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.”

China and Italy Challenging Old Geo-Political World Order

This signed article by Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, was published March 20, in Corriere della Sera, a leading  Italian newspaper on the eve of his state visit to Italy. It is a beautiful expression of the potential alliance of “East and West.” The old geo-political order manipulated this so called division to maintain political domination. Hopefully, we are now embarking on a new era with the old-order is coming to an end. 

Chinese President, Xi Xinping, to arrive in Italy

East Meets West — A New Chapter of Sino-Italian Friendship

It is a great pleasure for me to pay a state visit to the Italian Republic at the invitation of President Sergio Mattarella in this blossoming season of spring. In 2011, I visited Rome on celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification and, in 2016, I had a stopover on Sardinia. I was deeply impressed by the way of life and industrial outlook of Italy that blend together the ancient and the modern, the classic and the novel. Now that I am about to set foot again on this beautiful country, it feels like I am to be among old friends, and get immersed in
their wonderful hospitality.

China and Italy are both stellar examples of Eastern and Western civilizations, and both have written splendid chapters in the history of human progress. Being the birthplace of ancient Roman civilization and the cradle of the Renaissance, Italy is known to the Chinese people for its imposing relic sites and masterpieces of great names in art and literature. Friendly ties between our two great civilizations go back a long way. As early as over 2,000 years ago, China and ancient Rome, though thousands of miles apart, were already connected by the Silk Road. During the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), Chinese emissary Gan Ying was sent to search for “Da Qin”, the Chinese name of the Roman Empire at the time. Roman poet Virgil and geographer Pomponius Mela made many references to Seres, the land of silk. The famous explorer Marco Polo’s Travels roused the first wave of “China fever” among European countries. That pioneer of cultural exchanges between
East and West was followed by a long list of personages in search of friendship over the centuries.

In our own era, China-Italy relations, tracing the footsteps of our ancestors, are brimming with dynamism. The People’s Republic of China and the Italian Republic established diplomatic relations in 1970. In 2020, the two countries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our relations. Through the past decades, our two countries have enjoyed mutual trust and close cooperation regardless of changes in the international landscape. Together, we have set a fine example of mutually beneficial relations between two countries that have different social systems,
cultural backgrounds and stages of development. The traditional friendship between us, stronger than ever, has become a strong pillar supporting the rapid and steady growth of our bilateral ties.

Sino-Italian friendship is rooted in our long history of exchanges. In the course of over two millennia, our two countries have embraced the principles of mutual respect, mutual learning, mutual trust and mutual understanding in our interactions, principles that underpin our long-lasting, ever-strong friendship. Confronted by the transformations and challenges of today’s world and informed by our deep appreciation of history, China and Italy both envision a new type of international relations that are built on mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and a community with a shared future for all mankind.

Sino-Italian friendship is embedded in our deep strategic trust. Both countries’ leaderships approach our relations from a strategic and long-term perspective. Since the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2004, our two countries, guided and driven by high-level exchanges, have given each other understanding and firm support on issues concerning our respective core interests and major concerns. Our strategic trust provides a firm underpinning for the long-term and steady growth of China-Italy relations.

Sino-Italian friendship is reflected in our multi-faceted cooperation. As key trading and investment partners for each other, China and Italy have deeply entwined interests. Two-way trade exceeded 50 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 and investment surpassed 20 billion dollars in accumulative terms. “Made in Italy” is a guarantee of quality, Italian fashion and furniture are immensely popular with Chinese consumers, and pizza and tiramisu are the love of many young Chinese. Every now and then, we hear stories about the success of Sino-Italian cooperation in satellite R&D and manned space exploration. Initiatives such as the China-Italy Science, Technology and Innovation Week, joint police patrols and football training, to name just a few, are applauded by people in both countries.

Sino-Italian friendship is carried forward through our intensive cultural exchanges. Chinese and Italians have a deep interest in each other’s cultures. A Chinese professor in his 70s spent 18 years translating Dante’s Divine Comedy, and after revising several drafts, completed this mammoth task before his final days. From Martino Martini, author of the first Chinese grammar book in Europe, to Giuliano Bertuccioli and Federico Masini who wrote Italy and China, many Italian Sinologists have built bridges between Europe and China and contributed to a
long-running boom of China studies on the Apennine Peninsula.

The well-known Italian writer Alberto Moravia once wrote, “Friendships are not chosen by chance, but according to the passions that dominate us.” In a world that faces profound changes of a kind unseen in a century, the onus is on us to bring China-Italy relations to a higher level and to jointly safeguard world peace, stability, development and prosperity. Through my upcoming visit, I hope to work with Italian leaders to map out the future of our relationship and move it into a new era.

China hopes to work with Italy to strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership. Our two countries may plan more high-level exchanges and cooperation between our governments, parliaments, political parties and sub-national entities, strengthen policy communica-tion, enhance strategic trust and synergy, and continue to give understanding and support to each other on issues of core interests and major concerns, so as to consolidate the political foundation of our relations.

China hopes to work with Italy to advance Belt and Road cooperation. Our two countries may harness our historical and cultural bonds forged through the ancient Silk Road as well as our geographical locations to align connectivity cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative with Italy’s plan to develop its northern ports and the Invest-Italia program, and jointly build the Belt and Road of the new era on sea, on land, in the air, in space and in the cultural domain.

China hopes to work with Italy to expand cooperation into new areas. China will open up further to the rest of the world, and share its market opportunities with Italy and other countries through the annual China International Import Expo and other avenues. Our two countries may fully tap our cooperation potential in ports, logistics, ship-building, transportation, energy, telecommunications, medicine and other fields, and encourage our companies to partner with each other in third markets for win-win cooperation.

China hopes to work with Italy to promote closer people-to-people ties. As countries with the largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites, China and Italy have plenty of cultural and tourism resources. We may encourage our world heritage sites to forge twinning relationships and our cultural institutions and individuals to organize premium relic and art exhibitions. We may also encourage joint production of films and TV programs, the teaching of each other’s languages, as well as more mutual travel and visits. Through these exchanges, we will make new contributions to the diversity of civilizations and mutual learning between different cultures.

China hopes to strengthen coordination with Italy in international affairs and multilateral organizations. China is ready to enhance communication and collaboration with Italy in the United Nations (UN), the G20, Asia-Europe Meeting and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on global governance, climate change, UN reform, WTO reform and other major issues. Working together, we will promote our shared interests, uphold multilateralism and free trade, and safeguard world peace, stability, development and prosperity.

Looking back at the last five decades, China-Italy relations have struck deep roots and borne rich fruits. Looking ahead, China-Italy cooperation will continue to flourish and prosper. The Chinese people look forward to working hand in hand with our friends in Italy to carry forward our blossoming relationship and imbue our friendship with more vitality and dynamism.

China’s experience: Helping transform an African desert into a garden

William Jones

Editor’s noteWilliam Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

With the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Italy, there will no doubt be some discussion of cooperation between the two nations on the African continent. For Italy, helping to resolve the dire economic situation in Africa is both a humanitarian and an economic concern. The devastated economy in many African countries is bringing more and more refugees to Italy’s shore, and the burden is taking its toll on the Italian economy. For China, Africa has always been a particular concern having shared in the condition of underdevelopment for so many years. Even when both were clearly developing countries, China offered its assistance to its African brothers.

One of the most significant projects in that regard is the Transaqua project. This project would take some of the water from the Congo River, a river with the greatest flow of water in the world, and through a series of canals to the Chari River which flows into Lake Chad, a lake whose surface has been dramatically reduced from 25,000 km2  in 1960 to 1,500 km2 today.

The water transfer project would help revive the lake, and with the construction of dams and power plants along the canal, would help to bring development to the region, directly affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa and Nigeria, through which it would pass. In addition, it would also bring economic benefits to Niger, Cameron, Chad and Congo Brazzaville as well.

People crowd the oceanfront area along the Galle Face green in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 20, 2018. /VCG Photo
The Italian engineering company, Bonifica SpA has been instrumental in working out the plans for this project and is fully committed to it. In 2017 Bonifica and Powerchina entered an agreement for the joint development of the project. China, with its own extensive south-to-north water diversion project, possesses a good deal of expertise in dealing with such a project. Such collaboration also fits in nicely with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has received strong support from the Italian government. The Transaqua project developed by Bonifica has in part been developed by PowerChina.

Representatives from both Bonifica and PowerChina were invited in 2018 as speakers at the International Conference on Lake Chad, in Abuja, sponsored by the Government of Nigeria. The final declaration of the conference stated that Lake Chad needs to be saved and that its current situation demands immediate action. The Italian government at the time pledged 1.5 million Euros (1.7 million U.S. dollars) to start the Transaqua feasibility study.

The expansion of the BRI to Africa has kindled new hope in a continent that had virtually been abandoned by the West in terms of large development projects. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway, the Nigerian coastal railway, the Chad-Sudan railway, the Port Sudan-Khartoum railway have already provided the template for industrializing the entire African continent.

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer attends the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in Oslo, Norway, February 24, 2017. /VCG Photo
While China has been ground-breaking in returning to the long-awaited – and much-delayed – project of African industrialization, the enormity of the project is of such a magnitude, that China alone cannot do it.  But the BRI opens the possibility of working together with other Western nations in realizing this goal. And the cooperation with Italy on the Lake Chad project can serve as a paradigm for how the BRI must work.

While some Western nations are trying to depict the BRI as a geopolitical “ploy” by China, anyone looking at the effect of the project on the recipient countries will see the falsehood of these claims. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.” And to the extent that countries overcome their fears and begin to work with the BRI and contribute their strength to developing other countries, they will better understand the importance of the project and its more profound implications for global development.

China has made great gains in reversing the effects of desertification by means of their water diversion projects, their reforestation efforts and their irrigation projects. If some of this know-how were to be applied in Africa, it would help turn the devastated Sahel region into a veritable garden, which it once was. And the lessons learned can be used on a broader scale to change the nature of life on this planet – for all its people.

*Lawrence Freeman has been an advocate of the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project for over two decades. I am the Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

Will Africa Emulate China in Eliminating Poverty with BRI? More Electrical Power Needed

March 7, 2019

Rwanda Acknowledges Partnership With China Is Beneficial for Both Nations

President Xi Jinping left and President Paul Kegame-right (East African)

Answering a media query in Kigali on March 5, Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera said that the Belt and Road Initiative is a partnership that is mutually beneficial for Rwanda and China, and addresses Rwanda’s development challenges, Xinhua reported. China is an important partner for Rwanda at all levels, and Rwanda welcomes the growing partnership with China, he said, adding that Rwanda and China have important relationships in infrastructure development, party-to-party and people-to-people exchanges, and at the political level.

Last August, {China Daily} reported Rwandan Ambassador to China Charles Kayonga telling the newspaper, through e-mail, that in Rwanda, “we have had financing for a number of roads, and we have seen direct investment by Chinese companies in a number of businesses rise.” 

 Africa is in need of infrastructure, among other things, to achieve sustainable economic transformation, he said, adding that cooperation with China will help finance the infrastructure projects to help spur the continent’s industrial development, which will, in turn, favor China in its vision of going global.

Prescient Xi: China is Eliminating Poverty

Speaking today with deputies from Gansu Province, President Xi Jinping underlined the importance of reaching the goal of eliminating poverty by 2020.

“There should be no retreat until a complete victory is won,” Xi said. “Decisive progress has been achieved in the country’s tough fight against poverty over the past years, marking a new chapter in the poverty reduction history of mankind.” Xi stressed, that the goal to eradicate extreme poverty must be achieved on time. He warned that the tasks ahead remain arduous and hard, as those still in poverty are the worst stricken. He also warned that, “the practices of ‘formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism hamper the effective advancement of poverty reduction.” He also warned against the tendency to celebrate short-term gains when it comes to addressing the problem of poverty. He insisted that claims of success should be grounded in reality, and that the results of poverty alleviation work must be able to stand the test of time.

 Also today, a comprehensive briefing was given on the success of poverty reduction over the last few years by Liu Yongfu, Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. He held a press conference outlining the progress of the poverty-alleviation campaign. Liu noted that between 2012 and 2018, some 80 million people had been brought out of poverty at an average of 13 million people a year. Of the nine eastern provinces, eight were now free of poverty. He said there are 832 counties still enmired in poverty. In 2016, there were 28 counties that had been lifted out of poverty, and in 2017, some 125 counties, and in 2018, an estimated 280 counties. In 2013 there were 128,000 villages in poverty, while in 2018 there were 20,000. Poverty has been reduced during that period by 85%, Liu said, and the goal this year is to bring 10 million more people out of poverty. In 2019 the government will increase the funds devoted to poverty alleviation by 18.9%


African Development Bank Funding New Power Transmission Line For East Africa

In an article on its website, the African Development Bank (AfDB), pointing to regular power cuts in the East African countries from Kenya to Tanzania, from Uganda to Ethiopia, said this is about to change with the upcoming commissioning of a power transmission line to interconnect Kenya and Ethiopia. This project falls under one of the AfDB’s ‘High 5 priorities’ to ‘Light up and Power Africa.’ Working with
institutional partners, the Bank has mobilized resources to ensure the success of this project. At a cost of $1.26 billion, the project was co-funded by the African Development Bank ($338 million), the World Bank ($684 million), the Government of Kenya ($88 million), and the Government of Ethiopia ($32 million), the article noted.

The interconnection will function by means of a 1,068-km, 500-kilovolt high-voltage direct current transmission line, 437 km in Ethiopia and 631 km in Kenya with related facilities at Wolayta-Sodo (Ethiopia) and Suswa (Kenya). By December 2020, it will have a transmission capacity of 2,000 MW. This will make Ethiopia the energy giant of East Africa, while Kenya will become the epicenter of electricity trading in this part of the continent.

“The project will initially be able to transfer 400 MW from Ethiopia to Kenya, but negotiations are under way to better match the capacity of the line to Kenyan demand,” said Joseph Njogore, first secretary at the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, at an energy forum held in Nairobi in August 2018, the website noted.

 

Italy Wisely Becomes First G-7 Nation to Join China’s Belt and Road: Financial Predators Upset

March 7, 2019

City of London’s {Financial Times} Beside Itself over Italy’s Joining Belt and Road

The City of London mouthpiece {Financial Times} criticizes Italy for becoming, as they write, “the first G-7 country to formally endorse China’s controversial Belt and Road global investment drive, in a move that has drawn a sharp response from the White House and is likely to cause alarm in Brussels.”

{FT} has suddenly discovered that Italy is going to sign a memorandum of understanding during President Xi Jinping’s Rome visit scheduled for March 22-23. The daily quotes Undersecretary for Economic Development Michele Geraci, who says that “the negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [Xi’s] visit. We want to make sure that ‘Made in Italy’ products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world.”

{FT} then quotes U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis, who makes a not-so-veiled threat: “We view BRI [Belt & Road Initiative] as a ‘made by China, for China. We are skeptical that the Italian government’s endorsement will bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”

Marquis further said that U.S. officials had raised concerns about what he called the negative effects of “China’s infrastructure diplomacy,” and urged “all allies and partners, including Italy, to press China to bring its global investment efforts into line with accepted international standards and best practices.” Marquis was brought into the National Security Council by John Bolton, for whom he had earlier worked as a spokesman at the Foundation for American Security and Freedom.

The {FT} goes on to allege that “Italy’s support for China’s BRI initiative would undercut U.S. pressure on China over trade and would under-mine Brussels’ efforts to overcome divisions within the EU over the best approach to deal with Chinese investments. Italy is a founding member of the EU.”

President Xi will visit Italy on March 22 and meet Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, as well as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and attend a military ceremony before traveling to Sicily.

The article concludes quoting National People’s Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui as saying this week that 67 countries had signed up to the BRI in the past year or so, bringing the total number of countries or international organizations that have formal endorsements to 152.  China takes the issue of debt very seriously and within a project the Chinese side never imposes things, nor, least of all, creates debt traps,” {FT} quotes Zhang. “Of course, like any international co-operation, some problems and challenges may crop up. With experience it will improve.”

Italy’s Geraci Rejects {Financial Times} Criticism of Italy Joining the Belt and Road Initiative

In an interview with the Italian financial daily {Il Sole 24 Ore}, Italian Undersecretary to the Economic Development Ministry rejects criticism raised by the City of London’s {Financial Times} and defends Italy’s sovereign choice to join the Belt and Road. “Sincerely, I am a bit surprised. I do not understand what it is, that is controversial,” Geraci said.

“I confirm what I said in an interview with this newspaper last Feb. 21st. I said the same thing to the {Financial Times}: We work every day down to the last detail. “It will be a framework agreement: Just the indication of some strategic sectors in which joint investments are promoted and orders by Italian firms are accelerated. We work on infrastructure, transport and highways, trade, industry, green economy. It will be up to private companies to choose whether to participate or not. If they do it, they will have guarantees in terms of protection from disputes and questions about rules.”

As for the U.S. position, Geraci stated:  “I wonder where such a big concern comes from. We will protect our know-how thanks to a ‘golden power’ rule we have in Italy, which is among the strictest in Europe. And we just fulfill demands from our companies to create for them more room in the most promising markets, such as China. Anyway, we have supplied the United States, as per normal exchanges we have with our main diplomatic partners, all insurances on the issue.”

On the concern about Italy being the first G-7 country to sign a New Silk Road protocol, Geraci replied to the criticisms: “So what? Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Greece have done it and I do not consider them second-class countries in Europe. Those who think differently do not have a real European view. And the G-7 club may be a somewhat outdated concept: It no longer represents the real world economic powers, since it does not include either China or India.”

Italy is not “selling out” its ports, as some have claimed, he countered: “We do not sell, at most we give concessions to create greenfield investments, which means starting from zero. You cannot sell out things that were not there in the first place.”

China Responds to U.S. Attack on Italy Joining the Belt and Road

The Chinese Foreign Ministry today responded to the attack on Italy’s plan to join the Belt and Road by Garrett Marquis, a long-time ally of National Security Adviser John Bolton (who brought him onto the National Security Council).

An unsigned editorial in {Global Times,} titled: “White House’s Criticism of Italy’s Plan To Join BRI Ridiculous,” reports that Lu Kang, spokes-person of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a routine press conference today, said: “Italy, as a major country and economy in the world, is clear about its interests. It could make its own policies and decisions.” {Global Times} added: “The BRI is an important inter-national public good that China contributes to global cooperation for common development. China and more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements, which witnessed more than $6 trillion in cumulative trade between China and participating countries, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the 55th Munich Security Conference in February, the Xinhua News Agency reported.”

Greek Foreign Minister in Beijing To Discuss Intensifying Belt and Road Cooperation

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos began a five-day official visit to Beijing on March 5, in which he co-chaired the 13 Joint Inter-ministerial Committee with China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi and with Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.  On the margins of the meeting,

Katrougalos met Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission Ning Jizh, and chief of the Development Commission He Lifeng, according to a statement by the Greek Foreign Ministry.The Greek delegation included Christos Lambridis, Secretary General of Ports, Port Policy, and Maritime Investment, and officials from the Hellenic Ministry of Agricultural Development.

“From all these contacts, both with my counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as with the head of Foreign Relations of the Communist Party of China, and the economy ministers, the Minister of Commerce, the head of the crucially important Planning Commission of China, the conclusion drawn is dual in nature: First of all that Greece and China are seriously investing in their bilateral strategic partnership. This is not occasional, it has as its guide the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative which the Chinese government is promoting at the moment, but there is a significant alignment of interests, precisely because we too endeavor that our country becomes a bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa. The second thing that was affirmed is the observation that Greece has exited the economic crisis and offers significant opportunities for investment to the Chinese side.

Katrougalos also participated in the formal commencement of proceedings of the annual plenary of the National People’s Congress, ahead of which he said, “As you know, China has achieved a lot. It is on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. It helped 700 million of its citizens out of complete poverty.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi congratulated Katrougalos on assuming his new post as foreign minister, and expressed satisfaction that “Mr. Foreign Minister chose China as the first country to visit after taking office, which demonstrated with concrete actions his friendship with China and the importance he attached to China-Greece relations and that both countries are good friends and good partners.” He further stated that “as the birthplace of Mediterranean civilizations, Greece possesses profound cultural heritage and enormous development potential.

The Chinese side feels happy that Greece has overcome the influence brought by financial crisis and regained economic and social vitality, and is willing to, together with the Greek side, strengthen high-level exchanges, increase understanding and mutual trust, expand bilateral cooperation fields under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative….”

‘Investigate or Legislate’: What Will the Democrats in Control of the House of Representatives Do?

With control of the House of Representatives, the Democrats have the opportunity to provide leadership for the United States. They will have to decide. Do they want to make their primary focus attacking President Donald Tramp, by continuing their impotent investigation of his alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election? Or will they actually provide a vision for the future of the USA, by enacting bold new legislation.  Any attempt to impeach President Trump would be a farce that would virtually ensure the Democrats would be defeated in the 2020 presidential election.

President Trump has demonstrated that he lacks a comprehensive understanding of the scientific principles that created the USA. He has also displayed an unAmerican phobia to non-white foreigners from a multitude of countries arriving in the USA.  However, President Trump has distinguished himself in forming a close relationship with the President of China, Xi Xinping. He has also attempted to establish a working relationship with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. To the detriment of the USA (and the world) many Democrats, along with some members of his own administration, have adamantly opposed these positive initiatives by President Trump. President Trump has many shortcomings, but to his credit, he is not an ideologue, and he is not a devout follower of the geo-political doctrine on foreign policy. If President Trump took the audacious step to partner with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the world could be transformed.

Important polices must be implemented now to provide for the welfare of our citizens, which will require bipartisan action in the Congress. For example. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have made verbal commitments to support a Glass Steagall banking reorganization, yet no action has been taken by the Congress or this administration. Another opportunity for bipartisanship would be the passage of legislation for a transformative infrastructure plan to rebuild the USA.

Below is a useful article discussing how President Trump working with the Congress could fund large-scale infrastructure projects. 

A New Opportunity for a National Infrastructure Agenda?

Nov. 7, 2018—One thing is definitive about the results of the U.S. mid-term elections: Neither political party put a solution to the country’s economic and financial disaster on the national agenda.  That doesn’t mean that many of the new Democratic members of Congress don’t have a strong commitment to address the economic crisis, however. They can potentially galvanize the veteran Congressmen into action. The question is, will competent, workable proposals be put on the table in the 116th Congress?

Statements from President Trump and the putative incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the immediate aftermath of the election were notable for addressing the possibility of bipartisan progress on infrastructure. Both statements were quite vague, however—and, as some will recall, Trump has offered cooperation on infrastructure before. One need only look at his current blackballing of the New York City Gateway project to see how hollow that promise was.

Rep. DeFazio in his campaign photo.

More substantive have been remarks from the incoming chairmen of two House committees. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is expected to take over the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. According to a Nov. 7 Reutersarticle, DeFazio is prepared to put forward his previous proposal for a $500 billion plan, which would involve issuing 30-year bonds, using funds from  raising gas taxes. He believes Trump would accept an increase in the gas tax.

“There has to be real money, real investment,” DeFazio said today. “We’re not going to do pretend stuff like asset recycling. We’re not going to do massive privatization.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), who is slated to take over the House Budget Committee, addressed the infrastructure question a few days before the election, according to an Oct. 30 Politico Pro article. He said he would be making a proposal which “involves some very long-term bonding authority that would help finance an infrastructure bank.”

The Issue of Funding

The inevitable sticking point in Congressional discussions of an adequate infrastructure bill—which should ultimately amount to spending trillions of dollars to meet the infrastructure deficit—will be funding. President Trump has already indicated his preference for off-loading the cost to local and state governments, and proposes to even cut the Federal contribution from today’s 80% to 20%. That’s a formula for non-action. The Democratic plans have not been specific.

The danger lies in a potential “compromise” that pushes Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as the solution to the funding dilemma. PPPs are presented as a means of reducing, or eliminating, public costs, by contracting with private companies to either build, manage, or both the needed element of infrastructure. The claim is that the private company can do the job cheaper and more efficiently, and the public will benefit.

Moving ahead on Gateway would be a good place to start.

Not so fast. First, some of the cheapness comes at the cost of labor—by violation of Davis-Bacon standards–and quality. Secondly, private contractors only enter PPP agreements on the guarantee that they will receive a revenue stream to cover their costs, and provide a profit. This can amount to tolls on a road, water bills for a water company, and the like. And if the stream doesn’t provide what the company considers adequate profit, what will it do?  Cut maintenance? Cut off people’s water supply? Both results have occurred! And they are unacceptable.

So, forget PPPs. The solution lies in taking the lead from Franklin Roosevelt and Alexander Hamilton. The Federal government has a unique capability (and responsibility) to create credit to modernize and rebuild our infrastructure. That credit can in fact be issued by turning current (virtually non-performing) government debt into bonds supporting an infrastructure bank, against which it would then issue new loans to help finance the long overdue infrastructure projects.  These would not only be short-term, but also long-term projects, such as the Gateway Project, California High Speed Rail, and the desperately needed water projects in the nation’s interior, for starters.  If the right projects are selected, the infrastructure constructed will pay back more to the economy in increased productivity than is expended–as well as creating millions of new, high-paying jobs.

For a modern proposal for such an infrastructure bank, click here

 

Don’t Listen to Propaganda & Gossip. Follow the Facts: China is not Creating a ‘debt-trap’ for Africa

A useful report, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, again belies the propaganda and gossip that China is manipulating African nations into a ‘debt-trap.’  This report excerpted below, using figures from the World Bank, and the China Africa Research Institute-(CARI) at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington DC, shows the percentage of debt owed to China by African nations is not the cause of a debt crisis. In fact, in many cases the debt owed to China is less than the total owed to Western nations and financial institutions.

It is clear that for strictly geo-political reasons many Western think tanks and various media have gone into overdrive demonizing China with false claims of a new ‘debt-trap.’ This has also led to increased attacks on African leaders, portraying them as weak and not acting in the interest of their citizens. They have been accused of succumbing to China, which has been dubbed, the new imperial power. Sadly, many Africans have been duped, or simply out of frustration and anger, joined this western orchestrated chorus.

Of course, the truth of the matter is quite different. From the early 1980s on Western financial intuitions such as the IMF, World Bank, and Paris Club, loaded up African nations with so much debt that they were unable to service the debt, forcing them into unpayable arrears.  The vicious irony, is that several hundred billion dollars of debt lent by the West was never meant to actual develop African economies. It was in fact, intended to create a real ‘debt-trap’ for Africa. It has only been in the last ten years that Africa’s huge deficit in infrastructure is being addressed in collaboration with China’s non-western model of development. As I have written over many years, debt is not the problem when it is used as credit to improve the productive powers of a society to increase its physical wealth. Technologically advanced infrastructure is an excellent, if not the premiere method to drive an economy forward. This is exactly what China is accomplishing through its Belt and Road Initiative, and is at the heart of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC).

Unfortunately, the dominance of the “geo-political” ideology since the death of Franklin Roosevelt has thoroughly contaminated the thinking of Westerners and Africans alike. Creating a culture (with few exceptions) of people unable to think strategically, and who cynically reject the idea that a powerful nation would extend itself to actually assist other nations. China, according to all accounts, has lifted 700 million of its people out of poverty. President Xi Xinping has pledged to help eliminate poverty in Africa, the continent with highest rate of poverty in the world. Yet, many Africans reject this offer as insincere, suggesting a sinister motive lurking behind China’s offer. This attitude, is in part, the result of today’s political culture, which has failed to understand one of the most profound universal principles: all mankind shares a common interest in the development of the creative potential of each and every human being.  

Let us all agree, now, that we will all act on the this principle of the common good, and affirm as did the Treaty of Westphalia, that the interest of the other is also the interest of thy self.

 

Forum On China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, September 3-4, 2018

“Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?”

October 2018

(excerpts follow)

Summary
• African government external debt payments have doubled in two years, from an average of
5.9% of government revenue in 2015 to 11.8% in 2017
• 20% of African government external debt is owed to China
• 17% of African government external interest payments are made to China
• In contrast, 32% of African government external debt is owed to private lenders, and 35% to
multilateral institutions such as the World Bank
• 55% of external interest payments are to private creditors

Minimum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 18%

Creditor grouping, total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $72 billion 18%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
Other governments $18 billion 4%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector $132 billion 32%
Total $407 billion 

Maximum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 24%

Creditor grouping’Total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $100 billion 24%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector (excl. Chinese
private sector)
$132 billion 32%
Total $417 billion

Checking these figures through country cases

Another way of identifying how much African government debt is owed to China is to look bottom-up at the individual data available by each government.

Of these 16 countries, 14 have figures on how much debt is owed to China (for the full analysis see Appendix 1.). Of these 14:

• 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe).
• Three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).
• The mean average amount owed to China is 15% of a government’s external debt, and the median average is 8%

Read Complete Report: Who Is Africa Debt’s Owed To?

The Debate On China’s Role In Africa; A Different Point Of View

The Council of African Security and Development-CASADE has published my article regarding the debate over whether China is forcing African nations into a new ‘debt trap.’ Despite the propaganda from some Africans and Westerners, China is not the new imperialist in Africa. You can read my analysis below.

CASADE: COUNCIL ON AFRICAN SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT

 

 

 

The New Silk Can Create A New Global Paradigm

Excerpts from a presentation by Schiller Institute founder and President Helga Zepp-LaRouche in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 17. It was titled, “The New Silk Road and the End of Colonialism: A New Shared Future for Humanity,

…Now, ever since Xi Jinping announced the New Silk Road in Kazakhstan in 2013, about 100 countries have joined this effort. There have been investments in all of these countries, 12 times the size of the Marshall Plan, and all based on “win-win” cooperation. An enormous amount of infrastructure corridors, industrial parks, power plants; various agricultural projects have been built. And in the recent time, you have the building of a completely new system of international relations based on the respect for the sovereignty, and respect for non-interference in  the affairs of the other country, respect for the perspective of a different social system, and this has created a different dynamic in the world.  This has, for example, recently led to the integration of the Shanghai Cooperation organization(SCO) with the Belt and Road Initiative.  There is a new formation of South-South relations which became very apparent at the recent annual BRICS meeting in Johannesburg, where you had the formation of Global South, which was practically all the organizations from the developing sector, the G77, the Organization of Islamic Countries, Mercosur, the African Union, many regional organizations.  And then, subsequently, you had the very big Africa-China summit, FOCAC [Forum on China Africa Cooperation] in Beijing at the beginning of September, where you had about 48 presidents and 5 heads of state of governments participating from Africa, announcing a new age in the friendship and historic relationship between China and the African continent

Now, Putin at the BRICS summit, had already promised that Russia would light up Africa in providing electricity, not from oil and gas, but through helping African nations to build nuclear power.  And Xi Jinping at the same meeting, had said that Africa, of all the places in the world, has the biggest development potential in the world.

The New Silk Road Spirit, which has captured this dynamic is transforming geopolitical conflicts in many parts of the world. For example, the very successful developments around North and South Korea, who are now fully on the way to possibly announce a peace treaty before the end of the year, going in the direction of unification. This is definitely one of the great successes of President Trump, who at the Singapore summit where he met with Kim Jong-un, is promising to help the make North Korea a prosperous country if  denuclearization continues to proceed. And China has promised to integrate the Koreas into the Belt and Road Initiative.  Russia has promised to help the economic prosperity in North Korea. This is a model, where you can see how this new spirit is helping to transform previous crisis situations into real miracles.

A similar thing is happening in the Horn of Africa, where as a result of the construction of the fast railway between Djibouti and Addis Ababa, you have now Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia developing new diplomatic relations and cooperation which was unthinkable a very short period before.

Now, the biggest breakthrough in this development was the signing of a MOU-Memorandum of Understanding between the Italian government and the Lake Chad Basin Commission on the realization of the Transaqua project. Transaqua is a project which the LaRouche organization has been fighting for, for over 30 years, and the fact that it is now agreed upon between China, Italy and six African nations to build is a game-changer for the entire African continent. Transaqua is the idea that you refill Lake Chad, which is now down to about 10% of its previous volume, bringing 3-4% of the water from the tributaries of Congo River, from about 500 meters high, through a system of canals into Lake Chad.  And this will provide an inland waterway for participating countries: It will provide hydro-power, it will provide huge amounts of water for irrigation, it will fill up Lake Chad, and it will still provide for a large areas in the Sahel zone to be irrigated: And that way you can really improve the life about 40 million people who are living there.

This is a tremendous breakthrough, and I think this is really the kind of project which can happen around the world everywhere. Now, in the context of the New Silk Road, there have been also an enormous amount of strategic realignment of countries which previously, for historical reasons and past wars, were at complete odds.  For example, now there is a new cooperation between Japan and China, where both of them said that there is the possibility of joint projects in Africa.  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, just two days ago, said that Japan and China can cooperate in third countries and the pivot of it could be Thailand.  And as we have been fighting for another great project, also for more than 30 years, the Kra Canal, there has been recently a conference putting that back on the agenda:  And that would be a game-changer for the entire transport route in Southeast Asia.

A wonderful example of cooperation with the New Silk Road is Austria, where Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will conduct a big forum, a Europe-Africa Forum, before the end of the year, because Austria has the presidency of the European Union for this present half-year; and many institutions in Austria and Vienna are completely enthusiastic.  For example, the head of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce [WKW] is pushing for the complete integration of Austria into the New Silk Road.  And he said the New Silk Road is very easily explained:  It is our economic future.  The Mayor of the city of Linz called the connection of Austria to China the “Trade Route of Creativity.”

Also the Italian government, the new government, which is being attacked by the mainstream media practically every day, is practically going for a full strategic alliance with China. Various cabinet ministers, Michele Geraci and Giovanni Tria were just on trips to China making huge deals, inviting China to rebuild the Italian infrastructure.  And the substitute commerce minister, Paolo Savona, who made a wonderful speech in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, calling for the new economic plan of Italy is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and he advocated the cooperation of China and Italy in Africa.  And in the Transaqua memorandum of understanding, there was previously  memorandum of understanding between China and Italy to engage in this great project:  So this can be a model of any Western country….

There is a new concept of great power relations, developed by China, and proposed to the United States.  The {Global Times}, a government-related newspaper recently, in light of the tensions between China and the United States, asked the question:  What should the relations be between China and the United States in 30, 40, 50 years from now, or even towards the end of the century?…

And I would like to remind you of what Friedrich Schiller, [a great German poet] said, in “Why We Would Study Universal History,”- and I’m saying it now in my own words:  We should look at the long chain of generations before us, who gave us the tremendous heritage. And should it not be our proud and passionate desire to connect our ephemeral life to that long chain of human generations, and contribute with our own life, that soon that generation will be living a better life as a result of what we have done?…

 

 

 

 

 

 

US-China ‘Trade War’: What Implications For Nigeria?

My comments on the potential effects for Nigeria and Africa from a trade war between the US and China are quoted below in an article by “The Herald” a national Nigerian newspaper. (Not all of my comments are reported with complete accuracy)

The Herald Nigeria

US-China ‘Trade War’: What Implications For Nigeria?

The escalating trade disputes between the United States (U.S) and China have kept the global markets on their toes with uncertainties pervading the global economy and implications for other countries.

Analysts say the trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies portend consequences in commercial relations among countries as it has repercussions in differing degrees for some of these countries.

China constituted U.S. largest supplier of imported goods worth more than 500 billion dollars in 2017 while U.S. exports to China was approximately 185 billion dollars at the same time

However, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed varying degrees of tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products starting early 2018 and China also retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. goods.

Since then, both countries have engaged in full-blown tit-for-tat measures that have unsettles the global markets in different degrees, which is gradually manifesting to a full-blown trade war.

Political-economists express concerns that African countries could be hit because of the global network of economies in that what affects the U.S. and China’s economies affects the entire global economy.

They say for instance, the impact was largely felt on the stock markets in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa – with Nigeria and South Africa being the two largest economies on the continent.

Mr Lawrence Freeman, a U.S.-based Political-Economist Analysts for Africa, said that the trade war brewing between the two world superpowers could have dire economic consequences for Nigeria.

Freeman said: “If President Trumps precipitates a full-blown tariff war; it could disrupt the world economy, inflict financial penalties on China, and undermine China’s currency.

“This could lead to harmful effects for Nigeria, since both nations are coordinating currency transfers and have worked together to improve, Nigeria’s agriculture with billions of dollars of investment’’.

He opined that Trump’s trade war with China has serious political, economic, and even military implications for all nations of the world, alleging he {Trump} has little understanding of how an economy functions, and how to achieve real economic growth.

Trump is a follower of the myth of free-trade “buy low-sell dear” without regard for the economic security of a nation.

“For example, in the most recent meeting between Presidents Trump and Muhammadu Buhari, Trump proposed increasing the sale of U.S. agricultural products to Nigeria.

“This is the absolutely wrong approach. Nigeria should be reducing the amount of food imports by building up its agro-manufacturing sectors,’’ Freeman said.

Freeman also said that China, on the other hand, has embarked on an economically healthy policy of investing in infrastructure in Nigeria and Africa to drive economic growth, as evident in the Belt and Road Initiative.

According to him, Nigeria, like the rest of the African, needs massive investment in hard and soft infrastructure.

He noted that in collaboration with China, Nigeria is building railroads across the country for the first time since colonialism, observing further that this, with increasing energy production, “is essential for Nigeria to develop and achieve stability.

“President Trump should be more thoughtful in helping Nigeria overcome its huge infrastructure deficit, by joining China in expanding the BRI in Nigeria and across Africa.

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