A group of panellists from Europe have expressed concern over China’s ‘One Belt One Road Initiative’ (OBOR), calling out the hidden agendas to capture European markets.
Speaking at a side event organized by the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum during the ongoing 39th Session of UN Human Rights Council, the panellists call it a debt-trap policy of Beijing which will impact Europe.
Siegfried O. Wolf, Director of research, South Asia Democratic Forum told agencies, “What China wants is actually to take over. They want to be the global leader. For us in Europe is a problem because they want to push us out of the market. For example, Central Asia – If China is providing funds for new infrastructure projects, they have a lot of influence. So, when China sets rail tracks there won’t be any German or French projects. Only Chinese train will run on those tracks.”
“Similarly, when it comes to telecommunications, one of the most under-discussed area is the digital route, the way China sets up fibre optic cables to launch satellites and to set up their own versions of GPS. So, when China sets a standard for news markets for example, as in Pakistan, it will be difficult for Pakistan to go for German or French technology because they will go for China. So this will give additional dependence besides the financial interests,” Wolf added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s OBOR initiative is geographically structured along several land corridors and the maritime silk road. The infrastructure corridor, encompassing around 60 countries, primarily in Asia and Europe, fails to break ground quickly while dealing while social, human rights and environmental concerns.
European experts also see it as a push for Chinese dominance in the global affairs with a China-centered trading network.
“The European countries have started to understand that dept-trap – that has already led Sri Lanka to hand over a port because it could not face the payments related to the loans to the Chinese authorities. This is a project where you have power and you want to extend its influence, but it is using instruments, as we have seen in the South China Sea, that does not follow the rule of international law and that is very concerning because Europeans are starting to get the message that there is a big-big point of concern here,” said Paulo Casaca, former Member of European Parliament and founder and executive director of the South Asia Democratic Forum.
The OBOR is central to President Xi’s plan for achieving the Chinese Dream and making China a leading global power by 2050.
After China’s debt-trap policy was exposed in South Asia, Europeans are concerned about China’s expansionist policies.
Istvan Szent Ivanyi, Former Secretary of State (Dy. Minister) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hungary said, “We have a perception that China is very peaceful country, very good partner and doesn’t pose any danger or threat to the environment. Now, unfortunately, we see changes in the Chinese foreign policy and a major signal is the `One Belt One Road’ Initiative which is not only a development plan but also a power projection plan – an expansionist plan and it would like to set up Chinese position in East Asia and also Africa and very recently in Europe as well.”
“I would like to raise awareness about it because it really poses a real and serious threat. China is challenging the world order. The world order is based on clear rules and in the South China Sea, in Djibouti and in Sri Lanka and many places like Pakistan (CPEC) – it challenges those rules and I want to draw that attention,” said the Hungarian politician.