China’s Silk Road plan poses democracy as problem


A leaked document on China’s Silk Road investment plan poses diversity and multi-party democracy as problems, notes analyst Anders Corr. It raises questions about the extent to which the international community should allow autocratic China’s use of $1 trillion in upcoming investment to push its diplomatic and security objectives in economically and politically vulnerable recipient countries, he writes for Forbes:

Many of these countries are independent and democratic, but may not be for long given China’s document, ideology, and history of development finance. Beneath China’s plying of silk and rice in Pakistan, is an iron will to extend its military, economic, and diplomatic influence in Asia. This leaked document confirms that thesis.

The recent “Belt and Road Forum” in Beijing was a projection of Chinese power, but it is also a vivid display of the power of Chinese propaganda — a lesson in what happens when truths, half-truths and state-sanctioned talking points, mixed and repeated, begin to pass as fact, The Washington Post reports.

Speaking to the state-controlled China Daily, one Chinese academic rejected the suggestion that Beijing was guilty of “practising neo-colonialism … exploiting energy resources … [and] supporting authoritarian regimes,” The Guardian reports.

But analyst Siegfried Wolf tells DW that China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative is not only economically burdensome for Asian countries, it would also trigger serious domestic and geopolitical conflicts in the region.

“As long as China doesn’t make any effort to bridge the gap between OBOR and different EU approaches, move toward multilateralism, and address the EU values based on good governance, the rule of law, human rights and democracy, skepticism regarding OBOR will persist,” he adds.

Ultimately, China’s tightening authoritarian political system is the biggest obstacle to the positive image the country and government yearn for, says Council on Foreign Relations analyst Eleanor Albert:

While there are few quantifiable metrics to gauge influence, experts often refer to public opinion polls that assess global perceptions of China. By these benchmarks, China’s efforts seem to have had little effect in boosting its favorability around the world.  … Without the free exchange of ideas and the ability of Chinese citizens to engage in open debate, the gap between the government’s portrayal and China’s reality will likely grow.

“So long as [China’s] political system denies, rather than enables, free human development, its propaganda efforts will face an uphill battle,” wrote David Shambaugh in Foreign Affairs in 2015.

“China will find it hard to win friends and influence nations so long as it muzzles its best advocates,” writes the Economist.


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