Categories
Social Sciences

The Problem with Cashless Societies

This article was written by sixth-former Utkarsh Dandanayak.

Only with the use of technology can we mitigate the adverse effect of technology.

— Utkarsh Dandanayak

Estimated read time: 2 minutes

No one likes parting ways with hard-earned cash. As consumers, this behavioural trait of ours allows us to think twice before engaging in transactions that we may later regret. However, now there is a chance that this trait will be lost, with the introduction of Mastercard, Apple Pay and the like, which digitalise payment processes to provide transactional convenience. What is often forgotten is the subtle but potent side effect — financial abstraction — the fundamental problem with a cashless society.

Financial abstraction is simply a rewording of “out of sight, out of mind”. When we don’t see a physical transfer of money from consumer to vendor (and instead swipe a credit card, for example), it results in a reduction in our perceived value of money. Making money less tangible and thus adding to its abstract nature induces in us a spendthrift attitude.

Disney has invested $1bn in exploiting this habit, with the introduction of “MagicBands” to their theme parks. These allow the wearer to purchase meals and souvenirs from anywhere within Disneyland premises with a wave of their wrist. The result? Per capita spending increased by 8 per cent in the first quarter after their inception due to higher ticket prices and increased food and drink sales.

Financial abstraction can step outside the gates of Disneyland and into consumer markets, the most palpable example being the establishment of mobile payment systems.

A strong upward trend in the usage of mobile payment services is evident. Success is most apparent in China, where the consumer spending boom has allowed “WeChat Pay” (its largest mobile payment provider) to flourish. WeChat had more than 1.09bn users in 2018. Businesses have inevitably followed the money, with countless retailers flocking to offer such payment methods. This story is similar to when credit cards came to the masses 50 years ago.

In 2017, UK mobile payment volume grew by 328 per cent and UK consumer debt rose by 11 per cent. Abstraction is at play once more. Our natural pragmatism incentivises the usage of cashless payments, while our conception of money is distorted to become more illusory, increasing one’s propensity to spend indiscriminately, thus inducing debt.

Although debt is fine in moderation, extreme levels mean that “millions are living on the financial precipice, leaving them vulnerable to financial shocks,” explains Mike O’ Connor, the former chief executive of debt charity StepChange. 

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that younger generations are using these services extensively. Such abstraction may cause children, who are more likely to see money as limitless, to be prone to future financial mismanagement.

While I do not oppose the use of electronic payment systems, financial education must become a priority in anticipation of the transition to cashless societies. Furthermore, I believe that we should employ the free online financial tools made available to most individuals, including budgeting apps such as Mint, that allow one to track digital spending as well as informing one when certain bills are due. 

Only with the use of technology can we mitigate the adverse effect of technology.

Categories
Arts & Humanities Classics History

Did racism exist in the ancient world?

This long-read article was written by upper sixth former Sebastian Norris.

Estimated read time of introduction: 1 minute

Estimated read time of essay: 11 minutes

Introduction

Setting aside preconceptions and a modern, judgemental approach is difficult when discussing racism in the ancient world, due to the pertinence of the issue in our society. However, it is also easy to justify ancient attitudes by the argument that racism as we know it has only existed in more modern times. Therefore, to avoid getting involved in debate about how to define racism, I am regarding racism as the belief that one’s race is superior in some way to others, as such beliefs are at the very heart of racial discrimination.

In order to discuss the question in some depth, I am only considering the ancient Greeks, as their beliefs and prejudices have been so influential, especially since they were formative for the Romans’ views and therefore endured for a long time. However, it is also important to consider the difference between racism and xenophobia, as despite the common use of the word racism describing hate crimes or speech, it is fundamentally the ideology of superiority of a race, whereas xenophobia is the fear or hatred of foreigners.

Within these parameters, clearly some form of racism did exist in the ancient world, as the ancient Greeks had a strong sense of superiority over non-Greeks, seen both in their attitude towards foreigners, for whom they had a collective term (‘βαρβαροι’) to signify that they were not Greek, and in how they saw themselves, that is, as a pure race descended from the Earth itself, giving them a sense of superiority over other races.

To view Seb’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
Economics Social Sciences

A Cashless Economy?

This short-read article was written by fifth former Johnny Kershaw.

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Cash is king? Not so much these days. What are the potential benefits of a cashless society, and what might be the downsides?

For an economy to be successful, it is reliant on its ability to carry out commerce smoothly. It is for this reason a plethora of innovations and technologies have led to numerous ways to pay for things. In the face of this, cash is still preferred for its ease of use, representing 30% of all transactions1 in 2018.  

However, the decline of cash is happening all around us; in Australia there is soon to be a law banning any cash payment over $10,000. It is therefore worth examining the benefits and downsides of a cashless society and explaining why we are not quite ready for this revolution.  

Practically, benefits of a cashless society are simple: you cannot just lose your money like if you were to lose your wallet; a credit or debit card can be replaced whereas physical notes are lost forever. Banks also reward customers with things like airline points.2  

Day to day, crime rates would drop as there is no physical money to steal and any money laundering would be easily traced by its digital footprint. A study by American and German researchers found that crime in Missouri dropped by 9.8% as the state replaced cash welfare benefits with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. 3 

Sceptics of a cashless society would fairly argue that the transition to a world without cash would be incredibly difficult. However, China may have proved otherwise. The country has created a QR code payment system where apps like WeChat have been made a cultural norm. Just by the downloading of an app and the scanning of a code, cash has been removed from the equation. In the USA in 2019, credit card payments totalled 4.1 trillion dollars compared to China’s payment apps which totalled a jaw dropping 41 trillion dollars. This difference is far bigger than can be explained by population difference and shows how easy it can be to transition to a cashless society.  

For large providers such as visa, a cashless society is undoubtedly a desirable thing. This is primarily because of the merchant fee they receive per transaction. This fee allows them to receive a percentage of the payment as high as 2.9% every time anything is bought with a card. Another factor is the ultimate power they would hold over economies for, as private companies, they could deny service to anyone they wanted.  

However, one could easily argue that this is a downside of a cashless society and this power should not be given to the CEOs of massive corporations.  

Furthermore, credit cards can hurt finances in the long run. Depending on the provider, interest rates can be as high as 30% if not paid back within the set time. 

A life without cash could also “make it more difficult for clients to manage their day-to-day spending”.4 A 2018 paper published by the Bank of International Settlements found that there was “a strong correlation between a person’s credit score and their propensity to consume.”5   

Another concern for cashless societies is how susceptible people’s life savings would be to hacking and data breaches such as the infamous EQUIFAX affair where 400,000 UK accounts and 143 million US accounts were compromised.6 This presents a problem that, without a doubt, has a solution but one we have not yet completely discovered.  

It has also been argued that a cashless society will further exacerbate economic inequality. For example, if smartphone purchases become the standard way to transact, the 5% of people in the UK7 who don’t have one will be left behind by society and stuck in a cycle of poverty.8 

Examples of cashless society and an assessment of success:  

In Sweden, according to the European Payments Council, cash transactions accounted for just 1% of Sweden’s GDP in 2019. The response from the people has been largely happy, but those who struggle to keep up with technical development, such as the elderly, continue to rely on cash.9 This case study showed some success but failed to address the marginalised as afore mentioned could happen. 

To conclude, in the same way as gold ingots in the past, cash will disappear eventually, and this has its benefits. But, for the moment, “cash is king”10 and so long live the King!  

Categories
Arts & Humanities FTRP Geography

What does the future hold for town centres?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Ollie Robinson, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 2 minutes
Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

In order to try and predict a future for the high street, this report will cover its current state and look at whether or not it’ll be able to adapt. In order to survive, the high street will need to reinvent itself, moving its focus on its social aspects. 

Firstly, why is the high street declining? There are three main reasons: 

  1. The high street faces steep competition. Online shopping as well as large out of town stores have been taking customers away from the high street due to their superior convenience and price. 
  1. Poor infrastructure of town centres has been affecting the high street, in the sense of there being not enough parking and expensive public transport, making shopping at the high street even less convenient. 
  1. The high cost of running a physical store means it’s hard for stores to compete with alternatives such as online shopping pricewise. 

All these factors are putting more financial pressure on high street stores, causing many of them to shut. 

So how can the high street tackle its competition? Firstly, the high street could try to match the online stores in price and convenience. This has been attempted by large chain companies through integrating technology with the high street but even their sales have been diminishing. Small high street stores that are already under a lot of financial pressure couldn’t compete with online stores, with any attempt being too expensive. 

Physical stores can’t match their competition. However, there are ways the high street can still compete: 

Firstly, the existence of service stores such as hairdressers may ensure some future for the high street, as we need these stores and need them to be physical. 

Secondly, the social aspects of the high street and face to face interaction is another way the high street can’t be matched by online shopping. The high street’s shift towards social features is a way it can survive and is something that’s already happening. Coffee shops, gyms and pubs (all social stores) have been growing despite the high street’s decline. Similarly, experience-based stores such as theatres stand out as another aspect of the high street that can’t be replicated online. 

One case study is Bristol. In 2008, the shopping centre Cabot Circus was opened in the town. Additionally, more investment was put into the nightlife venues of Bristol’s high street. These are both examples of emphasising social aspects of the high street and these changes were incredibly successful for Bristol’s high street.  

In conclusion, the high street is facing difficulties. Emphasising the social aspects of the high street has been shown to work in strengthening it. The future of the high street could depend on the level of intervention the government is willing to put into facilitating these changes, although the fact that these changes are happening naturally suggests there is a future for the high street as a social hub. 

To read Ollie’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
FTRP Law & Politics Social Sciences

Has financial background and race impacted the crime rates in the UK for the past 10 years and why, and what are the ways to fix it?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Zion Kim, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 2 minutes
Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

When I was writing this FTRP project, it was during a time when every social media platform, every news site was flooded with ‘facts’ or posts about racial injustice, and racism in the police force. There was especially a huge outrage due to the death due to police brutality of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Eliah McClain. However all these cases being American, I wanted to find out how serious of a problem this issue was in the UK. I had watched John Boyega’s speech and thought that if I was going to do an FTRP that I was interested in, I should do it on how ethnicity and financial backgrounds effect crime rates in the UK.   

The moment I started my research, there was already a clear indication that there were more minorities being arrested in comparison to those of white ethnicity, the most ethnicity that was being arrested the most often being black. Not only this, but although it may seem as if the problem of racial prejudice has started to improve, data showed that whereas the proportion of white inmates in youth offender institutions overall decreased in the past decade, the proportion of black inmates had been experiencing an increase. This was not the only problem, as I also found out that those who were earning very low wages in comparison to the average, were much more likely to be victims of crime. So what could be the reason to all this imbalance?  

Upon further research, I realised that this was not an easy question to answer. There was no straightforward answer, there were many causes and many problems that led to a simple answer. One of the main causes was the fact that households with lower income were often underfunded by the government, and that most minority ethnicities had a lower income in comparison to the white ethnicity. My research indicated that poor funding, poor education and many other factors eventually led to many financially struggling individuals, many of a minority ethnicity committing crimes and being charged. This was made no better with the police force being predominantly white, which could lead to more tensions due to difference in race.  

However, what would be really useful would be to look at what can be done to improve the situation, as feeling down about the problem would not make anyone feel better. Although I wasn’t able to find the best solution to this problem, some things that the government could try to do would be to encourage higher employment rates in the education sector and the police force.  

To conclude, I would say that my project showed that there is a grave problem that needs to be addressed: ethnic minorities are at a disadvantage in face of the UK’s law enforcement and system. There are many causes to this, however what we can do to help solve this is something that everyone can have a think about.  

To view Zion’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
FTRP Law & Politics Social Sciences

How can sport reduce the problem of overcrowding in British prisons?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Barney Doyle, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 2 minutes
Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

Britain has a crippling overcrowding problem in prisons costing billions of taxpayers’ money. Two thirds of prisons are overcrowded leading to increases in levels of violence and poor mental health amongst inmates. This leads to longer prison sentences exacerbating a catastrophic problem. However, in my FTRP I propose a solution that is unorthodox but potentially very effective in reducing rates of reoffending and hence prison overcrowding. 

There are many well documented benefits to physical and mental health from regular participation in sport – such as reduced risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, different types of cancer, reduced risk of depression, dementia, etc. Also, sport teaches lessons that are invaluable in life in general like: 

  • Teamwork 
  • Tenacity 
  • How to receive instructions – for example from captains or coaches 

There are also reports of how sport helps to reduce crime in communities all around the world.  For example, crime dropped by over 10% in Chicago when the Chicago Bears played American Football with potential offenders occupied by watching the game rather than committing crime. The chief custodial officer of New Zealand has spoken of the significance of participating in sport in prison saying it is ‘A great way of establishing a community spirit’.  

Regular participation in sport has also been shown to have the potential to reduce the number of re-offending prisoners. Inspired by Project Alcatraz, a project in Venezuela using rugby to help prisoners in some of the toughest prisons in the world, I created a programme for newly released prisoners in the UK. Project Alcatraz has been extremely effective at reducing the reoffending rate in Venezuela and I describe this successful project in my report.  My proposals involve setting up a network of support groups using over 60 rugby and football teams to help provide ex-prisoners with counselling, food, courses in various trades, transport to and from games and free kit.  Arguably most importantly, my proposals would provide a support network of people all going through the same experiences and challenges who are able to offer advice and help when it could matter the most. In addition, I detail the costs of running this programme and demonstrate how it could be not only self-funding but in fact save the Government tens of millions of pounds every year. 

In my report I explain how sport is not only one approach, but in my opinion the best way to reduce the 18,000 people overcrowded in British prisons today. 

To view Barney’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
Economics FTRP Social Sciences

Nudges – Marketing or Mind Control?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Tom Wright, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. . The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 2 minutes
Estimated read time of essay: 14 minutes

Nudges are apparent throughout all aspects of our daily lives, acting as a hidden force influencing a significant part of how we live and make decisions. Put simply, a nudge can be viewed as a small deliberate action made to intentionally influence an individual’s decision-making process. Take for example the layout of a supermarket, depending on where items are placed in the shop changes people’s perceptions of them. People will associate the most prominent products as being ‘better’ when in reality there is no rational or logical reasoning for this. Richard Thaler, one of the founders of nudge theory, suggests that nudges should be viewed as a sat-nav; you follow them as they guide you to your destination whilst not preventing you from choosing an alternate route. If nudges follow libertarian paternalistic principles which involves guiding individuals into a decision while not compromising their freedom to choose, is a nudge just an effective marketing technique or can we view it as a form of mind-control? 

To answer this question we must first understand what the key characteristics of a nudge are. A nudge must obey two principles; it must alter people’s behaviour and it must not compromise an individual’s freedom to choose. Secondly, we must analyse the extent to which the characteristics of a nudge align with the criteria of a marketing technique or that of mind-control. Marketing is defined as only ever being an offer to the customer and that this offer must be beneficial to them. Whereas mind-control can be defined by its unethical motives and manipulative nature. A nudge contains elements of both marketing and mind-control, so we must determine which classification the nudge more closely align to.  

The two main lines of argument which support the view that a nudge is a form of marketing are that a nudge is only an offer because the recipient ultimately makes the decision. If viewed as mind-control then this would imply that a pre-determined decision would be forced upon the recipient, meaning the action would no longer fit the definition of a nudge. Secondly, the most beneficial option to the recipient is still there, it is their responsibility to choose the option that they want most. Conversely, there are some attributes of a nudge that are shared with that of mind-control. These include its unethical motives, where weaknesses within the cognitive system are specifically exploited. However, it could be argued that it is impossible for companies not to nudge, making it less unethical. The second line of argument for a nudge being classed as mind-control is its manipulative nature, whereby the recipient is not informed of the fact that their choice is being subtly influenced by external factors. The high success rate nudges have in changing the decisions people make demonstrates the degree to which a nudge is manipulative.  

Whilst there are arguments which would suggest that a nudge is a form of mind-control, on balance I believe a nudge can be viewed as a marketing technique. To continue Thaler’s analogy, the nudge is the sat-nav guiding us to a decision but we are ultimately the ones in the driving seat. 

To view Tom’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
Arts & Humanities FTRP Psychology

In living colour: how colour has impacted the advertisement industry.

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Alejandro Scholfield-Pérez, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. . The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 10 minutes

Colour is a fundamental asset to the metaphorical toolbox of mankind. Approximately 30 million years ago during the Oligocene epoch, the structure of the eye evolved to accommodate simple depictions of colour. Colour would become pivotal to the development of the human eye, an acute sensory organ used primarily to detect prey. Presently, whilst colour is still an important aspect of our vision regarding our survivability, it is far more commonly exploited in the realms of advertising.  

In my FTRP, I dissect the underlying factors contributing to the success of colour implementation in marketing and how chroma and value; which determine a colour’s features, are used to elicit impulses and responses to posters, advertisements and even government campaigns. Throughout this dissertation, I will be assessing the current information present on the effect of colour on brand recognition and critique it in order to discern its impact on the marketing industry. 

In order to achieve a sound understanding of the makeup of colour, I had to research a plethora of articles, magazines and most importantly – consulting my art teachers. Throughout the process of writing this FTRP, I gained a solid foundation in regard to the effect of colour on our everyday lives, and its effect on brand recognition and advertisements which allowed me to properly critique the information that I later researched through scholarly articles.  

My process of writing this dissertation; become one of several hours of work. My goal was to try and relay all the information necessary in a concise, understandable manner to allow for the formation of informed discussion and conversation around the nature surrounding the effectiveness of advertisements. A topic that I believe to be extremely important in the 21st century – where information and influence has become the new global currency.  

To view Alejandro’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
Arts & Humanities FTRP Geography Law & Politics

USA vs New Zealand: To what extent do their national flags represent their population?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Matthew Kassir, and shortlisted for the 2020 Fifth Form Transitional Research Project. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: < 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 12 minutes

For centuries, flags have formed a major part of our national identity, a symbol for which we belong to and believe in. As times changes, so do nations, and this report looks at two topical, yet different flags, namely those of the United States and New Zealand; assessing to what extent these flags still accurately represent their population, and whether a change is due?

Arguably, The Star-Spangled Banner is one of the most compelling symbols of national pride in this world, with the rich history it entails, and its projected message of ‘the American dream’; the post-colonial flag, historically, has been synonymous with the strong patriotism of its citizens. However, as we see more controversies shroud the nation every year, in relation to racial and ethnic equality, Americans demand change – a change so drastic that a new symbol of their nation is vital? 

On the other hand, this report examines the flag of New Zealand, looking closely at the referendum in 2016, and how even though all roads led change for the pre-colonial symbol, 56% of voters decided this outdated and possibly discriminative flag should still represent their national identity. Whether that be due to respect for their fallen soldiers, or even the economic cost of changing it, the report will ask why the flag has not changed, and if it realistically ever should?

To view Matthew’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
Arts & Humanities Classics

Do ancient historians tell us more about myth than real events?

This long-read article was written by lower-sixth former Mattie Sutton. The following provides a short abstract to his full essay, which can be found at the bottom.

Estimated read time of abstract: < 1 minute
Estimated read time of essay: 7 minutes

We’ve all heard of Greek and Roman myths – The Cyclops, Icarus, etc. – they’re one of the most appealing parts of Classics. Another area full of interest is Ancient History, home to defining battles, decisions and speeches that are still studied today. However, sometimes these areas collide, meaning Ancient History isn’t always like the “History” of today. This naturally leads to the question, how useful is Ancient History? Does it tell us more about myth or real events?

In this short essay we’ll examine four titans of historical world: Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius and Livy. We’ll examine what they wrote and why they wrote it, examining how much myth was used, and to what effect. Overall however, we’ll see that it’s not as easy as it first seems to separate myth from fact, and actually myth had its own role to play in Ancient History.

To view Mattie’s full article, follow this link below.

Categories
Arts & Humanities Economics Geography Lower School Social Sciences

Have receiving countries benefited from the Belt and Road Initiative?

This long-read article was written by second former Gavin Sivakumaran.

Estimated read time: 8 minutes

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a $1,300,000,000 plan which was initiated by Xi Jinping, the President of China in 2013. Various nations in Africa, Asia and Europe are interconnected with China through land and oceanic networks like highways, seaports and railroads. More than 65 have signed up to the Initiative, to strengthen globalisation across the world, develop economies and infrastructure in countries that are struggling, and open world trade. In this essay, I will judge whether the receiving countries have benefited from China’s Belt and Road Initiative economically and socially. I will look at the projects that have happened in the country, how successful they were and how much debt the country has to China. I will also conclude whether countries have benefited from the Belt and Road Initiative. 

In 2010, China had partially moved out of the manufacturing sector, so it experienced a growth decline. So, the Government thought that investing in other countries could create a lot of money because if the country grows very quickly and pays back loans and interest to China, China could earn a lot of money. However, many critics of the BRI state that China is using the BRI to increase leverage over LICs countries and making them depend on China for their development, leading to China becoming the next global superpower. 

Sri Lanka is one of the countries that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Hambantota Port, a maritime port, was built by China Harbour Engineering Company and with Chinese loans. It was built because more than 23,000 ships pass Hambantota (a district in Sri Lanka), so it would be a good location to load, dock and refuel ships, and would hopefully generate a lot of money. As the port incurred heavy losses, making debt repayment difficult, in 2016 the newly-elected government, led by Ranil Wickremesinghe, decided to privatise an 80% stake of the port and give it to China Merchants Port Holdings Co. for $1.1 billion on a 99-year lease, to raise foreign exchange. The port was built by Chinese people and the shipping workers who work there are mainly Chinese people. The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is another example of an infrastructure project that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Although Sri Lanka was able to pay for the airport, it had a low number of flights, so it has been dubbed as ‘The World’s Emptiest Airport.’ In addition to this, China has built many factories, highways and power plants in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has not been able to pay back for all of these. As of 2020, there is still an ongoing project called Colombo International Financial Centre better known as Port City Colombo, which will be an environmentally sustainable SEZ (Special Economic Zone), costing $15 billion and is what the Sri Lankan Government believes will generate enough money to pay off all Sri Lanka’s debt and attract top international investors. Most of the construction workers that are working on this project are Chinese but China promises that the SEZ (Special Economic Zone) will create 80,000 new jobs when completed for Sri Lankans. In Sri Lanka, the economic gains from the BRI are less obvious since most of the projects have been given back to China or have not received their full potential; they can be described as a ‘white elephant,’ which means a non-valuable object which its owner cannot easily dispose of. Additionally, social gains are also not obvious because most of the people building the infrastructure in Sri Lanka are Chinese and they also dominate the number of people who work in these projects after construction (shipping workers etc.). Therefore, the BRI has not been beneficial in Sri Lanka. 

Maldives is also one of the countries that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Under the Presidency of Abdullah Yameen, Maldives undertook many China-funded projects. This includes the expansion of their only airport, the construction of several resorts and the construction of the China Maldives Friendship Bridge, which is a bridge that interconnects the island of the capital of Maldives, Malé with the island in which Velana International Airport (Maldives’s only airport) is located. This bridge brought economic and social benefits to the Maldives. Before the bridge was constructed, travellers would have to travel by boat to reach the capital. This bridge allowed taxi drivers in Malé to pick up fares from Velana International Airport. Also, the building of several resorts has created jobs for the locals in the Maldives. In 2018, Maldives owed $600m directly to China (which they have borrowed for housing, the expansion of the airport and the construction of bridges) and was liable for another $935m of guaranteed loans (which they have borrowed for power infrastructure, building resorts and road infrastructure). Altogether, debt to China amounted to one-third of their GDP in 2019. This shows that the Maldives has not benefited economically. Socially, jobs have been created from resorts built by China and taxi drivers have been able to earn more because they can now pick up fares from Velana Airport. Consequently, the BRI has been quite beneficial to the Maldives. 

Pakistan is another country that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2013, CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) was introduced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to further enhance connectivity between the two countries. China and Pakistan are such good friends that during Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan, he stated ‘This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my brother.’ CPEC projects that have already built and that are still being built include several hydropower projects, a railway linking the cities of Karachi and Peshawar, a freight railway linking Kunming and Karachi, Gwadar Port, Gwadar Port City (which includes a coal plant and hospital) and Gwadar International Airport. Most of the people who are building these projects are Chinese workers. $17 billion was owed to China by Pakistan by 2020 (6.25% of GDP that year). In Gwadar, China’s promises of better infrastructure and job creation have not materialised. Most of the people who work in Gwadar Port are Chinese and most Pakistanis living in Gwadar fear that once the Gwadar Port project is finished, they won’t be able to work there, because they think that Chinese workers will be brought to work there. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has raised the expatriate population, which has grown from 20,000 in 2013 to 60,000 in 2018. Also, the Pakistanis in Gwadar cannot continue fishing (the main economic activity in Gwadar) because land reclamation cuts their access to the sea. In 2020, China built a joint naval and air force base in Pakistan. Economic benefits are not apparent because Pakistan has huge sums of debt to China. Furthermore, social gains are less obvious because the people of Gwadar cannot continue their jobs of fishing due to land reclamation for Gwadar Port and they fear that the jobs created by CPEC will be taken by the Chinese expatriate population entering the country. Therefore, the BRI has not benefited Pakistan. 

Kazakhstan is another country that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With the help of China, Kazakhstan has built a multimillion-dollar land port, special economic zone and town with the help of China. All of this was built near the most landlocked, remote place on Earth called the Eurasian Point of Inaccessibility. Kazakhstan and China chose this area to lure manufacturers to the area that might want to take advantage of an overland shipping route to Europe, establishing Kazakhstan as a logistics and manufacturing hub. The infrastructure projects that China has built in Kazakhstan are on the border between the two countries, next to the Xinjiang Province in China. The land port (Khorgos Land Port) is the largest land port in the world. Once the port was built it didn’t attract many clients. Recently, there has been a steady increase, due to heavy subsidies given by the Chinese Government to companies that use the route. Additionally, less cargo has come back from Europe due to the trade imbalance. Looking at how ambitious the Kazakhstan and Chinese Governments were about the project, their predictions have been very higher than reality. Khorgos Land Port had 160,000 TEU of cargo going through the port in 2019. To put that into perspective, Shanghai, the world’s busiest port, had 43.3 million TEU of cargo going through the port in 2019. That is roughly 270 times Khorgos’s amount. Economic gains in Kazakhstan are quite clear because there has been an increase in clients using the Khorgos port. Consequently, the BRI has been quite beneficial to Kazakhstan. 

UK is one of the countries that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Yiwu-London freight train was launched in January 2017. As of 2018, the network had expanded to cover 48 Chinese cities and 42 European destinations, delivering goods between China and Europe. This railway line has not only boosted China – UK trade but has also increased China-Europe. Figures show that nearly 3000 trains between January and April 2020, carrying roughly 262,000 TEU. Economic gains in the UK are very clear due to the increase in trade from the BRI. Therefore, the BRI has benefited the UK. 

Djibouti is another country that is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Data shows that in 2020, Djibouti’s debt to China accounted for more than 70% of its GDP. China has constructed two airports in Djibouti, extended Doraleh Port and built a naval base. There have been concerns that China will turn many of the ports constructed across the Indian Ocean into naval bases, to increase its military presence across the world and control the Indian Ocean shipping route. Economic gains in Djibouti are less obvious since debt to China accounts for more than 70% of their GDP. And although Djibouti’s Government agreed to build a naval base for China, this may begin a “String of Pearls” and will affect other countries across the Indian Ocean. Consequently, the BRI has not benefited Djibouti. 

In conclusion, receiving countries have not benefited from the BRI. Many countries have had to sell back projects to China or are in large debt to them. China is using what is referred to as debt-trap diplomacy (where a powerful lending country brings a borrowing country into a debt-trap and increases its leverage over it) to try and become the global superpower. Furthermore, China believes that by creating a network of dependencies across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, China will be able to have more influence around the globe (This is known as Infrastructure Imperialism or Infrastructure Diplomacy). The String of Pearls theory, which predicts that China is trying to establish a string of naval bases in the Indian Ocean that will allow it to station ships and guard shipping routes that move through the region (the Indian Ocean is the home to one of the largest shipping routes in the world that interconnect Africa and the Middle East with South East Asia), is likely to become true.