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Contingency plan needed for BRI amid epidemic
By Wang Jiamei
As fears of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are putting China’s overseas investment and engineering projects under great pressure and uncertainties, efforts from both home and abroad are essential to strengthen cooperation and communication to pull through these difficult times.
For instance, while business trips between Greece and China are expected to be significantly hampered for the time being due to the continuous spread of the coronavirus, Belt And Road Associates, a Greece-based company that facilitates business between the two countries, is ready to offer help to Chinese companies that have difficulty to this European country, according to a statement the company sent to the Global Times.
The message is, of course, kind and much appreciated, but in another way, it also hints at the undeniable fact that the coronavirus outbreak is certain to have a negative impact on China’s overseas projects in the short term. And China’s massive infrastructure investments under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are expected to bear the brunt of that impact.
In fact, a few projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have already been delayed due to the epidemic outbreak, even though there has been no confirmed case in the country yet, according to a Pakistani newspaper. Considering that confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were already reported in countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, concerns over the virus are understandable among neighboring countries.
Yet, despite this evident black swan event, it is still essential for companies that undertake BRI projects to try their best to ensure their smooth operation. If anything, projects all involve colossal investments, and any delay could lead to increased risks and huge financial losses.
It should be made clear that the epidemic is only a short-term factor, which may disrupt some normal work procedures, but it will not change the mutually beneficial nature of the BRI projects. And at these difficult times, it is more necessary than ever for China and relevant countries to strengthen cooperation to overcome the obstacles.
In the meantime, Chinese companies need to prepare contingency plans as to how to strengthen communication with officials and businesses in countries along the BRI routes to solve any problem as quickly as possible.
If necessary, the Chinese government should also offer some support to help Chinese businesses reassure their foreign partners so projects can proceed with minimal impact.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. firstname.lastname@example.org