Analysis of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its Impact on Liberia’s Infrastructure Development
The global shifts of power from one region to another mighty profoundly change the practice and context of conducting foreign relation and dealing with new emerging international problems and challenges.
History tells us that in the early 20th century the pompous order of the Germany and Japan’s hegemony miserably failed to predict the future of the new world order to make change, resulting to the destruction and defeat of the Germany-Japan’s bloc by the supremacy of the opposite powers.
The keen role of a state in the international arena is not by accidental but is essentially a commitment of all states to respect the Charter of the United Nations which underscored respect for world’s peace and security. Assistant Professor of the University of Liberia Graduate Program of International Studies, Professor Josephus Moses Gray, provides an in-depth analysis of China’s belt and road initiative, foreign aid assistance and its development impacts.
This article-based on qualitative analysis is aimed at China-Liberia bond of friendship and cooperation and applied a hypothetical lens that examined the years of relations and cooperation, this article focused in several main areas of economic, foreign aid assistance, infrastructure development, and Beijing practical presence and impact in Liberia. In order for a state to be visible and play a major role in global politics, it must be part of the global power structure and the inner circle that formulates and makes vital decisions regarding the new direction of the international system.
Africa in recent years has come to be a major geo-strategic importance to the oil-dependent industrialized economies and giving an attention that Africa continue to receive from state actors on the global stage, the idea of an African rebirth seems to be finding more and more acceptance within the contemporary global politics. But it entails instituting the right policy at the right time by the right people at the right place, while those at the helm of leadership on the African continent must be proactive not reactive and worse of all passive; in paying keen attention to a win-win diplomacy.
Let me quote the words of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia: “Africa is not poor; it is poorly managed”. Conflicts and crises such as civil strife have affected governance in Africa as well as the establishment of sustainable growth performance. Although some countries have recovered from civil wars, good governance remains a challenge. This includes boosting national capacity to avoid crises in governance, maintaining good internal relationship and peace building, as well as reinforcement of issues regarding national security reducing and crime.
The World Bank estimates that addressing Africa’s infrastructure deficit will cost US$75 billion a year and that there is a current gap of US$35 billion. Most African countries, not only lack the cash flow for this massive undertaking, but they also suffer from poor credit ratings in international financial markets. According to the World Bank (2012) report, significant numbers of the Africa states, however, are well endowed with natural resources. For decades African mineral wealth remained locked underground or abused for a variety of reasons, such as poor governance, political instability, geographical obstacles, low commodity prices, corruption, lack of expertise and investment.
In Africa, poor governance has led to poor economic growth and it is manifested through corruption, political instability, ineffective rule of laws and institutions. Abject poverty and rampant corruption served as major obstacles to growth and development on the continent; while on the other hand, gross human rights violations, injustices, disrespect for rule of law and order, misused of national resources and state’s wealth by autocrats and corrupt leaders and their families and friends, dishonest bureaucrats, foreign capitalists and the lack of proper democracy, are some of the problems responsible for the continent’s backwardness in the context of growth and development
In view of Liberia’s current economic situation and development gape, the people-centered policy Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has developed from blueprint to road-map, from concepts on paper to a concrete projects on the ground, provides a unique opportunity for African states’ including the Liberian government to benefit from the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s development blueprints for African states. China not only is an important driving force of global economic growth but also makes a significant contribution to global order in promoting interconnectivity between countries and regions. China has accomplished what took developed countries hundreds of years to accomplish and become an upper-middle income country from a low-income one. China has overcome the great divergence of development among different countries formed after the first industrial revolution and made a miraculous economic catch-up from behind.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China (2019), the main characteristics of Beijing’s foreign policy basic objectives center on safeguarding national independence and state sovereignty, and creating an international environment favorable to its reform, opening and modernization efforts, maintaining world peace, friendly relations and cooperation, good-neighborly and friendly relations, enhanced unity and cooperation with developing countries ,and promoting common development. For Liberia, the guiding principles of foreign policy has been the maintenance of national security and the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, the promotion of peace and harmony based on the principleof non-interference in the internal affairs of other states ( MOFA, 2016). The Chinese growing economic presence in the country, centered on trade, foreign aid assistance, industrialization, social development and investments has resulted in win-win cooperation between the two states, governments and people, bounded by an amazing ties and cooperation.
The contemporary China’s active rendezvous in Africa dates to the 1950s, while both countries People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Liberia entered bilateral relations on February 17, 1977 during the leadership of former president William Richard Tolbert, Jr., a year after the death of Premier Zhou and Chairman Mao Zedong’s deaths; with Hua Guofeng at the head of the top offices of the state, government and party . Beijing has always viewed Liberia as a true friend and this friendship underpinned the two sovereign states amazing dealings since this unique bond manifested itself through economic assistance, even though China is still being classed by the West as developing country.
China has a major diplomatic presence in Africa. In fact, Beijing is more widely represented in Africa with missions on the ground than in the United States. Beijing, which has diplomatic relations with Fifty-one continent’s fifty-four countries, maintains an embassy with an accredited ambassador in 48 of them. China maintains offices of a commercial counselor in 40 of those countries and seven consulates-general in five of them. China has overtaken other developed economic powers to become Africa’s largest trade partner. In 2012, trade volume between China and Africa totaled nearly $200 billion (Xinhua, 2013). Majority of Africa’s exports to China and a recent UN report shows that 85% of Africans have no access to standard pipe born water, good health care, electricity, social security benefits, sanitation facilities and good meals a day. Friedman (2009) has found that China is already in the process of transforming Africa and plays an important role in ending Africa’s poverty
According to several studies, China’s GDP per capita had raised to US$9,732 by the end of 2018, from around US$54 in 1952 – a 180-fold increase. China was probably one of the world’s poorest countries at the time. During the same period, US GDP per capita increased from US$2,349, or 44 times China’s, to US$62,606, just 6.4 times. In terms of its share of global GDP, China’s economy now makes up 16 percent of the world’s total, from a mere 1.8 percent in 1952. Additionally, China’s population has grown from 575 million in 1952 to nearly 1.4 billion at the end of 2018, an increase of 140 percent in 66 years. China has gone from being a predominantly agricultural economy to the world’s factory and beyond, with 27 percent of global manufacturing value,. In 1952, a large part of China’s population struggled to feed themselves and starvation was common. Then, the agricultural value-added accounted for 50.5 percent of the country’s GDP, with farmers making up 83.5 percent of the workforce. By 2010, according to the World Bank, China’s manufacturing value-added had become the largest in the world, and by 2017, it accounted for 27 percent of the global total.
When the Xi Jinping visited Duisburg in March 2014, the phrase ‘One Belt, One Road’ was a new phrase heard by very few people. Nowadays, this phrase is a buzzword in the media all over the world. Moreover, a glance at the map of the economic corridors reveals that the initiative has expanded from including just ‘one’ belt and ‘one’ road, into including many ‘belts’ and many ‘roads’ Recent histories have taught us that it takes more to convince people about the benefits of this kind of infrastructure program. In 1949, the birth of new China opened up a new chapter in Sino-African relations.
If African leaders pay keen attention to economic independence, turn from the western concept of development and introduce Africa’s own model of development concepts, and ease foreign aid reliance from the western imperialists, focusing on flagship projects and the structure of Community of Shared Future for Mankind, the continent can ultimately overcome abject poverty, wars, political, social and cultural conflicts on the continent. As a Chinese proposition that reflects China’s wisdom, this concept is based on the long-standing cultural tradition and the advanced Chinese ideological system, representing a new perspective for international cooperation and international order and the new concepts of development, security, and civilization; it offers the right direction for the ongoing efforts to improve global governance.
Unlike the Western donors who tend to impose Western values like democratic ideas on Africa, China invests and provides aid without much preconditions and interference in their internal affairs of other sovereign states. The Chinese Government has captured the attention of many African countries including Liberia due primarily to Beijing’s reasonable approaches towards socioeconomic and infrastructural development, and the ways in which the Chinese Government practices win-win diplomacy and its foreign aid policy.
In several African states, infrastructure development and innovation have compared most African governments to rethink its strategies towards engaging with belt and road, while in Liberia the Government is seemingly becoming more interested due to its enormous developmental needs to achieve its people-centered pro-poor agenda especially road connectivity. For long, China has provided within its capacity foreign aid assistance to the economic development of most African countries. The flexibility of the Chinese model which exemplifies the traditional way of cooperation to western journalists the way through which China promotes multilateral cooperation lacks transparency and is unsustainable because it is not based on codified legal rules.
China views development and foreign aid as practical policy instruments to promote friendship and economic cooperation with states. Unlike other global powers, Beijing’s “win-win” diplomatic style has featured greater accommodations with several African states, governments, and leaderships including Liberia. The forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was created in 2000 in Beijing in order to strengthen Sino-African economic cooperation and diplomatic relationships. Since 2000, the volume of Sino-African trade has tremendously increased from US$9.7 billion in 2000 to a peak of US$215.9 billion in 2014, and US$60 billion in 2018.
Acceding to World Banks (2017) report, China surpassed the United States as Africa’s largest trade partner. China is a destination for 15 to 16 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s exports and the source of 14 to 21 percent of the region’s imports. Besides providing loans, China also invests in infrastructure development and many high-visibility projects, that the African leaders generally in favor. Physical infrastructure constructions have been long neglected if not avoided, by western donors. Many experts argue that China‘s soft” policies of non-interference, one-China policy and no political attached strings‘ have resonated so strongly among African countries that have become so wearied of those sanctimonious clichés about democracy, human rights, and good governance being proposed by the western powers.
According to the white paper issued by the Chinese State Council at the end of 2016, China has given around 400 billion yuan ($58 billion, €47.4 billion) in development aid to 166 countries and international organizations over the past six decades. However, studies show that as China’s wealth and influence grows, its development policy is becoming increasingly motivated by a desire to gain access to new markets and economic returns.
Chinese State Council (2017) explained that the overseas Chinese aid” between 2000 and 2014, capturing 4,373 records totaling $354.4 billion (€289.6 billion). This included both traditional aid (about $75 billion, €61.3 billion) and low concessional loans (about $275 billion, €224 billion). According to the white paper issued by the Chinese State Council at the end of 2016, China has given around 400 billion yuan ($58 billion, €47.4 billion) in development aid to 166 countries and international organizations over the past six decades. However, studies show that as China’s wealth and influence grows, its development policy is becoming increasingly motivated by a desire to gain access to new markets and economic returns.
Chinese State Council (2017) explained that the overseas Chinese aid” between 2000 and 2014, capturing 4,373 records totaling $354.4 billion (€289.6 billion). This included both traditional aid (about $75 billion, €61.3 billion) and low concessional loans (about $275 billion, €224 billion). The William & Mary research paper (2016) about aid data claims that China has committed $350 billion to foreign aid between 2000 and 2014, parallel to the U.S. total of $394.6 billion. China Africa Research (2018) disclosed that from 2000 to 2017, the Chinese government, banks, and contractors extended the US $143 billion in loans to African governments and their state-owned enterprises. Angola is the top recipient of Chinese loans, with $42.8 billion disbursed over 17 years. Chinese loan finance is varied. Some government loans qualify as “official development aid.”
According China Africa Research (2018) report, in 2017, the gross annual revenues of Chinese companies’ engineering and construction projects in Africa totaled US$51.19 billion, a 0.5% decrease from 2016. The top 5 countries are Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria. These top 5 countries account for 53% of all Chinese companies’ 2017 construction project gross annual revenues in Africa; Algeria alone accounts for 15% and that the number of Chinese workers in Africa by the end of 2017 was 202,689. In research published recently, Aid Data (2014) disclosed that a research lab at William and Mary, claimed China committed US$350 billion to foreign aid between 2000 and 2014 and by 2009, China gave about RMB 250 billion of foreign aid to the world.
Liberia is a case study where China’s infrastructures are visible. China has provided aid to hundreds of projects in Liberia which involved road construction, infrastructure development, health, and education assistance, security, energy, human capacity development, and other sectors; but let me specifically states that America and Europe, in general, have also greatly contributed to Liberia’s socioeconomic development and stability. For instance, Chinese companies have been working in the Liberia thus engaged into visible bilateral project including infrastructural construction of public buildings, health delivery and educational facilities across the country, telecommunications sector and has complete the construction of US$55m Ministerial Complex, US$40m New Terminal at Roberts International Airport in Margi, US$35m Jackson F. Doe Hospital in Nimba County, and US$55m overpass Bridges to be constructed, among dozens of project undertaking by China in Liberia.
China is also undertaken several other millions of dollars’ worth of projects in Liberia including the “Chinese Building” University of Liberia Fendall Campuses, the Jackson Doe’s Medical Hospital in Tapita in Nimba County, the installation of Traffic lights in Monrovia and its environs of Sinkor and Paynesville, the rehabilitations of the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, the Extension of MVTC, rehabilitations, and refurbishing of roads and bridges, peacekeeping mission, warding fellowships to public and private sectors, and support to the national army and security apparatus
The Chinese engagement in Africa has brought the continent and China very close together and strengthened the bods of friendship between China and Africa. These engagements include the Congo’s Special Economic Zone where China will be investing in the Republic of Congo’s Special Economic Zone. The zone will be built in Pointe Noire in what China calls a “direct investment” and not a loan or gift, while Nigeria and China signed a agreement to build an oil refinery in Edo State at a cost of R30.1 billion( China People’s Daily, 2017).
China People’s Daily (2017) reported that the Chinese government is responsible for a number of projects in Zambia including the China National Building Material which was recently launched by President Lungu. The project is worth R7.5 billion ($500 million) and will be completed in two phases. Shanghai-listed developer China Fortune Land Development is set to invest up to R301.1 billion to build an upmarket residential district, an industrial zone, schools, a university and recreational centers in a new city in Egypt (China People’s Daily, 2017). For instance, the new parliament building, a donation from the Chinese government, was expected to be built in Mount Hampden about 17 km from the capital, Harare, at an expected cost of R2.1 billion.
Let it be known that peace brings the world closure and unite a diverse group of people into a family and community, and can bring peaceful and stable order to society, and a a beacon for the necessary condition that enhances the survival and development of mankind. A world deprived of peace certainly will be denied itself of being turned into a Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind where law and justice will protect all; not forgetting that peace is an essential benefit.
There is no doubt that the Belt and Road Initiative aims to create new networks between Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia based on China’s innovation of railway connections and resuscitate the historic Silk Road. The initiative, the shift to railways appears to be a great leap backward but modern production chains are heavily reliant upon offshoring and trade in intermediate goods. Understandably, China and Africa’s countries shared a comprehensive consensus on major international issues, common interests and a willingness to deepen their cooperation. China emphasizes the notion of “respect” for African countries, embodied in its policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries and in an approach to conflict resolution on the continent that is seen as much less confrontational as Western interventions while African countries and governments similarly treat China with greater respect.
The central reason for the formation of the United Nations as entrenched in the UN Charter primary responsibility is: To tirelessly main international peace and security and to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and in the equal rights of large and small nations, to ensure fairness and respect of international law, to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
The oath is reflective in this year’s General Assembly 73rd Debate under the Theme: Making the United Nations Relevance to All people of the world”. If we take our respective time and critically digest the theme; one question that comes up is how the UN can be relevant to all mankind when the world’s body lacks geographical and regional balance, and powers only concentrated in the hands of just five states-the Five Permanent members of the Security Council?
Indeed, I believe that the new world order can be significantly better regulated if all nations subscribe to the principles of building Belt and Roads, and the construction of a Community of a Shared Future for Mankind; with respect to common development based on innovations and industrialization. However, the issue of inequality is a major concern for countries from developed to under-developed, and if not address adequately will endanger world peace; we have a historic role to play in this by promoting a robust, pro-active policy.
According to Fuchang (2002), China is an ancient civilization with a history of more than 5,000 years, and has the biggest population in the world and is a country with a land of over 9.6 million square kilometers and a population of 56 ethnic groups of 1.3 billion people. In the composition of the population, people in the cities and towns make up 36.09% and that in the rural areas 63.91%. Regarding gender, the male population is about 50.8%, and the female population is about 49.2%. In terms of age, people 14 years or younger make up 35.7%, and those 65 or older carried 64.3%. The Han ethnic group makes up 91.59% of the national population, and other ethnic groups account for about 8.41%. The national language of China is Putonghua which is used by the largest number of Chinese, but many of the 55 ethnic minorities have their own languages ( Yang Fuchang, 2002).
China is divided into 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities directly under the Central Government, and two administrative regions. China has 668 cities at different levels of administrative division. Beijing is the capital city with a history of 3,000 years and has served as a capital for more than 800 years. The city is full of historic interest and science beauty, the city retains its alluring fascination of an ancient capital (Yang Fuchang, 2002). China is classed “one country, two systems”, people from the various sectors in Macao have united as one, two system. Life expectancy is such a sensitive indicator or overall social condition because it sums up in a single figure all positive including rising living standards, good education, good health care, environmental protection and negative including poverty, lack of education, poor health care, pollution trends. From a critical analysis, one can conclude that China’s life expectancy is better than would be expected purely from its economic development.
Roughly seventy-three years ago, in San Francisco’s “the founding fathers” of the United Nations laid down on the negotiating table the basis of new interstate relations under which a political dialogue and cooperation had come to replace the policy of expansion and “civilized war of all against all”; in an effort to safeguard world peace and create a unique forum of goodwill and unattainable goals. The unification of the society and mankind depend on the maintenance and safeguards of global peace and stability, which are the direct opposite of conflict and war, since peace promotes and helps to unify individual rights and collective rights, and keeps the society integrated and saved, where love and care are shown to inhabitants of community of a shared future for mankind.
I am of the opinion that this journey cannot be complete nor can it win this battle by simply theory without being practical and decisive in our deeds and actions. Our presence here demonstrates our commitment to finding an international response to these challenges that stand or tend to stand in the way of the belt and Road and Building of a Community of a Shared mankind. We must firmly uphold the spirit of this gathering and successfully achieve the goal for which we are here. In order to promote an era of common development and the implementation of the Belt and Road, peace should be safeguarded since belt and road require stability.
The phenomenon of war is as old as history; throughout recorded history political governance has never been there to serve as domain of the civil authorities; history, ancient and modern, furnishes ample proof of Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon, Garibaldi, Mao, Ataturk, Castro, Franco, Spinola, George Washington and the American Rebels, Lenin and the Bolsheviks, the Sandinistas, the Greek Colonels, and countless military coup-makers in Africa and Latin America. The only continents that have-not experienced a coup d’état are North America (USA, Canada) and Australia. For instance, in France, First Consul (President) Louis Napoleon Bonaparte carried out a coup d’état in 1802, dismissed the French Assembly and proclaimed himself Consul (President) for life. His new dictatorship was approved by an overwhelming plebiscite. Just two years later, in 1804, he abolished the French Republic that he headed, proclaimed the French Empire and literally crowned himself Emperor. Napoleon would later be overthrown by a coalition of European powers.
The French eventually abolished the monarchy and reinstated the republic; in each case, the coup-makers abolished the monarchy and proclaimed a republic. In this, in the overthrow of monarchies, the revolutionaries were merely following on the footsteps of the American (1776), French (1789), Russian (1917), Spanish (Franco in the early 1930s), and the Greek rebels before them. Of the three surviving monarchies on the African continent (Lesotho, Morocco, and Swaziland), only Swaziland has so far escaped a coup or an abortive coup. This old phenomenon preciously widespread in Africa and other parts of the world has been brought under control but replaces with insurgency and terrorism, both have changed the world especially international relations. These two new phenomena are most difficult to handle or be defeated on the front lines since they have greater oppositional devastating consequences on a peaceful population.
The best and fastest strategy to reduce the prevalence of civil war in Africa and prevent future civil wars is to construct a community of a shared mankind and institute democratic reforms that effectively manage the challenges facing Africa’s diverse societies; to promote inter-group cooperation in Africa, specially tailored political governance and economic management institutions are needed and we advance some hypotheses on the nature of such institutions.
There are three main types of coups which include Presidential coup, Palace coup and Putsch while a presidential coup can be defined as the “temporary suspension of constitutional guarantees and closure of the executive, which rules by decree, and uses referenda and new legislative elections to ratify a regime with broader executive powers.” This occurs when a democratically elected president converts the regime into a dictatorship with the objective to expand and increase executive power. Africa is rated as the continent that has experienced the most frequent coup d’états around the world, in contemporary Africa, out of the current 54 States, there are so far only Eight (South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique, Djibouti, Malawi, Namibia, and Mauritius) that have not experienced a successful or failed military coup or an armed insurgency.
What Sudan, Rwanda, ivory coast, Uganda, Liberia and Sierra Leone have taught us is that there is nothing inevitable about regional instability, whether with respect to internal conflicts or conflicts between neighboring states; the fall of the League of Nation or the disintegration of powerful empires and states of an Ancient time, it is important to be practical in our ideas and dialogue extensively to convey to each other to discuss the many challenges ahead.
When the leaders of African countries and the People’s Republic of China met in Beijing, the capital of the world’s second-largest economy on 3-4 of September last year to map out the Forum on Africa-China (FOCAC) future development and new way forward, much of the world’s attention was shifted from the ongoing trade war and protectionism to the platform of multilateralism. The successful gathering provided an opportunity to promote a modern era of development and the implementation of the Belt and Road Construction & Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind which helps to offer socioeconomic growth, industrialization, innovation, infrastructure, and human capacity building.
The new dynamic of the global system shows that China has energetically provided the intercontinental public with a succession of a productive public with new motivation innovations into the emerging concept of building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind and the Belt and Road. The concept of world peace promotes and helps to unify individual rights and collective rights, unifies basic principles including socio-economic, political, industrialization and innovations are geared towards promoting an era of common development and shared values.
Subsequently, there should be no distraction by the parties while African leaders and policy-makers must learn more about China’s concept of Belt and Road and the Building of a Community of Shared Future for Mankind, and draw lessons from the Asian Tiger and Japanese miracle. It contains the basic pursuit of common human values such as peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy freedom, as well as respect for the particularity and diversity of countries with different cultures, societies, institutions, and stages of development. Every effort should be made in order to win the concerted battle against corruption and poverty on the African continent.
Also, need for the exchanged ideas in the areas of promoting industrial capacity, infrastructure and agriculture, ways of increasing the voice of the parties, economic development, and means of tightening the communication gape and cooperation between African countries and China to help achieve Belt and Road and construction of Community of Shared Future for Mankind, since the concept serves as a tool for poverty reduction and the elimination of corruption.
Due to the importance of the concept of a Community of Shared Future for Mankind and as an important topic on good governance and on international human rights, it is entrenched in United Nations Security Council and Human Rights Council resolutions; this demonstrates how imperative the concept is to the society and a community of mankind. However, the concept can become an unfilled reality if the right policies for the greater good of the largest population cannot be adopted and fully implemented.
China and Africa have shared a comprehensive consensus on major international issues, common interests and a willingness to deepen their cooperation. The rapid development of the Sino-Africa’s relationship reveals on-going transitions that facilitate the move towards a new strategic partnership. China also emphasizes the notion of “respect” for African countries, embodied in its policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries and in an approach to conflict resolution on the continent that is seen as much less confrontational as Western interventions.
China has accomplished what took developed countries hundreds of years to accomplish and become an upper-middle-income country from a low-income one. China has overcome the great divergence of development among different countries formed after the first industrial revolution and made a miraculous economic catch-up from behind. In the past, China was listed among the poorest nations on earth, and the state was blemished by the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the political disorders during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The country integration into the global economy was trifling, its industry was ineffective. Nowadays, China has become the world’s second economic power in decade or two, to the bewilderment of many economists and political scientists, and thanks mainly to four dynamics factors.
China’s remarkable jump has been made from an impoverished society which only depended on sufficient food and clothing to a flourishing society in the world. The state now plays a better role in the international arena due to its improved socio-economic situation. China to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and those profound changes have taken place over the past seven decades as China has become the second-largest economy.