Chinese investments in Sri Lanka does not automatically translates into political influence

Former Indian Foreign Secretary, Shivshankar Menon has said that although China has invested heavily in countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, that does not automatically translate into political influence over a country’s foreign policy, popularity, or into soft power.

He said this responding to a question on the role of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) plays in advancing China’s economic and soft power interests in South Asia during an interview with E-International Relations magazine.

“The BRI plays a very considerable role in advancing China’s interests. It plays to China’s strengths, which are economic, where it is not really matched by any other power in the subcontinent. Nor do outside powers prioritise countervailing China’s growing influence in the subcontinent. By committing over US$ 100 billion to BRI projects in the subcontinent, China has made herself indispensable to the infrastructure and economic plans of the leaders of several countries in the subcontinent,” he said.

However, at the same time the examples of Pakistan and Sri Lanka suggest that one should be cautious in drawing the conclusion that this automatically translates into political influence over a country’s foreign policy, popularity, or into soft power, he said.

“The attractiveness of the Chinese model or way of doing things is still rather limited, as is their power of attraction. This is still a work in progress and the Chinese leadership has often spoken of the need for China to gain soft power. So, its impact on India’s relations with these countries has not, to my mind, yet peaked. India has other affinities and common interests with our neighbours that China cannot match that I think we should concentrate on, rather than trying to match or imitate China,” he said.