US contingent to keep BRI projects in check may fail: analysts

By Li Sikun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/10 22:28:41

US hopes of using a special contingent of project evaluation experts to keep Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects in check may not go beyond countries heavily reliant on the US, Chinese experts said on Wednesday, commenting on a new strategy by US officials as revealed by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). 

A WSJ story on Tuesday reported that a team of US specialists including economists, diplomats and lawyers were behind Myanmar's reported downsizing of a deepwater port project invested in by a Chinese company near the town of Kyaukpyu.

The experts, "on a pilot program," scrutinized contracts and offered outside help to Myanmar officials, who in turn renegotiated the deal, the report said.

US officials hope the pilot program could be copied to other places of the world to counter the BRI's influence, said the report. 

The price tag of the project - $7.3 billion - was "tremendously scaled down," a Reuters report said in August 2018.

The China-proposed BRI is an open platform aiming to boost connectivity through much of the world and has received official recognition by a large number of countries and regions and international organizations. Its recent proponents include Italy and Luxemburg. 

Xu Liping, a senior research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday that even if US intervention worked at the Kyaukpyu Port project, "the US strategy of copying it to other countries may be overly confident."

"Any country or region not bound by political pressure from the US will not choose a US government-backed team to evaluate their projects," Xu said. "The international norm is to commission the evaluation to a disinterested, professional third-party firm."

Xu said after all, a developing China and a developed US have different standards in project evolution.

CITIC, China's state-owned investment corporation behind the port project, did not reply for a request for comment.

Nonetheless, a Myanmar request for renegotiation of the deals has had some negative effects on China, an analyst who would not be named told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Xu said China should counter this potential US approach by diversifying financing channels for overseas Chinese projects and introduce third-party stakeholders so as to withstand the test of different standards on the overseas market.

"For key projects, lessons must be learned, and the Chinese side must be prepared if its partner backpedals in projects," Xu said.

China and Myanmar have carried out successful economic cooperation in recent years. 

State-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corp's natural gas terminal sits on an island just southeast of Kyaukpyu, transporting gas from the Middle East to China's western provinces through a land pipeline that stretches for 2,400 kilometers.

Posted in: ECONOMY

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