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REGIONS ASIA-PACIFIC


China’s roadout of trouble


Q&A: MIN YE


MIN YE TALKS TO SETH O’FARRELL ABOUT HOW CHINA’S ECONOMIC POLICY WAS BORN OF CRISIS, NOT DESIRE FOR CONTROL


tions in Chineseandglobal imaginaries alike. Far from aligning with the view that it is the expres- sion of a one-party state looking to dominate the region, Min Ye, professor at Boston University, takes an inside-out approach to the BRI. In her new book The Belt Road and Beyond:


C


CURRICULUMVITAE MIN YE


2014 Boston University Associate professor


Also


National Committee on US-China Relations, Public Intellectual fellow


2013, he first announced the “Silk Road Economic Belt” in Kazakhstan, then a month later he announced the 21st Maritime Silk Road in Indonesia, shortened to the “Belt and Road”. It has been seven years and I think there have been two waves of misperception among exter- nal observers. The first is one of dismissal; the second is an exaggeration of China’s strategic ambition, portraying this its grand strategy to dominate the region, if not the world.


Q A


major trouble.Thenational policywasto tighten inflation and at a local level, overcapacity was imminent. Diplomatically, its relations with its land and maritime neighbours were strained. The Trans Pacific Partnership was, to China,


Q A


the largest free-trade agreement surrounding but excluding it, and China felt the pressure fromthe US and its allies. The leadership’s two announcements mobilised sub-national actors to invest abroad. I saw how the paralysed bureaucracies and think tanks rapidly rolled out projects and proposals. Whatever hap- pened, the ability to re-energise the Chinese state was significant and this sustained state mobilised globalisation for years.


66 Howdid it start?


In 2012, there was an elite political crisis. The Chinese economy was going through


State mobilised globalisation in China, 1998–2018, she debunks the notion that it is the result of a cohesive plan for control, instead showcasing the development strategy as the result of crisis involving a complex medley of interest groups, from bureaucrats to state-owned companies and other commercial actors.


What is the BRI?


The term came from two announcements by Chinese president Xi Jinping. In late


hina’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an economic development strategy adopted in 2013, has undergone various permuta-


Q A


Howuseful is the term‘new Silk Road’?


The Silk Road, for right or wrong, has this romantic appeal. It harkens back to a time


where Chinese civilisation was at its peak. The Silk Road is not just about projecting influence, but also about receiving it. It might be histori- cally incorrect, but that is the elites’ perception of the Silk Road and nobody can resist it.


QA


internal priorities. China’s three justifications for the BRIremain: the first is the strategic need to de-escalate US–China competition; the sec- ond is to seek diplomacy; and the third is the belief that a global recovery is essential for China to achieve economic prosperity. The national government is now trying to


Q A


stabilise the BRI with a focus on e-commerce, digital infrastructure and health. The Chinese government will try to create more resilient, horizontal supply chains. I anticipate smaller projects that facilitate restructuring and health in the years ahead, in line with China’s eco- nomic planning for the next five to 30 years.■


MYCONSISTENT BELIEF IS THAT CHINA’S EXTERNAL BEHAVIOUR WILL BE LARGELY DECIDED BY INTERNAL PRIORITIES


www.fDiIntelligence.com April/May 2021 WhataretheBRI’smorerecentprecedents?


I see a lot of parallels between the Western Development Programme


under former president Jiang Zemin and the BRI. Both involve a spatial fix to domestic eco- nomic problems. The biggest misunderstanding outside of China is that China is a one-party or even a one-person system, but actually it is very complex. So in such a system, crisis tends to play a very important role.


What does the future hold for the BRI?


My consistent belief is that China’s exter- nal behaviour will be largely decided by


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