Since President Xi Jinping announced China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, there has been no shortage of speculation on the motivations behind it. While Beijing has extolled the $1 trillion initiative’s benefits — including trade creation, economic development, and renewable energy — it has also repeatedly tried to soft-pedal the BRI’s military strategic implications. Nuclear power plant (NPP) projects, for example, are not listed on several Chinese government BRI websites. Yet, over the next decade China plans to build 30 reactors in BRI countries, many of which are either not party to global nuclear nonproliferation regimes or lack the regulatory basis for controlling nuclear fuel uses. These projects are certainly part of China’s grander energy strategy and paint a clearer, drearier picture of how the initiative might unravel. Developing countries should not be enticed by NPPs, with or without Chinese funding. China is backing them to achieve its own economic and geostrategic goals rather than a public good. Civil nuclear energy presents grave pitfalls in terms of cost, innovation and security that BRI countries cannot and should not afford. The Chinese National Nuclear Corporation stated that it has already sold eight to seven countries, and is in talks with more than 40 others. Many of them are BRI participants, including Sudan, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
The Diplomat 5th July 2018 read more »