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China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a meeting with Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe announced that China was “ready to provide security guarantees for the One Belt, One Road project” (OBOR).

Why it matters: Beijing has long pitched OBOR — a $4 trillion–$8 trillion integrated energy, transport and mega infrastructure project envisioned as a modern Silk Road — in economic terms. But this latest statement contrasts with Beijing’s earlier rhetoric, suggesting that the project has more important defense-related motives.

A recent study found that Chinese officials are privately more interested in the strategic and political benefits of OBOR than its economic advantages. And there is already significant evidence that OBOR has military implications: One of the largest projects involves the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, which will reportedly be used by the Chinese Navy.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, rising debt for Chinese loans used to develop the Hambantota port recently forced Colombo to grant control to Beijing for 99 years, in return for improved loan terms. While the renegotiated agreement states that China will use the port only for civilian traffic, the new “security guarantee” principle creates a pretext for China to establish a regular military presence around each of its OBOR project areas. If states object, Beijing can easily threaten to increase loan interest rates to force their compliance.

[UNSUPPORTED BLOCK TYPE: axiom]

Frank O’Donnell is a Stanton Nuclear Security Junior Faculty Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center and a nonresident fellow in the Stimson Center’s South Asia Program.

Go deeper

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.