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Weaponizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Since its inception in 2013, Chinese government officials have insisted that the Belt and Road is solely an economic initiative and does not have any military motivations. But the BRI’s civil-military distinction is no longer as clear cut as it used to be. President Xi Jinping himself called for a strong BRI security system to protect China’s overseas interests, people and property.

One little-known aspect of the BRI is that much of the overseas construction, particularly ports, must conform to standards that conform to the People’s Liberation Army’s requirements. So, while today there’s little evidence that China is leveraging the BRI for security or military purposes, there are concerns that it is positioning to be able to do so in the future should the need arise.

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