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.

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