On July 9, an opinion piece by James Kynge of the Financial Times referenced a study by RWR that found “that some 14 per cent, or 234 out of 1,674, Chinese-invested infrastructure projects announced in 66 Belt and Road countries since 2013 have hit trouble so far. Most of the problems encountered — public opposition to projects, objections over labour policies, performance delays, concerns over national security — derive from poor administration.”
The study was referenced again in a Financial Times article on July 15 covering increased cooperation by Chinese state-owned policy banks with foreign banks in search of improved results.
On July 16, in a piece, entitled, “China Hits Back at ‘Irresponsible’ Report Over Belt and Road Projects,” China’s state-run propaganda arm, the Global Times, covered a press conference where the spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked about these numbers and called them “irresponsible” and “inaccurate.” She added, responding to a question about the RWR study, “The point you mentioned is not in line with the actual situation and China cannot agree with it at all.”
It is worth pointing out, however, that the numbers provided by RWR only scratch the surface, as they are drawn on a highly conservative definition of Belt and Road countries that limited our scope to just 66 countries that aligned with the initial geography of the initiative’s overland and maritime routes. (The list, for example, does not even touch Africa.) Further, RWR only incorporated problems publicly-referenced by third parties in these numbers, rather than reaching any internal conclusions on how certain transactions appear to exacerbate local debt situations or raise questions about political control and influence that could result from these deals and the non-commercial terms and conditions being offered.
The numbers put forward in these articles also omit any speculation about what percentage of China’s BRI transactions in these countries might be afflicted with problems that have not hit the public domain. In short, in our estimation, these numbers are, if anything, understated. All of this data used in these articles was derived from the daily research of RWR that is available via our IntelTrak database.