Nearly half of 100 countries evaluated may not be a good fit for the Belt and Road Initiative because of weaknesses in financing and infrastructure � and Beijing should assess and prevent the risks before pushing ahead with projects, Trend reports referring to The South China Morning Post.

That is according to a survey conducted by Peking University and Beijing-based think tank the Taihe Insitute. Researchers looked at the countries according to their relations with China in five areas � policy, infrastructure, trade, financing and human exchanges � to assess their suitability for the initiative.

It comes amid growing scrutiny of Beijing's global investment plan to link Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond, five years after it was launched. While many in China have complained of it being a waste of money, foreign countries have expressed concern over Beijing's growing influence on the world stage and made allegations that the belt and road plan has plunged some nations into debt crises.

According to the researchers' Five Connectivity Index, Russia is at the top of the list for its China-friendly policy, good infrastructure and human exchanges with China. Singapore is second, with the highest scores for trade with China and financing measures. They are followed by Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Germany, ranking from third to fifth.

The Cook Islands was seen as the least suitable country for belt and road projects, followed by Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Bhutan.

Nineteen countries were put in the category of overall smooth integration with the belt and road plan � most of them neighbouring or Southeast Asian nations such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Singapore and Malaysia.

The researchers also identified 14 countries with huge potential for the initiative, including Australia, India, Indonesia and Israel. France is also in that category and scored highly on human exchanges, though it did not do well in the other areas.

But 49 of the countries assessed had weaknesses such as a lack of financing options or infrastructure to carry out belt and road projects, according to the survey.

China should prepare in advance and assess and prevent the risks if a country cannot have free capital exchanges with China, then that country won't have good trade relations and human exchanges with China, the report said.

China needs to make a medium- to long-term policy to implement the Belt and Road Initiative catering to each country's advantages and weaknesses.

The index, sponsored by the National Social Science Fund, has been published since 2016 to evaluate China's overseas investment under the initiative.

It looks at the frequency of mutual visits to each other's countries by leaders of China and belt and road nations, as well as political stability, the legal system, trade figures, currency swaps and tourist numbers to measure the effectiveness of belt and road investment.

Encompassing 65 countries with a combined gross domestic product of US$23 trillion and total population of 4.4 billion, the belt and road strategy was introduced as a way to advance China's political interests abroad while reducing its overcapacity problems at home. Focused on infrastructure, it was to be a model not only for developing countries, but also industrialised nations in Europe and North America that needed to replace ageing facilities and systems.

But many projects have drawn criticism for being overvalued or disconnected to the development needs of the host countries. In Africa, for example, the Nairobi-Mombasa railway project has accumulated substantial losses within a year of operation as cargo traffic has remained on trucks and lorries.

Source: TREND News Agency