The Belt and Road Initiative

Sparks shot out of the computer like it was trying to create its own 4th of July fireworks display, interrupting the environment of the otherwise cool and dark room. The crackling noise was so loud that it yanked me out of sleep. I quickly sat up and immediately flinched backwards on the couch, until I was as far away as possible. If you’re questioning why I was sleeping on the couch…just stop. I don’t have an answer for you. I do have my own bed, and it wasn’t faulty. I avoided it anyway. Maybe it’s because my room is in the dark, slightly musty basement? 

Anyway, the next thing I noticed was the stifling stench of smoke. Smelling smoke within your house is scary. Smelling smoke and not being able to see the source of it is worse. Sure, the computer spit at me a moment ago, but that didn’t seem like it would coat the entire room with smoke. I was starting to panic. Heavy footsteps came from the hallway, heading towards the living room. My dad walked out, clearly having similar concerns about the smell. He saw me awake, and told me to stay put. He went to check out the basement.  

Only an hour later, my entire family was standing outside in the cool air of the early morning, all in our pajamas, and none of us wearing shoes. Our dogs were confused, but corgis are always at least a little befuddled. We did not bring our hermit crab, Lucy, outside with us. If she were not a hermit crab, she would have been extremely pissed off. 

Firemen were going in and out of our house. Apparently, the fire was within the wiring of our house. This partially explains why we were not chased out of the house by a sea of flames. After a while, when we were at a point in the morning when it was more frowned upon to still be in pajamas, the firemen left. We were told if we had waited only a little bit longer, our house would have exploded. Thankfully, our house and hermit crab did not explode. Only one chainsaw was involved. 

Honestly, this is a major problem in the United States. Not the wiring of my house, but infrastructure in general. Most of our infrastructure is decades old, and we have not put effort into repairing or replacing it. When we do, it’s not always the most thought out. Take the Beechwood Boulevard Bridge in Pittsburgh for example. This bridge, built in 1922, had concrete and debris falling off of it, onto the cars underneath. So, upon seeing this, did we replace it? Absolutely not. Due to a lack of funding, we instead spent thousands of dollars to build a smaller bridge underneath, to catch debris. It was finally replaced in 2017, almost 100 years since first being built. Truly showing our creative problem skills and how much we care about infrastructure.

The situation in China is different. To be fair to the United States, China was basically starting from scratch when it comes to modern infrastructure, while the U.S.A has to replace old infrastructure. But, they have gone all out in building their infrastructure in the past few decades. This started in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping announced the “four modernizations” in order to start the process of economic reform. These modernizations included agriculture, industry, defense, and science and technology. Since then, China has built or improved over 2.7 million miles of roads, as well as 72,000 miles of toll expressways. Since 2008, they have developed high-speed railways that can travel at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour. As of 2015, China had a 19,000 kilometer high-speed rail network.

In 2013, they announced the Belt and Road Initiative, with the slogan “One Belt, One Road”. This encompasses a Silk Road Economic Belt (by land) and a Twenty-first Century Maritime Silk Road (by sea). They are spending over $900 billion US dollars on 900 projects to connect China with sixty countries. This project will ease expansion of cultural, political, and commercial ties. 

You may not know about this if you don’t, for example, live in China. But, I would argue this is important. This is the largest infrastructure project ever attempted. Also, consider this. China hasn’t cared much about the rest of the world outside of their western borders for most of their history. They were forced into joining the rest of the world in trade by the British after the Opium Wars. Chinese leaders didn’t want to be a part of the international community until recently. Now that they do, they have been slowly growing their power and influence overseas. The Belt and Road Initiative, if it works, will boost their power dramatically. 

Whether this will be a good thing or not in the long run is hard to say. I think there is nothing wrong with having a more connected world, but China is not exactly a democracy. If a country has enough power, people will look the other way when they commit atrocities. As long as China is a major world player, we need to pay attention to what they do, and hold them accountable for their actions as we do for our own leaders.

Sources:

  1. HistoricBridges.org. (2003). Beechwood Boulevard Bridge. Retrieved from https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=pennsylvania/beechwood/
  2. Greenfield Bridge History & Traffic/Transit Details. (2017). Retrieved from http://greenfieldbridge.otmapgh.org/history.php
  3. Gamer, R. E., & Toops, S. W. (Eds.). (2017). Understanding Contemporary China: Fifth Edition. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s