Coronavirus pandemic | China’s Belt and Road Initiative in limbo, says report

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) seems to be another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic with various projects getting stuck as the world battles the deadly outbreak, the Economic Times has reported.

Thousands of workers are unable to re-join work, with Chinese citizens facing a travel ban in 130 countries. Project in Asia and Europe and even along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have come to a standstill, said the report.

Cambodia’s Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone and works in Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia were among the other projects that had halted, sources told the paper.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

The Belt and Road Initiative is the modern Silk Road that aims to link China with the rest of Asia, Europe and beyond through is a network of rail, road and ports.

The projects run the risk of remaining incomplete or being abandoned, the newspapers said, citing “What the Covid-19 Pandemic May Mean for China’s Belt and Road Initiative”, a report by the US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). COVID-19 is the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

BRI is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pet project and the country has lobbied with Pakistan and South Pacific island states to lift travel bans and resume influx of Chinese workers to complete projects, sources added.

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The outbreak has disrupted China’s manufacturing supply chains and since most of these projects source their material from that country, lower outflow has increased the risk of the Asian giant running a trade deficit for January and February 2020, the report added.

Besides exports, China’s factories are still shut and workers in quarantine, truckers need to be brought back into gear, supplies of raw material have to be restored and shipping ports opened.

The pace of resuming these projects would depend on how effectively the virus is contained and China’s broader economic recovery, the CFR report said.

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