Belt and Road Initiative: Implications for New Zealand

Dr Oliver Hartwich
2 May, 2024

The New Zealand Initiative today released a research note highlighting the potential pitfalls of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its implications for New Zealand's foreign policy independence and infrastructure development.


In the report, Belt and Road Initiative - Implications for New Zealand, authors Nick Clark and Dr Oliver Hartwich explore the BRI's origins, objectives, and recent developments. They argue that while the initiative's economic benefits may seem tempting, the risks could be far more significant.


"The BRI is not just about infrastructure investment," said Dr Hartwich. "It's a tool for expanding China's geopolitical influence, and New Zealand must be wary of compromising its autonomy."


The report examines the experiences of countries like Pakistan, Laos, and Sri Lanka, which have faced unsustainable debt, reduced sovereignty, and economic policies favouring Chinese interests after participating in the BRI.


Rather than turning to the BRI, the authors recommend focusing on domestic reforms to create a more attractive environment for infrastructure investment, such as streamlining overseas investment screening and resource management laws.


"New Zealand should welcome international capital for infrastructure development," said Mr Clark. "But we must be vigilant when these investments come with political baggage."


The report suggests that New Zealand could collaborate with other liberal democracies to develop an alternative to the BRI – one that promotes best practices and strengthens the rules-based international system.

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