How China’s ‘Belt and Road’ plans for the region could be a nightmare for US and other nations
A key Chinese-backed initiative aimed at establishing the Belt and Road Initiative with Central and South American countries is threatening to derail US plans to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Belt and Roads initiative was supposed to establish a network of trade routes between Asia and the rest of the world that would connect China, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
But its ambitious plan is set to be scaled back in coming months as Beijing and its allies work to shore up the region’s fragile democratic system.
It’s not clear how Beijing and Washington will resolve the contentious issues surrounding the plan.
Some experts believe that China and the US will agree to a more limited version of the initiative that focuses on establishing an economic zone in the South China Sea.
But the Belt-and-Road Initiative is not a one-size-fits-all solution to a complex geopolitical and economic problem.
China and its neighbors have long struggled to establish an equitable trade route through the South and East China Seas.
For example, China’s neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam claim ownership over the Spratly Islands, which are located in the Paracel chain, and are heavily dependent on the Chinese coast for their fish and fishing industries.
The United States, for its part, has been concerned that China’s territorial ambitions in the Sprats and elsewhere could threaten maritime security and the U.S. Pacific fleet.
The proposed US-China economic zone would include the Paracas Islands and the Spratts, which have overlapping claims to large swaths of the South, East, Central, and South China Seas, as well as the Paraguana Islands, the Spratin Islands, and the Para Island chain.
It is unclear whether Beijing and the United States will be able to agree on the scope of the Belt & Road Initiative in time for the next round of talks scheduled for June.