Coronavirus Threatens China’s Belt and Road. What Happens When It Wants Half a Trillion Dollars Back?
By Shashank Bengali, Neha Wadekar
NAIROBI, Kenya — When Chinese engineers flew home in January for the Lunar New Year, few in Africa would have imagined that a coronavirus outbreak was about to ground planes, upend supply lines and freeze work on dozens of Chinese-built roads, railways, ports and power stations.
Many of the engineers haven’t returned. Construction sites fell silent. And now the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a global recession that threatens the colossal international loan program that is a symbol of China’s growing prestige and a centerpiece of President Xi Jinping’s reign.
The Belt and Road Initiative — China’s effort to finance nearly half a trillion dollars in new infrastructure across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America — took flight during a period of global expansion and easy travel that has now slammed into a sober reckoning.
Photo courtesy of Sergio Ruiz.