China’s Belt & Road New Paradigm for Development: United States Should Join

April 18, 2019

Belt and Road Creates New Asian Paradigm for Global Economic Integration and Inclusiveness

That is the headline on an April 15 {Global Times} op-ed by Toumert Al, the director of Education, International Bachelor Program at the International School under the China Foreign Affairs University. The article provides a tour d’horizon of BRI achievements to date in infrastructure projects on various continents.

“In South Asia, the Belt and Road Initiative is seen as a main driver for infrastructure construction in a region that must bridge the ever-growing gap between its economic potential and the realities of its insufficient infrastructure. According to the World Bank, South Asia requires about 2 trillion dollars of investment in infrastructure construction from 2011 to 2020 if the region wants to be part of the new economic order shaping the future.” The article then discusses a couple of key projects, such as the Padma bridge in Bangladesh and Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Nigeria’s Mambilla Hydro-Electric Dam-3,000 megawatts (courtesy nigerianmuse.com)

“True to its global status and inclusive nature, the BRI is not merely a regional initiative. Africa can be considered a major beneficiary of  China’s economic drive to support the continent’s development and to help its infrastructure and economy achieve targeted growth plans. The year 2018 could be considered the turning point for the BRI in Africa as the signing of the MOU of cooperation between China and 37 African countries and the African Union raised the initiative to a new level. Infrastructure financing provided by China to Africa averaged $11.5 billion between 2012 and 2016.” Examples cited include the $5.8 billion Mambila Hydropower Plant in Nigeria, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, the $11 billion port in Bagamoyo, Tanzania now under construction, and the Nairobi-Mombasa railway project. “Another project that is moving forward and may have the same implications as CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) has in South Asia is the Suez Canal corridor in Egypt,” the Toumert wrote. In short, the BRI “is a truly new paradigm in international cooperation.”

The Belt and Road Initiative Keeps Growing

China is now engaged in heavy organizing in the countdown to the April 26-27 Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which will bring together representatives of over 100 countries and 29 international organizations. Just how powerful a draw the BRI is to nations across the planet, was shown earlier this week when the tiny Caribbean nation of Jamaica announced that they had signed an MOU with China on the BRI –notwithstanding the withering pressure that Washington and London have brought to bear. A similar, if strategically weightier example of this process was Italy’s signing an MOU with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang yesterday discussed China’s approach to the upcoming Forum: “While the BRI was proposed by China, it has grown into an international public good. The success of the first BRF together with the bumper practical outcomes speaks volumes. The fact that more countries and international organizations are taking an active part in the second forum is further proof to its success.”

Asked about media accounts that India would not be sending a delegation–as they hadn’t to the First Belt and Road Forum–because they view the BRI’s China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as infringing on Indian sovereignty, Lu responded:

“I would like to reiterate that the BRI is an open and inclusive initiative for economic cooperation. It never concerns territorial disputes. In pursuing BRI cooperation, China and partner countries are committed to equality, openness and transparency, to business operations centered around enterprises and to market rules and international norms. For those with inaccurate judgment on the BRI based on misunderstandings due to lack of knowledge of the real situation, I would like to reassure them that China is sincerely and resolutely committed to the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefit, equality and mutual benefit. Since its initiation, the Belt and Road cooperation has been inclusive and open to all countries that are interested in joining and working for win-win cooperation. It excludes no one. If the relevant country would like to take some time to see, we can wait.”

Meanwhile, Xinhua interviewed Cambodia’s Information Minister Khieu Kanharith who said that “the BRI forum will also further promote cooperation between China and ASEAN and between China and Cambodia…. For Cambodia, with Chinese assistance, we can build mega-infrastructure projects, and those projects are crucial to boosting economic growth and making communication easier and faster…. Our first priority is to boost economic growth and to make everybody have a fair share of the economic growth, The BRI can help us through sup-porting infrastructure projects and human resources development.”

He continued: “China has assisted us on equal footing, meaning that although China is a big country and Cambodia is a small country, China always treats us equally. With Chinese support, Cambodia has gained confidence in ourselves and our people are proud and confident in rebuilding the country.”

Chinese Insist the U.S. Should Join the Belt and Road

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank President Jin Liqun told last weekend’s Harvard China Forum that the “infrastructure bottlenecks are the sewage problems of development. I would say that that’s also a problem for the United States”–a statement Americans can agree with. He presented the Belt and Road Initiative as “a platform for all participating countries to work together, including on connectivity,” which he called a matter not only of regional development, but also of “world peace and prosperity.”

When a discussion arose on how China had gone from being a debtor nation dependent on foreign development assistance, to one of the largest contributors to the World Bank’s International Development Assistance facility today, Jin pointedly commented that how much money a country has is not the issue.

“Accumulated wealth cannot buy you respect unless you help do good things for the rest of the world. So China has been trying to invest and help other countries through its own experience,” Jin stated.

At a Center for China and Globalization conference in Beijing over the same weekend, Jin Xin, director of the China Center for Contemporary World Studies of the Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, took on the arguments of former U.S. Ambassador Terry Miller (from the G.W. Bush days), who asserted the U.S. had no interest in participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, which is viewed as “a Chinese show” that “doesn’t have much to do with us.” Jin Xin countered that the U.S. should work with China in third-country markets under the BRI. If it decides not to do so, the U.S. will again find itself “excluded,” just as it excluded itself from the AIIB, in which more than 90 countries are now members, Jin said.

China’s Belt & Road Redefining Globalization & International Relations for Belt-Road Forum

April 10, 2019

Preparations for the Second Belt and Road Forum

On March 29, Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, spoke at length with the media about preparations for the late April Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping addressing 1st Belt Road Forum on May 15, 2017. (image credit: Reuters/Nicloas Asfouri)

“Since its inception, the BRI has received strong endorsement and warm support of the international community. So far, a total of 124 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. Most recently, during President Xi’s visit to Italy, the two countries signed an MOU on promoting BRI cooperation, giving a new impetus to this process. Meanwhile, the BRI vision has been included in documents of major international institutions including the United Nations, the G20, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Indeed, the BRI has proved a popular and worthy cause that goes along with the trend of our times and responds to the shared aspiration of countries for development through mutually beneficial cooperation. Looking back at this pursuit over the last few years, I would draw your attention to the positive role the BRI has played in the following three ways…

“The BRI has created new impetus and opportunities for global growth.

“Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis in 2008, to create both new growth drivers and a new cycle of global growth has become a common task for the international community. The BRI aims to address the fundamental issue of promoting development by enhancing all-round connectivity. It has helped countries involved to remove development bottlenecks and implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This initiative has thus become an important way for boosting global growth.

“The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the BRI cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2% and those of trade along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor by 10.2%. What is more, it will contribute at least 0.1% of global growth in 2019….

“As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the BRI aims to replace estrangement with exchanges between different civilizations, replace clashes with mutual learning and replace a sense of superiority with coexistence; and it aims to boost mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual trust among different countries. So the BRI is a sure path toward peace and cooperation for win-win outcomes.

“The vision of building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind is an important component of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. The BRI champions mutual respect, consultation on an equal footing, openness and inclusiveness, and mutual benefit. It is an approach to global governance featuring consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. And it aims to promote connectivity the world over. These are all important dimensions of the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and a new type of international relations….

“The BRF is the highest-level platform for Belt and Road cooperation where all parties concerned meet to build consensus and adopt plans for future cooperation. We have set up a BRF Advisory Council consisting of leading international figures to provide advice on the growth of the Forum. In addition, China and other participating countries have in recent years set up platforms for multilateral cooperation on port, shipping, finance, taxation, energy, culture, think tank, the media and other areas and launched initiatives on a green Silk Road and a clean Silk Road….

“The opportunities come with the BRI’s growing international influence, moral appeal and cooperation potential. Against the backdrop of mounting protectionism and unilateralism in the world, the BRI principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits has gained wide recognition. Support for the BRI is the mainstream view of the international community, and the opportunities created by BRI cooperation are widely appreciated in the global community….

“The opportunities come with the accelerated industrialization of a vast number of developing countries, a process which generates new demands in infrastructure connectivity and industrial investment, and promises huge potential for international cooperation…

“We have noticed that some people have expressed different views about the BRI, claiming that the Initiative is China’s geopolitical tool and could cause some countries to fall into a debt trap. Such views are less than objective or balanced. They are simply a misunderstanding, misrepresentation and even biased view of the BRI….

“China and other 27 countries have jointly adopted the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road, which highlights the need to ensure debt sustainability in project financing. In case our cooperation partners face difficulties in servicing debts, China will properly address this issue through friendly consultation, and will never press them for debt payment. As a matter of fact, no country has got trapped in a debt crisis since its participation in the BRI. Quite on the contrary, it is through participating in BRI cooperation that many countries have got out of the trap of no development….

“The theme of this year’s BRF is: ‘Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future,’ and the Forum events include the opening ceremony, a leaders’ round-table, a high-level meeting, thematic forums, a CEO conference and other side events. “Representatives from over 100 countries, including about 40 leaders of foreign governments, have confirmed their attendance. As the host country, we will, together with other Forum parties, take stock of what has been achieved and draw a blueprint for future cooperation to further enrich BRI cooperation….

“BRI cooperation is not a talk shop, but an action-oriented initiative that delivers real outcomes. The second BRF is expected to produce a full range of outcomes, including both governmental cooperation agreements and initiatives, and concrete cooperation projects involving participation of the business sector. All these will be included in a list of deliverables and be released in due course. We are confident that the second BRF will produce even greater numbers of cooperation outcomes that are of still higher quality.”

Trump Administration Wrong Not Sending High Level Officials to Belt and Road Forum

President Trump did not attend the first Belt and road Forum-(BRF) in May of 2017, only sending a sub ministerial delegation. According to the US State d\Department, no US delegation will be attending this month’s second BRF. If true, this would represent a serious error by the Trump administration in its future relations with China. Beyond China, the decision not to participate in this historic conference will undermine US commitment to collaborate with more than half the world’s population that has joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Thus far, the only G-7 nation that has the wisdom to join the BRI is Italy. A minimum of 40 heads of state will be attending the second BRF. For the US to abstain, from this conference on the Belt and Road, which has already transformed the planet, would be strategic blunder in US policy. A more enlightened US foreign policy would view China as a partner in development not as a competitor, as China as been described by the Trump administration.

(courtesy huffingtonpost.com)

April 4, 2019

State Department Says U.S. Will Not Attend the Belt and Road Forum

According to an unnamed spokesperson for the U.S. State Department yesterday, the United States will not send high-level officials to attend China’s second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing later this month, Reuters reported. In 2017, when the first Belt and Road Forum took place, the U.S. was represented by Matt Pottinger, the senior White House official for Asia. There are no such plans this year, Reuters stated.

Answering a question from Reuters, the unnamed State Department spokesperson said: “We will not send high-level officials from the United States…. We will continue to raise concerns about opaque financing practices, poor governance and disregard for internationally accepted norms and standards, which undermine many of the standards and principles that we rely upon to promote sustainable, inclusive development and to maintain stability and a rules-based order. We have repeatedly called on China to address these concerns.”

On March 29, speaking to the ruling Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, {People’s Daily}, Political Bureau member Yang Jiechi, who runs the party’s foreign affairs committee, said he found that critics of the Belt and Road Initiative “obviously show a lack of objectivity and fair understanding of the Belt and Road initiative. It is a misunderstanding, misjudgment and is even prejudiced,” stated Yang. Yang also confirmed that “about 40” foreign leaders would take part in the second summit.