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Silk Road Headlines_U.S. Companies under BRI

Last month the American scholar Robert Gilpin passed away. In 1975, in his book 'U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation', Gilpin had predicted that the US would increasingly be challenged by rising centres of economic power. As a consequence, he believed, there would be a growing divergence between the interests of the US government and those of US multinational corporations. At the same time, the ability of the US government to exert influence on the foreign activities of American corporations would diminish. An indication that such a process may be taking place is the involvement of companies such as GE, Honeywell and Caterpillar in African projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. According to Yun Sun of Brookings: ‘While the governments may still be debating, US companies and individuals have been creatively, actively, and broadly engaging China on BRI projects in Africa.’ [American companies and Chinese Belt and Road in Africa]. In Africa, a potential model could be that major American companies help develop BRI, not just by bringing in technology and equipment, but also through joint fund-raising from non-Chinese sources. Some US multinationals have been participating in BRI from the start. HP, for instance, has been a key actor in setting up direct China-Europe freight trains and the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Route, that connects China to Central Europe via the port of Piraeus. Gilpin’s work has shown that, as tensions between the US and China continue to grow, many US multinationals are more - not less - likely to act independently from their home government. Meanwhile the opposite applies to Chinese multinationals, as the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party have a relatively high degree of leverage over their foreign activities.

By Clingendael

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