NEW DELHI: In sanctioning the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the US has launched a precision strike against the Beijing-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), adding another layer to the growing animosity between the worlds largest and second largest economy.
The CCCC is the spearhead of BRI — a trans-continental connectivity undertaking, meant to anchor China’s rise as an unrivalled great power.
The giant enterprise and its subsidiaries are known for taking up massive infrastructure projects, including port development, in highly strategic corners of the globe. But China’s state-owned behemoth, has also courted controversy, ranging from pushing vulnerable countries in the Global South into a debt trap on the behest of the Communist Party of China, to causing environment harm in fragile ecological zones.
The CCCC made headlines when its subsidiary, the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), became the face of what feasibility studies had already warned was a financially unviable project developing the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. The costly and unsustainable project in the Indian Ocean, rapidly pushed Sri Lanka into a debt trap. Unable to repay the loan, Sri Lanka ceded control of the port to China for 99 years, not far from strategic sea lanes, which are major pathways of international trade. The handover also included Chinese takeover of 15,000 acres of adjoining land.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, the company’s record was hardly unblemished. In an investigative report, the New York Times, citing government officials, reported that CHEC has been accused of attempting to bribe an official at the ministry of roads, stuffing $100,000 into a box of tea.