Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Nepal signs up to China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ plan

AFP, KATHMANDU

Nepal yesterday signed up to China’s new Silk Road drive, a massive infrastructure project spanning about 65 countries at the center of the Asian giant’s push to expand its global influence.

The deal between impoverished Nepal and its much bigger neighbor comes just days before China hosts a summit for 28 leaders near Beijing, showcasing the ambitious plan.

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) would see 60 percent of the global population and about one-third of global GDP linked through a network of Chinese-bankrolled ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

The deal would see China plow money into Nepal for a series of projects, including boosting its road network, power grid and a new railway connecting Kathmandu with Lhasa in Tibet.

“We believe China will bring more investment to Nepal, helping the country overcome its status as a landlocked and least developed nation,” Nepalese Minister of Foreign Affairs Prakash Saran Mahat said at the signing of the deal.

Analysts have expressed concern over China’s attempt to take a lead in global commerce, cautioning that an integrated world trade system where the Chinese Communist Party sets the rules could come with serious risks and hidden costs.

New York-based Fitch Ratings said that political motivations might trump “genuine infrastructure needs and commercial logic,” leading to “a heightened risk of projects proving unprofitable.”

Struggling countries could be saddled with Chinese loans requiring payment regardless of project performance, Fitch Ratings said.

In Kathmandu, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong (於紅) appeared aware of such criticism and described the plan as a “symphony performed by an orchestra,” not China’s “solo show” in a short speech at the signing ceremony.

“The initiative is not going to be China’s solo show. A better analogy would be that of a symphony performed by an orchestra composed of all participating countries,” Yu said. “The One Belt, One Road initiative will bring new opportunities for China-Nepal cooperation and South Asia development.”

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