Jordan News | Latest News from Jordan, MENA
October 21 2021 2:40 PM ˚

America’s ‘higher quality’ alternative to China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative

Ruba Saqr (Photo: Jordan News)
Ruba Saqr (Photo: Jordan News)
  • +
  • -
This past June, American President Joe Biden made it clear to G7 leaders it was high time the world took concrete steps to counter China’s rising global influence, especially its controversial “Belt-and-Road Initiative.”اضافة اعلان

To offset what many analysts deem as Beijing’s rapidly growing world domination, the Democratic president has recently put into motion a multi-billion-dollar plan aimed to offer world nations and allies, like Jordan, a “higher quality” alternative to China’s Belt-and-Road infrastructure project.

Many around the globe, who have been quite frustrated by China’s ethically-questionable and oppressive policies towards the Uyghur Muslims, see these American plans as a step in the right direction.

The US, in particular, has seen bipartisan unity in its criticism of China's “slow-motion genocide” of Uyghur Muslims living in Xinjiang, a region considered by right-wing American media to be nothing more than “economic ambition” masquerading as faith-based animosity.

According to the Washington Examiner, a conservative news website, “The Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang … has a clear economic motive: to pave the way for China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, much of which runs through Xinjiang to Central Asia and the Middle East.”

The website adds: “Central to Beijing’s global dominance ambition, the economic plan requires an elevated level of social control that’s at odds with the Uyghur way of life. The result is the horrific destruction of the Uyghur identity and Uyghur lives …”

Across the pond in the UK, lawmakers have recently called on their government to take more action on the Uyghurs in China, fueled by more and more disturbing news about concentration camps and abuses committed against a group of people, whose “fault” is following the peaceful tenants of Islam.

But what is truly troubling is the observation that here in Jordan, local media has mysteriously kept its distance from the topic of the Uyghur Muslims!

Curiously, top-tier media outlets based in Amman have published almost no news at all about the painful experiences of a group of people who, some may argue, form a natural extension to Jordan’s identity and mission as an ambassador to moderate Islam. To add to the mystery, a quick internet research will produce a lone syndicated op-ed appearing in a local English-speaking newspaper in 2018, but not much else.

This unawareness of the world around us is terrifying, especially that other topics are often easily blown out of proportion. How come, for instance, we are quite aware of offences against Muslims in certain countries in Europe and are readily persuaded into boycotting their products, while the Uyghur Muslims are not on our radar to begin with?

This seriously calls into question our understanding, as Jordanians, of the pressing issues around us, and whether the local media’s editorial policies are complicit in our ignorance of this topic in particular.

That is why, as someone who has worked in public relations and damage control, I consider this article, in and of itself, a “test run” to quantify whether this overwhelming ignorance of the pains befalling our brethren, the Uyghur Muslims, is the result of a conscious public relations effort to keep the topic tightly under wraps!

This said, the issue of faith-based oppression is not the only angle critics are often seen aiming for. Many cite other deep philosophical differences between their ethos (as humanists aspiring for the greater good), as opposed to the Chinese regime’s belief system, to substantiate their full support of the new “alternative” American plan.

In their eyes, such philosophical disparities present themselves in the unethical use of Big-Tech surveillance methods to monitor citizens. This is the bedrock to China’s famed “Social Credit System,” designed to monitor and rate citizens’ and companies’ every move, in a bid to guide their behavior, with the aim of achieving full compliance with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s viewpoint.

Advocates of democracy and human dignity often remark that this style of governance amounts to bringing authoritarianism to the next level. In fact, just a couple of days ago, the American media outlet, Bloomberg, published a piece with an amusing headline that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of oxymoron — titled, “China’s Progressive Authoritarianism.”

Another Bloomberg piece titled, “The Real Reason China is Cracking Down on its Tech Giants,” speaks about sudden and sweeping regulatory measures the Chinese government has recently undertaken to show its tech sector “who is boss” — with the side-effect of wiping some $400 billion off the value of US-listed Chinese companies this month alone.

Analysts say these recent developments are part of the ongoing tug-of-war between the White House and the Asian country.

It is no secret that in early June, President Biden has also issued an “executive order” to enforce a ban on 59 companies, including Huawei, expanding on a Trump-era policy. This move bans Americans from investing in a number of Chinese companies that the US administration says have ties to defence or surveillance technology sectors in China.

As American allies in the region (and beyond) brace themselves for the repercussions of this speedy deterioration in US-Chinese ties, many are wondering about the fate of recent moves to persuade Jordan to join the Belt-and-Road Initiative, as a means to enhance the country’s economic-growth plans.

Jordan’s renewed friendship with the US following the recent Royal visit, and the prospect of an American economic “alternative,” could be enough to put a pin in such proposals, floated recently in the local media.

Navigating what looks like a territorial battle across all regions of the world is definitely an angle to be aware of, before taking any risky measures that could place us at the heart of an ever-escalating situation.

Geopolitics aside, maybe it is also time we started placing issues pertaining to human dignity and the right-to-exist at the top of our priorities as we weigh our economic options. To say it as transparently as possible, no economic gain should blind us to human tragedy, or to our own guiding principles and ethos. In view of all this, the Uyghur Muslims — without a doubt — deserve our unwavering empathy, passionate advocacy, and undivided attention.

Read more Opinion & Analysis