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China's debt trap diplomacy: Cracks show up in Beijing's 17+1 initiative with Lithuania's pullout

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 4th September, 2021 06:01:41 PM
  • Print news

Beijing : China has been striving to trap Eastern European nations in its debt diplomacy through the '17+1' initiative but the communist regime's ambitions have been undermined by the recent withdrawal of Lithuania from the infrastructure mechanism as well as several anti-Beijing actions by the bloc's member nations.

The 17+1 initiative is seen to be weakening in Eastern Europe with Lithuania announcing that it is pulling out from the group, Asia Times reported on Wednesday.

China has trapped some countries in the bloc in its debt net while others seem to have understood Beijing's intentions. Last year, despite conducting six years of negotiations, Romania cancelled its contract with a Chinese company for a nuclear power plant construction. It also postponed the construction of a Chinese-built coal-fired power plant.

During the bloc's recent summit in February, EU member nations had snubbed Beijing's invitation to the meet.

Beijing established the 17+1 initiative in 2012. In the group, 12 of 17 countries were EU nations. The communist regime filled an infrastructural investment gap by announcing the projects in the region. It invested in constructing new as well as upgrading existing roads, railway lines, ports, airports, electrical grid networks and other infrastructure, Asia Times said.

China's infrastructural investment aims to build or upgrade existing ports, railway lines, roads, electrical networks, airports and others.

According to Asia Times, during the first 17+1 summit in 2012, Beijing had promised a credit line of US$10 billion to the members. The key projects included a high-speed train line connecting Hungary's Budapest to Serbia's Belgrade about 85 per cent funded by China.

The project is a part of Beijing's transport route, China-Europe land-sea fast intermodal transport route. The line is ultimately planned to connect Piraeus Port in Greece overlooking the Mediterranean.

Beijing has built only one highway in Montenegro through a Chinese loan of about $1 billion. The loan increased Montenegro's debt to about 78 per cent of its GDP in 2019. The massive jump in the debt has forced the nation to ask for help from the EU and the US.

Eastern Europe has criticised China's plans of connectivity in the continent. Beijing planned that Eastern Europe to become regional hub to the bigger market in Western Europe.

Beijing had announced a large number of projects through its initiative, however, the regime has delayed most of them.

Even the major Budapest-Belgrade high-speed railway line was later turned into a normal-speed line.

Most of the investment from China goes to Western Europe that has frustrated the Eastern region as it has become only the gateway of the Chinese investment.

Poland, Estonia and Romania also joined the hands of the US and signed deals with it to restrict the use of Huawei products and its rollout of the 5G technology. Even Romania is also planning to restrict Chinese companies' involvement in digital and transport infrastructure, reported Asia Times.

In 2020, during a yearly security assessment, Latvia named Beijing as a cyber and espionage threat to the country.

Even Lithuania acted against Beijing's approach and called for the World Health Organization to include Taiwan in the international assembly.

Eastern European countries have been frustrated with China over investment dissatisfaction and delays in implementing projects. The rising conflict between the Washington and Beijing has also increased concerns. The recent withdrawal and anti-Beijing actions signal that the 17+1 mechanism appears in its way to become a symbol of Chinese failure in Europe.

Source: ANI