Taiwan urged to beware of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Beijing’s attempts to expand its “friend circle” and military presence must be countered, delegates at a Mainland Affairs Council meeting were told

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping (AP)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping (AP)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A scholar has urged Taiwan's government to be wary of increased Chinese influence in the South Pacific as Beijing adjusts its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

The unidentified academic was speaking at a consultation meeting convened to address the potential implications of the BRI adjustment on Taiwan, as China pursues its global development agenda. The project ensnares lending institutions and has drawn criticism for its “debt trap” nature.

Given mounting criticism over the ramifications of BRI because of significant environmental problems, corruption issues, and sovereignty erosion concerns, Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) set out a directive in August 2018 to turn around its negative reputation, according to the scholar.

The change of tactics includes a shift to a more low-profile approach, implementation of a plausible investment plan, transparent management system, and expansion of China’s “friend circle.” This spans the South Pacific and Latin America, as well as the introduction of the “digital Silk Road” and “road of innovation,” according to the minutes of the MAC meeting.

From the perspective of regional security and geopolitics, countries including the United States, Japan, India, and Australia have adopted various strategies to counteract Chinese encroachment in South Pacific island nations. They have also expressed concerns that Beijing could use BRI to access the region’s rich oceanic resources and expand its military presence, said participants at the meeting.

They suggested that Taiwan’s government revisit its New Southbound Policy and expand the scope of engagement with countries in the region. The Tsai administration should also take note of China’s attempts to woo Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in Oceania, while it was further advised to make policy adjustments that align with the Indo-Pacific Strategy proposed by Washington.