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VICE News

China's new highway could make or break this poor European country

China’s One Belt One Road is designed to reconnect places along China’s ancient silk road trade route — and far beyond.

by Steven Bartus
Jun 5 2018, 7:35pm

China’s One Belt One Road initiative could be the most ambitious infrastructure plan in history. With more than $900 billion committed across four continents, it's already the biggest sovereign infrastructure project ever conducted.

But it's also a leap of faith towards a goal of reshaping global trade by reconnecting places along the historic Silk Road trade route with new ports, highways and railroads.

While most of the projects are concentrated in Asia, China has also extended the initiative beyond its natural sphere of influence. Since 2012, it has made $15 billion worth of infrastructure commitments across central and eastern Europe. For a country like Montenegro, one of Europe’s smallest and poorest, China’s business represents a massive opportunity — and a massive risk.

When the Chinese government guaranteed a loan to Montenegro to finance the construction of one 25 mile stretch of its first-ever highway, one condition was that a Chinese state contractor would do 70 percent of the work.

But the World Bank believes that the Chinese loan — which Montenegro will pay back between 2020 and 2040 — is a threat to Montenegro’s long-term financial stability. VICE News Tonight traveled to the highway to find out where exactly it's leading.

This segment originally aired May 29, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.