BEIJING: Chinese-finan­ced railways and other projects in Africa and Asia are helping to reduce economic inequality between regions in the countries where they are built, a group of multinational researchers said on Tuesday.

China’s “Belt and Road” initiative has prompted complaints about debt and unease about Beijing’s ambitions among governments from the United States to Russia to India. But a study led by AidData at the College of William & Mary in Virginia strikes a positive note.

The study of 3,485 projects in 138 nations across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East in 2000-14 found they led to a more equal distribution of economic activity by improving access to jobs and markets.

“Western pundits and politicians often claim that Beijing is a reckless, self-serving or sinister actor,” said AidData’s executive director, Bradley C. Parks, in an email. But by helping to spread economic activity more evenly, “Beijing’s investments address one of the root causes of instability around the globe and thus make it easier for Western powers to tackle other global threats and crises.”

The report stressed it focused on only one aspect of Chinese financing.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018