Beijing: Even after four decades of robust external economic engagement and over seven years since its flagship project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched, Chinese investments in South Asia continue to generate resistance from member countries.
Sanjay Pulipaka and Mohit Musaddi write for Asia Times that on May 14, the Nepal Army sealed a deal with a Chinese company to construct bridges and tunnels along the Kathmandu-Terai expressway, despite the Public Accounts Committee of the Nepalese Parliament issuing a directive to scrap the contract for violating the “competitive bidding process”.
The deal indicates that China’s economic engagement is threatening to undermine the institutional balance in Nepal, which is in the midst of an intense political crisis, while Beijing reaps the benefits of sustained engagement of various leaders across Nepal’s political spectrum.
Since January 2020, despite the outbreak of COVID-19 and the associated travel risks, there have been at least nine visits by senior Chinese leaders to Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In Asia Times, the authors highlighted that such an uptick in China’s engagement with South Asian countries comes amid heightened territorial friction with India, tensions with the US, and Beijing’s search for new markets for its exports.
Despite this, Chinese projects are facing significant resistance from the countries. In Bangladesh, an under-construction Chinese-financed power plant witnessed on-site protests over “unpaid wages, working hours and alleged discrimination.” Five people were shot dead by the Bangladeshi police during the protests.
Two years ago, one Chinese worker had died in clashes between Chinese and Bangladeshi workers at the Payra power plant, which is funded by Beijing.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court found inconsistencies in a legislative bill seeking to provide special governance frameworks for the China-funded USD 1.4 billion Port City in Colombo, raising concerns that new provisions will reduce the role of elected bodies and limit direct oversight by regulators, writes Asia Times.