There has never been anything like it in recorded history where a country has put…a trillion dollars aside to help in jump starting all of these infrastructure projects around the country

Much has been made of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Wary watcher’s are quick to point out the spread of Chinese influence in many resource rich countries. Critics promptly highlight the missteps that China has made including snubbing local labor and ignoring cultural norms. A BETTER PEACE welcomes Sarwar Kashmeri as he joins our Editor-In-Chief Jacqueline Whitt to examine how the BRI has succeeded and more importantly how China has learned from its failures and adapted its efforts.

Sarwar Kashmeri is a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and an Applied Research Fellow at the Peace & War Center at Norwich University. Jacqueline E. Whitt is an Associate Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Army War College and the Editor-in-Chief of WAR ROOM. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or Department of Defense.

Photo Description: A Type-001A Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong, moored at Dalian, China in 2019 prior to commissioning.

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons User Tyg728

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  • B.C.

    The following from the famous early 20th Century economist Joseph Schumpeter — in his 1919 “Imperialism and Capitalism” — may prove interesting here.

    (However, one would need to read the entire article; this, to understand exactly what Schumpeter — in a larger sense — is trying to prove.)

    “It may be stated as being beyond controversy that where free trade prevails no class has an interest in forcible expansion as such. For in such a case the citizens and goods of every nation can move in foreign countries as freely as thought those countries were politically their own — free trade implying far more than mere freedom from tariffs. In a genuine state of free trade, foreign raw materials and foodstuffs are as accessible to each nation as though they were within its own territory. Where the cultural backwardness of a region makes normal economic intercourse dependent on colonization, it does not matter, assuming free trade, which of the ‘civilized’ nations undertakes the task of colonization. Domination of the seas, in such a case, means little more than a maritime traffic police. Similarly, it is a matter of indifference to a nation whether a railway concession in a foreign country is acquired by one of its own citizens or not — just so long as the railway is built and put into efficient operation. for citizens of any country may use the railway, just like the fellow countrymen of its builder — while in the event of war it will serve whoever contrils it in the military sense, regardless of who built it. It is true, of course, that profits and wages flowing from its construction and operation will accrue, for the grater part, to the nation that built it. But capital and labour that go into the railway have to be taken from somewhere, and normally the other nations fill the gap. It is a fact that in a regime of free trade the essential advantages of international intercourse are clearly evident. The gain lies in the enlargement of the commodity supply by means of the division of labour among nations, rather than in the profits and wages of the export industry and the carrying trade. for these profits and mages would be reaped even if there were no export, in which case import, the necessary complement, would also vanish. Not even monopoly interests — if they existed — would be disposed toward imperialism in such a case. For under free trade only international cartels would be possible. Under a system of free trade there would be conflicts in economic interest neither among different nations nor among the corresponding classes of different nations. And since protectionism is not an essential characteristic of the capitalist economy — otherwise the English national economy would scarcely be capitalist — it is apparent that any economic interest in forcible expansion on the part of a people or a class is not necessarily a product of capitalism.”

    Problem:

    Re: the fourth sentence in the quoted paragraph above, the matter of “cultural backwardness” (both in one’s home nation and in targeted nations abroad) — as standing directly in the way of “normal economic intercourse” — this is the matter which:

    a. Challenges both developed and developing nations yesterday and today. And which, accordingly,

    b. Often becomes the focus of both “their” and “our” domestic and foreign policies.

    As a way of understanding how such things as “culture” and “tradition” (i.e, “cultural backwardness”) — both here at home and there abroad might stand directly in the way of necessary “progress” — consider the following from Robert Gilpin’s “The Challenge of Global Capitalism: The World Economy in the 21st Century:”

    “Capitalism is the most successful wealth-creating economic system that the world has ever known; no other system, as the distinguished economist Joseph Schumpeter pointed out, has benefited ‘the common people’ as much. Capitalism, he observed, creates wealth through advancing continuously to every higher levels of productivity and technological sophistication; this process requires that the ‘old’ be destroyed before the ‘new’ can take over. Technological progress, the ultimate driving fore of capitalism, requires the continuous discarding of obsolete factories, economic sectors, and even human skills. The system rewards the adaptable and the efficient; it punishes the redundant and the less productive.

    This ‘process of creative destruction,’ to use Schumpeter’s term, produces many winners but also many losers, at least in the short them, and poses a serious threat to traditional social values, beliefs, and institutions. … Threatened individuals, groups, or nations (likewise and accordingly) constitute an ever-present force that could overthrow or at least significantly disrupt the capitalist system.”

    Bottom Line Question — Based on the Above:

    Does China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” do anything to overcome the “cultural backwardness” problems of the states and societies it seeks to do its work in?

    If not, then how (minus something akin to “colonialism; see the fourth sentence of my Schumpeter item at the top of this page) and who will fulfill this (even more important than “infrastructure?”) mission?

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