Firstly I would like to raise the issue of hegemony. China, Russia, Iran and the rest of the Eurasian integration projects have repeatedly and convincingly communicated that they are not pursuing hegemony. The core premise of BRI is that of a mutually beneficial multipolar world order. This specifically focuses on win-win mutually beneficial cooperation. It specifically avoids coercion aimed at interfering in the internal governance of sovereign nations. Unlike the USA, China and Russia are not conducting multiple regime change operations. Both Chinese and Russian policy of the last decade or more has been almost entirely based on building mutually beneficial respectful relationships. Their communication and actions strongly communicate a commitment to a multipolar world order as opposed to the current unipolar US based world order.
I also consider that the core line of reasoning on this subject held by the western foreign policy establishment, that this is merely an attempt to ease the Chinese economic transition, is an inaccurate depiction of the motivation and goals of the project.
In terms of the challenges facing the BRI, while I do agree that motivating factors that you raised have been taken into account, my assessment is that the Chinese planning methods are far more multifaceted and holistic than you have described. In my assessment the Chinese model of economic development is very different to that currently held by the western foreign policy establishment. In many ways it is more similar to the Marshall plan and similar economic policy that rebuilt Europe and Japan after WWII. More specifically Belt and Road Initiative is a continuation of the same well planned and balanced economic policy that brought such massive development to China over the last few decades.
A lot of people misunderstand the nature of communism with Chinese characteristics. Many people struggle to reconcile the concepts of a free market and communism. In this Chinese model of free market communism monopoly industries and real estate are state owned and non monopoly industries exist in a thriving free market. This system creates a vibrant environment for family business and small enterprise, while eliminating price hikes that come from monopoly industries being controlled by for profit companies.
To facilitate the free markets the communist party invests massively in education, connectivity and power. In this manner it enables efficient network effects and removes friction from the chain of value addition. While providing these services state owned corporations also provide good living wages and social support for their huge work forces. This is another facet of communism with Chinese characteristics which is often not correctly interpreted by western foreign policy and economic analysts. For comparison the US military is one of the worlds largest and most well funded state owned socialist institutions. Similar to the Chinese state corporations it also provides good wages, educational opportunities and social supports. It could be argued that without the wages and social support provided by the US military the US economy and society would go into a freefall collapse. It is just unfortunate that all the people employed and served by this massive state owned socialist enterprise are not employed in work that is actually contributing to the development of US citizens and their society.
China’s model of communism with Chinese characteristics has been massively effective in developing the provinces of China. And now the aim is to bring this to the developing world. It is a long term 50+ year plan that will require short and mid term debt and it will not turn quick profits, however it will lift over a third of the planet out of poverty and create the foundation for the next generation to have a dignified and prosperous life.
This is in contrast to modern western exploitative short-term profit driven investment which extracts resources but does not make long term investment into the health of local society, it is instead focused on short term profit maximization for share holders at the expense of the local communities. The history of the last 30 years shows the results of this Washington Concensus model of economic development. The results are a terrible testimony regarding its legacy. During this period when the Washington Concensus was unrivalled ideological hegemon, standards of living have fallen across most of the world. In America the results are some of the worst, but almost everywhere that has had significant financial involvement with western development models and western financing has seen a reduction in public goods, workers rights and a corresponding increase in the wealth held by transnational finance capitalists.
International finance, economic and social dynamics all are closely interconnected emergent complex systems. The data points I raised above amongst many others, are all evidence that the economic and financial models, that have been used in western policy development for the last 30 years, do not have the scope or accuracy to predict the multidirectional feedback loops that are at play in these systems.
The Chinese predictive models are far broader in scope and they are far more open minded about synthesising the results from multiple paradigms and then using this data to create incrementally changing, long term, holistic, multi stakeholder development models.
To connect this back to your article about miscommunication due to language and the conceptual structures which emerge from it, I would argue that the western foreign policy establishment does not make use of the conceptual models that are required to understand the multifaceted nature of the Chinese developmental model. As a result they are only looking at isolated elements of the plan and they fail to grasp the synergistic effects of the multiple interconnected domains.
To bring this back to the nations that have been pulling out of some projects in the BRI, it is important to take into context the larger systemic influences. Firstly most of the nations who have pulled out of these projects have been governed by Western style democracies. The great downfall of western style Democracy is it’s weakness in the area of rational, long term planning. Western style democracies are notoriously easy to to hack or influence through emotion based public relations campaigns. Conflict based democratic votes put the vast majority of voters in an urgent and traumatic emotional state. When people are in this state it is very difficult for them to make long term rational plans that involve multitudes of interrelated systems. Throw in some propaganda or public relations campaigns and a bit of xenephobic fear and it is really easy to convince people to sell out their long term gain because of some short term fears.
In my assessment the core concepts at conflict here are short term and selfish zero sum planning, against long term win-win planning.
Unfortunately both the western financial capitalism and western democracy are systemically biased towards short term and zero sum decision making.
Chinese regulated free market communism on the other hand is biased towards long term win-win planning.
This clash of value systems and the addition of significant western influence operations will lead to a situation where many long term investments in the BRI are vulnerable to sabotage or investor withdrawal due to short term irrational prioritisation.
Russian geopolitical analyst Andrew Korbyko writes in detail about western campaigns to discredit and disrupt the BRI in his series of articles here.
The great ideological struggle of the next few decades will be between the Eurasian model of rational long term win-win planning vs the anglocentric model of prioritisation of emotional-mob based decision making and short term self centric finance capitalism.
Despite the desperate and pervasive western information campaigns to discredit the rational model of Eurasian integration, the disastrous last 30 years of western financial exploitation, unilateral military interventions and the irrational destructive results of the western model of democracy have created an open invitation for global populations to welcome the Eurasian model of development and long term governance. We are set for exciting times ahead and a key element of this will be in the area of information processing and paradigm shifts. As western media turns to increased censorship and xenophobic vilification of Eurasia and Eurasia becomes increasingly fluent in communication it’s conceptual paradigms, the outdated, ineffective and destructive Washington consensus will become increasingly irrelevant and unwanted.
Perhaps I am too optimistic, or perhaps I underestimate the effectiveness of western propaganda campaigns, I do however have faith in a rational humanity that can overcome this current dark stage of our development.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this intellectual debate with an open minded human. I look forward to reading more of your creative insight.
I enjoyed this discussion and found it intellectually stimulating so I thought that I would republish as an article. Perhaps some may find it interesting as a data point or paradigm for predicting the changing state of global system dynamics.
I have argued before (you can read more here if interested) that the Belt and Road initiative has many flaws, both in…medium.com
Hi Alex. Thanks for your response. I appreciate all the concerns that you have raised here regarding the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. I agree that they are genuine concerns, however my assessment is that they are far from insurmountable challenges.