China will work with the international community to continue advancing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, making the initiative a “belt of development” for the benefit of the world and a “road to happiness” for the people of all countries. This was the key message delivered by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a press conference on the sidelines of the country’s 2022 “two sessions.”
Over the past years, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has continued to serve as an international public good and a popular cooperation platform. A win-win outc¬¬ome of the BRI highlights its capacity to become the world’s largest international cooperation project for China and other participating countries, particularly at a time when securing funds for infrastructure projects has proven difficult from Western-dominated organizations. Indeed, China always stands ready to welcome all interested countries to join in the initiative and share in its benefits.
BRI creates new impetus for global growth
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, known as the BRI, was first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Since debuting, the BRI has been winning over the hearts and minds of the populations living throughout the Euro-Asia region, Africa and Latin America through its networks of roads, ports, railways, powerplants, and other infrastructure projects. As of February 6, China has signed more than 200 cooperation documents under the framework of the BRI with 148 countries and 32 international organizations. Over 70 percent of the world’s sovereign states have signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with China, which shows that the initiative has received wide support from the international community.
Despite the rising tides of protectionism and anti-globalization, combined with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BRI has demonstrated its strong vitality and has provided an impetus for global economic growth and sustainable development. A World Bank study has shown that the BRI will help lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million people out of moderate poverty globally. Another research study by the Work Bank indicated that, thanks to improved transportation infrastructure, the inflows of foreign direct investment into low-income countries along the Belt and Road’s economic corridors are projected to increase 7.6 percent on average by 2030.
Geopolitical wrangling of US over the BRI
However, it remains rather unfortunate that despite the multi trillion-dollar BRI being a reciprocal initiative that does not interfere politically in any countries, the United States and its allies have meanwhile criticized this game-changing initiative by using harsh rhetoric such as making mention of the “China Threat,” “Debt Traps” and “Vanity Projects.”
In July 2018, the Trump administration announced a fund in the amount of $113 million focusing on infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region, seen as a U.S. move to counter the BRI. On the other hand, harping on the U.S. antagonism towards China, the Biden administration also wants to counter the BRI’s geo-economic influence. In June 2021, U.S. President Biden and other G7 leaders launched a new global infrastructure initiative, called “Build Back Better World (B3W) Partnership,” which sets out to rival the BRI.
But the fact is that China’s BRI is neither a new Marshall Plan, like the one implemented after World War II, nor an intrigue of China’s foreign policy. It is, if anything, “a plan in the sunshine,” to quote from President Xi’s speech delivered at the Boao Forum for Asia’s annual conference in 2018. It can be said that the BRI is a mega-infrastructure scheme, a “non-conflicting economic project,” and not a “debt trap.” Contrary to Western propaganda, no country has fallen into a debt crisis as a result of its participation in the BRI. As such, American accusations against the BRI only exhibit the U.S. and its hegemonic struggle in today’s globalized world, with the country always seen to be seeking every opportunity to defend, protect and extend its global interests and power.
India needs the BRI
Many of India’s immediate neighbors — namely, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal — are participating in the BRI in a spirit of openness and for its economic benefits. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the BRI, is undoubtedly the most important ongoing project in Pakistan. The rapid progress in the construction of CPEC has been benefiting all regions and all the people of Pakistan.
However, while the BRI has garnered an increasingly solidified international consensus and recognition, opening the door to more promising prospects, India has stayed away from the initiative over sovereignty concerns regarding CPEC projects, which pass through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a territory claimed by India.
Right after the incident in the Galwan Valley at the western section of the China-India boundary, which occurred in June 2020 between the Indian and Chinese militaries, many former Indian diplomats, foreign ministry bureaucrats and media experts became of the opinion that India should strengthen its strategic ties with the U.S., Japan, Australia, and South Korea, along with other countries, which may serve to reduce China’s influence in the region, referring in large measure to China’s deep support and investment in Pakistan through CPEC. But the fact is that CPEC is an economic undertaking which has nothing to do with the Kashmir issue.
In this post-pandemic world, India needs to be clear-eyed to further augment its bilateral trade, investment and financial cooperation with China. It is expected that India will one day opt to abandon its stereotyped view about the BRI and climb aboard this progressive initiative on the road to common development and prosperity in the region.
Source: People’s Daily Online, March 18, 2022
Author: Rabi Sankar Bosu is founder and secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners’ Club, a Sino-India friendship club based in West Bengal, India.
The opinions expressed in the article reflect those of the author, and not necessarily those of People’s Daily Online.