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Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy Podcast.

May 18, 2018

The recent Chinese investment in Donald Trump's hotel project in Indonesia is just one in a long string of Chinese ventures across the globe. This deal, between a Chinese state-owned company and an Indonesian developer, falls under the umbrella of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

One Belt One Road is an ambitious effort to spread the country’s money and influence around the world. The Chinese see it as an extension of their foreign policy: projecting soft power through the financing and construction of infrastructure and other projects.

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, Jeff Schechtman talks with journalist Will Doig,  who covers urban development, transportation, and infrastructure, was international editor at Next City, and wrote the weekly "Dream City" column for Salon. Doig talks in detail about China’s attempt to pull half the world into its orbit through One Belt One Road.

According to Doig, this is a kind of Chinese Marshall Plan. By lending money to other nations for once-in-a lifetime infrastructure projects, China makes these indebted nations more beholden to its wishes.

One example is the massive Southeast Asia railway project currently underway. Building the railroad through rural areas in Southeast Asia fosters urbanization along the route. The growth of these new communities creates more building and selling opportunities for China. Moreover, these are projects whose complexity requires Chinese labor, technology, and supply chains.

Doig tells Schechtman that the government of President Xi Jinping works on a very long time scale. The Chinese are happy to build cities today that may not fill up for 20 or 30 years — a time when they see themselves as the dominant power in the world.  

Doig is the author of High-Speed Empire: Chinese Expansion and the Future of Southeast Asia (Columbia Global Reports, May 1, 2018).

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