Coronavirus Must Not Be Allowed To Stop Belt and Road Development Projects
Feb. 3, 2020 (EIRNS)—Global Times Wang Jiamei yesterday covered the pressure the novel coronavirus epidemic is placing on China’s overseas investment and engineering projects, but “efforts from both home and abroad are essential to strengthen cooperation and communication to pull through these difficult times.” He gives the example of Greece, where China’s COSCO Shipping has a 51% ownership in the port of Piraeus, which could become a major conveyor belt between China and continental Europe, via the Mediterranean. He cites the help offered by Greece-based “Belt and Road Associates Ltd.,” to aid Chinese companies having difficulty in Greece at this time.
Although such companies do specialize in facilitating business, and its offer is
“kind and much appreciated,” Wang writes, “the undeniable fact that the coronavirus outbreak is certain to have a negative impact on China’s overseas projects in the short term. And China’s massive infrastructure investments under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are expected to bear the brunt of that impact.”
Wang points out that a few projects on the Belt and Road’s centerpiece China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
“have already been delayed due to the epidemic outbreak, even though there has beenno confirmed case in the country yet, according to a Pakistani newspaper. Considering that confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were already reported in countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, concerns over the virus are understandable among neighboring countries.”
Wang argues that despite this, it is still essential for companies that undertake BRI projects to bring them online, because they all involve huge investments, and delays mean more risks and even bigger financial losses. “While the epidemic may disrupt the projects in the short term, it does not in any way change the mutually beneficial nature of the BRI projects. And at these difficult times, it is more necessary than ever for China and relevant countries to strengthen cooperation to overcome the obstacles.” And he stressed, “In the meantime, Chinese companies need to prepare contingency plans as to how to strengthen communication with officials and businesses in countries along the BRI routes to solve any problem as quickly as possible.” If needed, the Chinese government should offer support to help Chinese businesses reassure their foreign partners so the projects can proceed with minimal impact.