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29 May 2022

Gulalai Ismail and Alvin Camba, The Diplomat (USA)

China's Belt and Road as contributing factor to ethnic tensions in Global South

"China’s BRI Is Aggravating Ethnic Tensions in the Global South" 29 May 2022

[...] We illustrate that China’s institutional approach to largely work with regimes in power, which often comprise the majority ethnic group, unintentionally aggravates ethnic tensions in the host country.

This can be seen in the case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the BRI connecting China to Gwadar port on the Indian Ocean. Gwadar happens to be located in Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan and home to violent insurgencies. There are total 42 projects in CPEC across multiple sectors. Only nine projects have been completed so far, all in the energy sector. [...]

But CPEC also faces a more immediate threat, in the literal sense. On April 26, three Chinese teachers were killed in a suicide attack near the Confucius Institute of the University of Karachi. The attack was claimed by a separatist group, the Baloch Liberation Army. It was the first suicide attack by a Baloch woman. This tragic incident was one of many attacks targeting Chinese workers by Baloch insurgent groups since the inception of CPEC. [...]

The opaque terms of CPEC investments and the secrecy around its contracts, which are typical of Chinese financial practices, exclude the provincial lawmakers of Balochistan from decision-making and prevent them from holding the federal government accountable. These lawmakers have repeatedly complained of being excluded from the decision-making process regarding CPEC by the federal government. It is deepening the existing mistrust between the federal government and Balochistan’s provincial government. [...]

CPEC is illustrative of how ethnic tensions among the host country population can easily erupt when BRI projects bring in massive amounts of capital. The BRI’s Chico River Pump Irrigation Project (CRPIP), which is in Kalinga province in the Philippines, illustrates the same issues. [...]