In this shocking exposé, Robert C. Thornett breaks down the global reach of China's foreign influence using the Belt and Road Initiative which have stretched through Africa and Latin America.
At a nationally televised press conference in Panama City in March 2019, a China-funded team of Chinese and Panamanian engineers took the stage. They unveiled the results of their feasibility study of the proposed high-speed Panama-Chiriquí Railway. They announced that the megaproject would cost $4.1 billion and take six years to build. Travel time from the capital to the Costa Rican border would be cut from eight hours to three.
Panama’s president Juan Carlos Varela was on hand to cut the blue ribbon, beaming alongside Wei Qiang, China’s fluent Spanish-speaking ambassador. Varela said new urban areas would be created along the route, helping to develop Panama’s neglected interior. He added that the train would increase the export competitiveness of Panama’s rural producers—noting that it is currently cheaper to send cargo to Panama’s ports from Shanghai than from its own coffee-growing Chiriquí Highlands. Panama would modernize its slow, fragmented land transport, and China Railway Design Corporation would get a juicy contract. Everyone agreed it was a win-win.
“Win-win projects” and “enhanced economic interconnectivity” are indeed the stated goals of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as the New Silk Road. Introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI is China’s global economic strategy for the twenty-first century: to finance and build new infrastructure in partner countries around the world, linking them to China and Chinese-operated logistics hubs, and putting China at the center of global commerce.