Washington – Wednesday, April 18, 2018
China is using its $1 trillion-plus investment initiative in infrastructure projects as a way to expand its military footprint, projecting power and influence around the globe from the Horn of Africa into the Middle East and South Asia, says a report released this week.
Speculation over Chinese military expansion tied to the country’s ambitious One Belt One Road initiative, which effectively seeks to mimic China’s old Silk Road trade routes and reshape the global marketplace more to Beijing’s liking, has dogged China’s claims that the program is driven purely by economic factors.
But the vast buildup of naval and ground forces, which Chinese leaders say is necessary to provide security for the large number of state-sponsored infrastructure projects under the initiative, “appear to generate political influence, stealthily expand China’s military presence, and create an advantageous strategic environment” where the projects are located, analysts at the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), wrote in a report.
The U.S. and its allies in the region have watched warily as increasingly powerful Chinese President Xi Jinping has pressed the One Belt One Road plan, fearful that countries and officials who accept China’s largesse in developing their economies and infrastructure will find themselves beholden to Beijing in other ways as well.
Reviewing 15 Chinese-financed infrastructure programs, C4ADS analysts found that Beijing’s focus on building up ports, roads, railroads and pipelines will bolster China’s financial prowess through these spheres of economic influence. But the infrastructure network created through development projects under the initiative also lays down the logistical backbone for China’s military, the report found.
“Building up dual-use infrastructure and industrial