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What is the US stance on the BRI?

There is no simpler way of saying it: The US is opposed to the BRI.

Why?

Basically, the US fears China’s global rise.

Prior to the time Richard Nixon went to China (1972), China was a typical Communist country that did not open its doors to trade and other forms of economic ties with the West. Nixon, and Henry Kissinger, who is now in his 90s, convinced China’s Communist President at the time, Mao Ze Dong, to open China to foreign trade. Since the mid 1980swhen China started significantly opening up its economy, China’s growth has massively accelerated and it is now set to become the world’s leading economy.

Until Xi rose to power, most scholars and pundits believed that as China rose economically and became more integrated with the world that it would peacefully integrate with the modern world economy and become more and more democratic (“convergence theory”). Their theory seemed to be supported until Xi rose to power.

What changed with Xi?

  • Xi launched an anti-corruption campaign to get rid of opposition (and , in fairness, there was a lot of corruption)
  • China repealed term limits and Xi is expected to be President for life, essentially an autocrate
  • China has cracked down on dissent within the country
  • China has set-up a massive surveillance system within China to limit opposition and normalize social behavior
  • China has rounded up likely more than 1 million Chinese Muslim citizens and put them in “re-education camps” where many are believe to be tortured
  • China has tripled its military budget and is becoming a leader in advanced technologies with military applications
  • China’s military has been aggressive in the South China Seas
  • China has threatened to retake Taiwan
  • China is promoting global 5G internet technology that will bring the world under China’s surveillance. In 2017, China passed a law that said companies must turn over all surveillance data to China’s government upon request.
  • China’s government has a stake in 99 of the top 100 businesses in China and the companies are stacked with official from the Chinese Communist party (CCP).
  • China’s companies receive discounted loans from government-owned banks that allow them to undercut their competitor’s prices.

So, generally speaking, the US is significantly concerned about China’s rise. The BRI exacerbates these concerns because the BRI enables China to expand economic and military ties with countries all over the world, including, potentially, integrating them on their 5G networks that support surveillance (and hacking and espionage).

So more and more scholars are moving away from convergence theory and how to strategically compete with China is becoming an important topic.

A stronger BRI would simply enable China to undermine US interests, especially if it involves building ties with our core European allies and expanding government-supported trade that US companies can’t compete with.