the first Chinese university in the European Union.

But the plan has met with considerable opposition. According to a recent poll by Budapest's Republikon Institute, 66% of Hungarians oppose the construction project, including many supporters of the ruling Fidesz party. The opposition is trying to prevent the campus with all means at its disposal, above all, Budapest's mayor, Gergely Karacsony of Hungary's green-liberal party Parbeszed. He wants to enter the race against Viktor Orban in next year's parliamentary elections for the united opposition list.

Karacsony has the support of the independent but opposition-backed district mayor of Ferencvaros, Krisztina Baranyi. On Tuesday, Baranyi renamed streets around the planned construction area as ”Dalai Lama Street," "Street of Uyghur Martyrs" and "Free Hong Kong Street," in reference to issues and conflicts that have sparked international condemnation of China for human rights abuses.

"When we name public places after social groups and people who are victims of the Chinese state, we are standing up not only for them, but also for the ideal of freedom and solidarity," Karacsony said at the inauguration of the street signs this week.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs sharply criticized the renaming of the streets. He told the internet website Telex that the opposition seemed to have "lost its common sense."

An expensive gift for China

The renaming of streets has further fueled the monthslong simmering conflict over the Fudan University in Budapest. It's now increasingly becoming an election issue. The main sticking points are the size and cost of the project: The new campus is to cover more than half a million square meters (64 acres), which would make it considerably larger than all other Hungarian universities. In April, investigative portal Direkt36 also revealed the cost of the project: the Hungarian government apparently wants to spend around €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) on it, exceeding its budget for the entire Hungarian higher education system in 2019.

A large part of the costs are to be covered by Chinese loans, and the construction is to be carried out by a Chinese company. The size and cost of the project are particularly surprising because only up to 8,000 students are to be taught on the Fudan campus. That would make the university small in comparison with other universities in Budapest.

[...]

China's 'Trojan horse' in Europe

Other critics have gone even further. They fear the new university could be a gateway for Chinese influence in the EU. In its statutes, Fudan subscribes to "fundamental socialist values" and submits to the leadership of the Communist Party. That has led Hungarian opposition politicians to refer repeatedly to the planned campus as a "Trojan horse." Jozsef Palinkas, long-time president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and minister of education under the first Orban government, spoke to DW of a "Chinese fortress in the middle of Europe."

In recent years, the government of Viktor Orban has indeed intensified its relations with China. Most recently, Hungary's foreign minister criticized sanctions imposed by the EU on China for massive human rights violations. In early May, a Hungarian veto forced the EU to shelve plans to issue a statement condemning China's Hong Kong policy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hungary became the only EU country to rely on the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm.

[...]

https://www.dw.com/en/planned-chinese-university-in-hungary-rouses-widespread-protest/a-57784164

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