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Coronavirus pandemic could leave Belt and Road Initiative in limbo

Source: Asia Insurance Review | May 2020

China’s global project Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) runs the risk of remaining incomplete or being abandoned if uncertainties around the COVID-19 pandemic persist.
According to a report in the Indian financial daily The Economic Times, the BRI could be another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic with various projects getting stuck as the world battles the deadly outbreak.
Thousands of workers are unable to re-join work, with Chinese citizens facing a travel ban in 130 countries. Project in Asia and Europe and even along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has come to a standstill, said The Economic Times report.
Cambodia’s Sihanoukville special economic zone and works in Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia were among the other projects that had halted, the news report quotes various sources.
The BRI is the modern silk road that aims to link China with the rest of Asia, Europe and beyond through is a network of rail, road and ports.
The projects run the risk of remaining incomplete or being abandoned, the newspaper said, citing ‘What the COVID-19 Pandemic May Mean for China’s Belt and Road Initiative’, a report by the US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
BRI is Chinese president Xi Jinping’s pet project and the country has lobbied with Pakistan and South Pacific island states to lift travel bans and resume influx of Chinese workers to complete projects, sources added.
The outbreak has disrupted China’s manufacturing supply chains and since most of these projects source their material from that country, lower outflow has increased the risk of the Asian giant running a trade deficit for January and February 2020, the report added.
Besides exports, China’s factories are still shut and workers in quarantine, truckers need to be brought back into gear, supplies of raw material have to be restored and shipping ports opened.
The pace of resuming these projects would depend on how effectively the virus is contained and China’s broader economic recovery, the CFR report said. A 
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