The Philippines' decision to withdraw from China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) delivers a blow to the ambitious infrastructure project led by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The BRI, dubbed the 'project of the century,' represents China's strategic attempt to boost its global influence through a network of trade routes linking Asia with Europe and Africa. This move follows hot on the heels of speculation that Italy is also contemplating an exit from the project.
Increasing Skepticism Towards BRI
The Philippines' withdrawal signals growing skepticism about China's intentions and influence. Critics have taken issue with the BRI for its perceived lack of transparency, the unsustainable debt burden it imposes on participating countries, and the potential for China to gain strategic advantages where the projects are implemented. The Philippines' decision to exit the BRI could be driven by geopolitical considerations and concerns over the project's implications for its sovereignty.
Italy's Potential Exit
Italy's potential departure from the BRI underscores the increasing wariness towards China's initiative. Italy's participation was regarded as a significant endorsement for China, as it was the first G7 country to join the project. However, criticism within Italy over the lack of economic benefits and concerns over China's influence on critical infrastructure has grown.
Implications for China's Global Ambitions
The Philippines' withdrawal and Italy's potential exit could reverberate more broadly, possibly prompting other nations to reassess their involvement in the initiative and encourage a more cautious approach to China's economic and geopolitical influence. Furthermore, China's strategic approach to the Middle East is also facing challenges in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
China's Balancing Act in the Middle East
China has positioned itself as a 'helpful fixer' in the region, seeking to broker peace deals and establish an inclusive regional economic and security order. However, the polarization caused by the conflict makes it increasingly difficult for China to maintain its balanced diplomacy approach. The Israel-Hamas war has complicated China's approach, with calls for it to adopt a firmer stance on the conflict.
These developments have broader implications for countries like India, which have their own strategic interests and engagement with the regions affected by China's initiatives. The withdrawal of the Philippines from the BRI and the potential exit of Italy underscore the growing concerns and skepticism towards China's global infrastructure initiative.