China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—a dense network of China-funded multi-year infrastructure projects in over 65 countries from the Western Pacific to the Baltic Sea, collectively aiming to establish China's strategic "Maritime Belt" and "Silk Road" connectivity using an estimated range of USD$1 Trillion to USD$8 Trillion—is as unprecedented phenomenon in sovereign project financing and bilateral investment lending, since the United States' grant of USD $800 Billion for the Marshall Plan was for Europe’s post World War II reconstruction. The scale, scope, and terms of BRI projects remain shrouded in relative opacity, with China as of this writing only incrementally disclosing debt sustainability policies and lending terms, largely after there was significant international public clamor for more transparency. The 2017 formal handover of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka to China (under a 99-year lease as part of debt repayment due to Sri Lanka’s default) raises caution for populations of other BRI debtor states concerned, such as: (1) ensuring accountable democratic sovereignty in bilateral lending agreements with China; (2) building in transparency as BRI debtor states act in partnership with China to design short-term and long-term development strategies; and (3) determining Chinese firms operating the BRI projects can be held to observe guaranteed human rights standards in the performance of business activities under the aegis of BRI financing.
Desierto, Diane A., "The Complexities of Democracy, Development, and Human Rights in China's Belt and Road Initiative" (2020). Connecticut Journal of International Law. 3.