China's anti-graft body to probe corruption in BRI projects

PTI | Beijing | Updated: 26-02-2024 19:26 IST | Created: 26-02-2024 19:26 IST
China's anti-graft body to probe corruption in BRI projects
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President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative under which China doled out billions of dollars of investments will for the first time come under the scanner of the country's anti-graft body amid allegations of corruption and the projects turning into debt traps for small and medium countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Fighting corruption related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will be among the priorities for the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection's work report for 2024 (CCDI), the ruling Communist Party of China's (CPC) powerful anti-graft body, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

The CCDI report released on Sunday stressed the need to eradicate the breeding grounds for corruption, deepen the system reforms and strengthen the institutions for discipline inspection and supervision, and enhance the organisational development of Party discipline inspection commissions and supervision agencies, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The report, which was released after it was submitted two months ago by CCDI chief Li Xi, said the organisation would this year coordinate crackdowns both at home and overseas, according to the Post.

The report said the graft buster would deepen a campaign targeting "unhealthy practices and corruption" in rural revitalisation, and seek better integrity in belt and road projects.

The trillion-dollar trade and infrastructure BRI and the rural revitalisation strategy are both signature policies of President Xi who launched it in 2013 to further China's global influence. It also made him an influential leader of the world.

Li in November last year said China was committed to a "clean Silk Road'' during his meeting with the Vietnamese counterpart Tran Cam Tu in Beijing.

The BRI, also referred to as the "New Silk Road", and the pledge to keep it free of bribery and corruption was seen as a response to concerns from the West about the integrity of the projects, according to the Post. Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said the CCDI commitment to supervise every aspect of governance in China as well as overseas projects suggests that Xi sees anti-corruption efforts and party discipline as key to his political legacy.

''But it remains to be seen what Beijing will do to better supervise the belt and road projects," he told the Post.

It is still not clear how China proposes to launch anti-corruption investigations into the BRI projects abroad. Leaders in many countries faced allegations of siphoning off millions of dollars of funds allocated to especially unstainable projects leading their countries to huge debt owed to China.

Significantly, according to the previous announcement, all cases of disputes related to BRI will be conducted by judicial organs set up in China. Sri Lanka's Hambantota project furthered by its previous President Mahinda Rajapaksa besides other projects in the countries has become a global concern as China acquired the port for a 99-year lease as a debt swap.

Reeling under heavy loans Sri Lanka defaulted on its external loans in 2022. As the country faced a massive economic crisis, India provided about USD four billion in emergency financing for the island nation to recover.

Critics point out that Pakistan's debt to its all-weather ally China under the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is piling up amid opaque project deals as the country faces a precipitous economic situation.

China, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the BRI last year, said it had signed more than 200 BRI cooperation agreements with more than 150 countries and 30 international organisations across five continents.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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