The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s most significant effort to project both hard and soft influence into other countries in recent history.
The BRI’s aim of infrastructure building and related economic growth has proven particularly appealing to poor countries, many of which have taken on massive debt in order to achieve such economic growth via infrastructure investment.
Accordingly, the Chinese government has found the “port, park, and city” model to be extremely effective, allowing Beijing to exercise economic control, and in some cases, direct full ownership, over critical pieces of infrastructure around the world. One prominent example of this phenomenon is the 99-year lease of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port to a Chinese company. While the BRI’s physical infrastructure receives the majority of the focus, China is also using gambling firms to project both hard and soft influence into other nations as part of its globalization strategy.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Africa demonstrates another another way to power projection,
this time via the direct and indirect use of gambling firms. The Chinese have invested extensively in African infrastructure, mostly as a result of the port-park-city model, which has been implemented in tandem with the construction of key infrastructure such as highways, dams, and telecommunications infrastructure. In tandem with these developments, the expansion of Chinese gambling machines in Africa has become a big concern in countries such as Ghana and Uganda, where they are illegal.
Because of their cheap initial investment for Chinese operators and local gambling den owners, as well as their even lower cost of participation for players, these machines have been sucking in ever-increasing quantities of money from local Africans. In light of the fact that many of these tiny towns and villages survive on less than one dollar a day, this is extremely troubling. In addition to internet gambling venues, these “one-armed bandits” have also sparked major debate about societal problems like as gambling addictions and teenage tardiness, which have previously been discussed.
A strategic level, several African governments have looked to Chinese-backed casino expansion as a means of accelerating their economic growth and diversification.
Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and Cape Verde are just a few of the countries that fit this description. Because of the long-standing relations that exist between Mozambique and Macau, bilateral commerce between the two countries has reached as high as $2.5 billion dollars, with local politicians hoping to increase this figure even further by wooing Chinese casino construction in the Mozambique capital of Maputo. The late Stanley Ho, who was most known for his government-approved monopoly on the Macau casino industry, invested in a casino in Guinea Bissau while also owning a 60 percent ownership in the country’s sole functional bank, the Banco da Africa Ocidental (Bank of the African Continent) (BAO). In the western African island country of Cape Verde, Macau Legend Development is building a whole casino complex, which is expected to open in late 2021. Gaming services These relatively high-profile investments in Africa immediately project Chinese hard and soft influence in the region, while also facilitating the economic development of the nations in which they are made.
Power projection, which has traditionally been reserved for military and political forces, has achieved a new zenith in an age of intense conflict between major power rivalries. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has provided it with the ability to manipulate nations’ economies, with gambling firms being a particularly novel channel for China to project both hard and soft influence. There is little question that gambling firms help China establish bases of power, whether via physical infrastructure investment and Chinese labor, or by the channeling of Chinese money through offshore gaming operators.