In the 10 years since its launch in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative has come a long way. While the infrastructure investments and financial support of the project made the project attractive for many countries, it caused the Western states to approach the project cautiously. In 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Italy and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two states within the scope of the Belt and Road Project. Thus, Italy participated in the project.
However, after 4 years, there are still discussions about the continuation of the agreement signed between Italy and China. On July 27, 2023, Italian President Georgia Meloni and United States (USA) President Joe Biden also discussed this issue during their meeting. Meloni pointed out that the USA does not dictate anything, but the situation will become clear by the end of 2023.
On the other hand, for the development of relations with Pakistan, which is one of the partners of the project, China has reduced the debt it provided to the country in question to 2.4 billion dollars. In this context, it can be said that Pakistan-China relations have developed within the framework of the project and a new dimension has been reached in bilateral relations.
One of the most important working areas of the project is Africa. The importance of the Belt and Road Initiative is increasing day by day, as the continent has been facing major problems since the colonial period and needs investment especially in solving economic problems. At this point, countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Burundi and Mauritania stand out as some of the states where the Belt and Road Initiative is most effective in the region.
Zimbabwe is a country that has been subject to Western sanctions for 23 years. Due to the land reform put into effect by the Harare Government in 2000, many sanctions were imposed on the country by the Western states and as a result, the country’s economy remained in a difficult situation. Zimbabwe’s Central Bank, which went to print money in order to close the deficit in the country, caused the country to be dragged into hyperinflation. In the following process, the use of different state currencies, especially the US dollar, in official affairs relieved the economy to some extent.
China came to the rescue of Zimbabwe, which was in search of an alternative to the Western states due to the difficult situation it was in. In the context of the “Look East” policy implemented by Zimbabwe since 2003, Zimbabwe has been developing its political and economic relations with China. During the bilateral meetings held on 30 July 2023, President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa pointed out that they established friendly relations with China.
As a result of the positive atmosphere in bilateral relations, China has taken an active role in many infrastructure and construction processes in the country. China’s position in the country is constantly increasing with the Belt and Road Initiative, which is currently participating in the expansion of Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Kenya, another African country, has an important place in the Belt and Road Initiative. Participating in the project in accordance with the agreement signed in 2017, Kenya’s positive relations with China were reflected in the trade of the two countries. As a matter of fact, while Kenya’s exports to China in 2017 were around 95 million dollars; By 2021, it reached $199.62 million. Looking at the export data of China, the export realized in the band of 550 million dollars in 2017; By 2022, it reached $8.25 billion.
On July 24, 2023, during the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the President of Kenya in Nairobi, both Beijing and Nairobi Governments agreed on the development of relations within the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative.
As can be seen, the Belt and Road Initiative not only contributed to the development of economic relations between China and African countries, but also enabled the development of political relations with the help of developing economic relations.
Brundi and Mauritania are other countries that the project has opened a door for in the context of developing relations with China in the region. During the meeting between Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani and Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 29, 2023, Xi thanked the President of Mauritania for considering China’s fundamental interests and as a result of the meeting, the Belt and Road Initiative between the two states was reached. development agreement was signed.
On the same date, a meeting was held between President of Brundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye and Xi Jinping, who visited China within the scope of the “FISU World University Games”. During the meeting, Ndayishimiye expressed his commitment to the “One China Principle” and reiterated his support for the Belt and Road Initiative. China, on the other hand, indicated that it will continue to support the country.
As a result, the Belt and Road Initiative announced by China in 2013 has faced various challenges in the past 10 years. While the project was viewed with skepticism by Western states, it found widespread support in Africa. In this context, as in the Zimbabwe example, it has been observed that the project has a positive impact on political relations while improving economic relations.
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