China will add CN¥80 billion (US$11 billion) to the expanding investment in their ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), which will bring development benefits for the Maldives, Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Wang Lixin has said at a summit in Beijing, China, commemorating the initiative’s 10th anniversary.

At the 10th-anniversary summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an increase in funding for BRI projects by more than US$100 billion. This increase includes US$47.9 billion in additional funding for China Development Bank, US$47.9 billion for China EXIM Bank, and US$11 billion earmarked for the Silk Road Fund. Ambassador Wang highlighted that the investment in the Silk Road Fund would result in benefits for the Maldives but did not provide further details.

The Maldives joined the BRI during the Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom administration.

The Sinamalé Bridge, which links Malé, Hulhulé, and Hulhumalé – the largest completed infrastructure development project in the Maldives, was undertaken and completed during President-elect Mohamed Muizzu ‘s tenure as the Minister of Housing and Infrastructure in the Yameen administration. China provided 50 percent of the US$200 million cost to build the bridge.

Muizzu, acknowledging the importance of the projects implemented with Chinese assistance in the past, had expressed hope during his campaign, and as president-elect, to maintain close relations with China, as well as other nations who would seek mutual gains, to work towards the Maldives’ development goals.

More than 150 countries have participated in China’s Belt and Road Initiative with China lending towards implementing major infrastructure and development projects in these countries. Critics however continue to point to China’s actions as a ‘debt trap’ saying the debt burden imposed due to China’s assistance is not feasible for most nations.

BRI nations already owe more than US$300 billion to China’s EXIM Bank, the Chinese government confirmed this month. Some have restructured their loans and taken out bailout loans.

The BRI, launched in 2013, has a stated objective of increasing China’s participation in other countries’ infrastructure development for mutual benefit.