Belt and Road bumps in Pakistan and Malaysia


It is not just in Africa that Chinese loans are being questioned. Here is some recent  reporting on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI):


  • “China is learning, once again, that its ambitious initiatives across the globe can be hindered by the unpredictability of democratic elections,” says Quartz, citing a Financial Times interview (porous paywall) with Abdul Razak Dawood, an adviser to recently elected prime minister Imran Khan of Pakistan on trade and investment, who says the previous government did a “bad job” negotiating with China over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • “Pakistan plans to review or renegotiate agreements reached under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, joining a growing list of countries questioning the terms of their involvement in Beijing’s showpiece infrastructure investment plan,” according to the FT.
  • “China should also learn a lesson, that they should take into consideration the needs of locals, their internal politics, and the debt paying ability when promoting the BRI,” was the reaction of a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences cited by the South China Morning Post, although he also said that “even if some projects within the CPEC did need to be changed or redesigned, it would not affect the overall programme or the China-Pakistan relationship.”
  • Nonetheless, the “‘all-weather’ friendship with China was a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said as he pledged to implement the controversy-hit $50 billion CPEC,” according to the Economic Times of India.
  • Additionally, Afghanistan is in the mix: China and Pakistan decided “to speed up and extend CPEC ‘towards Afghanistan’ during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent visit to Islamabad,” also per the Economic Times of India.


  • Malaysia has confirmed the cancellation of “three China-backed pipeline projects in mainland Malaysia and the island of Borneo that cost more than $1billion apiece, and a $795 million pipeline linking the state of Malacca to a Petronas refinery and petrochemical plant in the state of Johor,” reports the Financial Times (porous paywall). The FT says this comes after the suspension of “$23 billion in schemes linked to Beijing.”
  • Malaysia finally scraps $3 billion China-backed pipeline plans” is how Bloomberg headlined the news (porous paywall).
  • Forest City, a $100 billion real estate development in Malaysia targeted at Chinese buyers, may not be allowed to sell to them, reports the Washington Post. This would be another consequence of “the tougher line by Malaysia — and the 93-year-old Mahathir” that the Post says “marks perhaps the most powerful slap yet at China’s fast-moving economic expansionism in the region and beyond.”
  • The dead deals follow the August collapse of a deal for an AirAsia hub in China supported by Malaysia’s previous government, and pointed remarks from re-elected Malaysian prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad during a visit to China that free trade “must also be fair trade” (watch Youtube video or read SupChina Access summary — paywall). There is more on Malaysian Belt and Road woes in a July SupChina news summary.


  • “BRI turns 5 years old” is the title of Panda Paw Dragon Claw post, which contains a  digest of Chinese media coverage of the BRI from the past month.
  • “China’s Belt and Road is full of holes,” says Jonathan E. Hillman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “According to Chinese officials, the BRI includes six economic corridors that will carry goods, people, and data across the Eurasian supercontinent. But a statistical analysis of 173 infrastructure projects finds that Chinese investment is just as likely to go outside those corridors as within them. The BRI appears to be less coordinated than Beijing hopes and some critics fear.”