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Chinese investment in Belt and Road projects at record high in 2017

Despite a 19% drop in China's overall direct overseas investment in 2017, investment in China President Xi Jinping's flagship Belt and Road Initiative rose to a record $20.1 billion, up 30% from a year ago, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Oct. 8, citing data from the commerce industry.

BRI investment in 64 countries in 2017 beat the previous record of $18.9 billion in 2015. This year could set another record as Chinese investment in BRI countries has already risen 12% to $9.5 billion in the first eight months of 2018, reported the Nikkei.

Most of the investments are in the form of high-interest loans prompting critics to charge China with drowning these countries in debt to gain control of key infrastructure.

The Center for Global Development, a U.S. think tank, in a report released in March, named eight countries that could fall into China's debt trap: Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, Laos, Djibouti, Mongolia, Montenegro, Tajikistan and Pakistan. Citing Sri Lanka as an example, the country had to lease its Hambantota port to China as a form of payment for debts it borrowed for building it, said the report.

Total Chinese investment in the eight countries at the end of 2017 reached $19.2 billion, up 15% from a year earlier. Investment in Laos nearly quadrupled, while that in Djibouti also soared 70% in 2017.