One Belt One Road

A “win-win” for the world or a path to global dominance? The One Belt, One Road is a massive network of trade and transport infrastructure linking China with the rest of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. Beijing is bankrolling roads, rail, ports, energy pipelines and industry in countries hungry for development with investments totaling hundreds of billions of dollars. But China lacks transparency about the projects it supports, and economic dependence on this rising Asian power brings risks. Experts warn that developing countries could be caught in a debt trap with an authoritarian government that bristles at any dissent at home or abroad.

Radio Free Asia is examining the sheer scale of President Xi Jinping’s signature project and the deep-seated problems it brings with it. This series of videos provides a snapshot of China’s reach into Southeast Asia and beyond.

We focus on the plight of fishermen in the Philippines; Beijing’s push for a mega-dam in Myanmar; the virtual colonization of a seaside resort in Cambodia; and China’s investment in the West African country of Senegal and the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. We also examine how the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck during RFA’s production of this series, has impacted One Belt, One Road.

To set the scene, we provide this overview of the One Belt, One Road. It is often referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative and is widely regarded as the largest global development plan in modern history.

oneBeltOneRoad map


The Philippines is a longtime U.S. ally seeking closer ties with China, despite a fundamental dispute over claims in the South China Sea that leaves Filipino fishermen in the firing line.



The tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has been courted by China with aid and infrastructure, but locals are wary that the growing Chinese presence could overrun their way of life.



Myanmar has an increasingly close relationship with Beijing, but Chinese plans for a massive hydropower scheme at the source of the mighty Ayeyarwady River have stirred anger.



Cambodia is one of China's closest allies and its once-charming resort city of Sihanoukville has become a hub for Chinese tourists and gamblers who price locals out of the real estate market.



Senegal looks to China to drive economic growth and infrastructure development, but critics warn that the West African nation is entering a debt trap.


Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has set back the One Belt, One Road initiative, but the huge impact of the pandemic has also shown how closely nations’ economies are tied to China’s.


Web page produced by: Minh-Ha Le
Videos & Photos: Radio Free Asia
Editing: H. Leo Kim, Mat Pennington
Produced by Radio Free Asia

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