In the fall of 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed the formation of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, today known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) while visiting Kazakhstan and Indonesia.
This year marks BRI’s fifth anniversary. As reported by Western media, “Countries from Panama to Madagascar, South Africa to New Zealand, have officially pledged support.”
Since then, it has garnered attention and participation from countries all over the world. From a global perspective, the initiative has naturally developed into something far greater than ever imagined.
At its very core, it is the first large-scale international endeavor to be launched by an emerging nation. It shatters the stereotype that developing countries are the only powerhouses of global investment, technology, and future planning. It is based on an idea that fuels the kind of momentum necessary to build infrastructures in underdeveloped countries and regions while drawing a roadmap for the future in regions that have been forgotten and marginalized by modernization.
Not to be confused with large-scale aid programs, the BRI is an assemblage of cooperative projects focused on communication, sharing, and working collectively to achieve mutual benefits and a win-win result. Through China’s initiatives and generous investment support, many countries have realized their development aspirations while reinvigorating each nation’s unique potential.
More than that, BRI is a platform based on the fundamental principles of cooperative exploration which doesn’t only include China, but other countries that possess an overwhelming sense of willingness to cooperate with the world.
BRI countries are in different stages of their own economic and social development which means they have their own style unique way of participating all unto themselves. The various methods used by each country will only create more possibilities for international cooperation and a level of global synergy never before seen.
As BRI was just starting, a few countries were skeptical of its intention and believed the concept was the latest in “geopolitical strategy” or “neo-colonialism.” The accomplishments since then have shown the world otherwise and silenced skeptics. Today, only a few countries remain biased. By deepening an understanding of BRI principles, other countries have discovered it is a path that enhances strategic mutual trust with China.
As a global cooperative endeavor, BRI’s development pace can be adjusted accordingly even as its steady push forward gains momentum and influence. Its vitality will benefit everyone involved. There is a reason why the original Silk Road thrived for centuries, and now with the emergence of BRI, and in the age of globalization, greater advantages will come to fruition.
Infrastructure development will continue to be society’s main focus. Thus the interaction between developing countries and other nations is a top priority for infrastructure development. How advanced nations choose to support infrastructure development of underdeveloped countries so both can achieve win-win results will serve as the primary course for civilization to embrace. BRI has already developed essential working practices and witnessed achievements in this regard.
In the future, BRI will be responsible for the majority of infrastructure projects worldwide. By generating benefits for those involved, a higher level of fairness will bloom.
Non-interference will become more popular than ever, dismantling unilateral obstacles that stand in the way of cooperation. Such advantages in place will make BRI more competitive.
Obviously, it has caught the attention of developing countries, helping them to see the opportunities and potential in regions they knew existed. The Initiative has contributed to global resource development and played an essential “construction-oriented” role.
With a bright future place, some problems remain. Among them, risk control needs strengthening, and China investments shall be prioritized. Simultaneously, potential market demands with BRI countries will continue to be tremendous, and they need to be easier to handle and manage. Therefore, this is a development issue, and finding a solution will require determination and experience.
In the past five years, both Chinese companies and the nation have broadened their scope of knowledge on the larger global picture by promoting BRI principles. China has completed tasks that will eventually see itself becoming a major world power.
History will remember the Belt and Road Initiative as one of the most significant chapters in China’s history, and a great milestone in the development of human civilization.
(Editorial in Global Times)
China’s foreign aid not behind developing countries’ debt baggage
BY ZHANG JIANPING
Coming with China’s increasing national strength is its expanding foreign aid footprint, which has led to erroneous perceptions both at home and abroad. Some developing countries hold unrealistic expectations of China, while inside the country the public is not fully aware of the necessity of offering foreign aid. On the internet, statements taking potshots like “China is going to be the ATM again” are common. Therefore, it is necessary to clear the air on China’s foreign aid for the public at home and abroad.
First, as the largest developing country, China needs not only to fulfill its international obligations, but also to take into account domestic development. Currently, the per capita GDP of China is less than $10,000 and the manufacturing sector accounts for 40 percent of GDP. Such an economic structure is typical of a developing country. Besides, with a large poverty-stricken population, a wide development gap between the eastern, central and western regions, as well as a disparity in individual income, China itself still needs substantial financial support for poverty reduction, health care, education, environment protection and infrastructure improvement.
To offer assistance within its capacity is one of the basic traits of China’s foreign aid. “Teaching one to fish is better than giving him fish” has become a principle of China’s foreign aid policy. Instead of simply offering money, equipment and supplies, China has started to launch a large number of educational training and capacity-building projects to help developing countries improve their infrastructure, education and health care. Such foreign aid reflects the responsibility of China as a global power. It is within China’s capacity, and not a drain on domestic development demand.
Second, since the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) was proposed, China has worked together with countries along the Belt and Road to promote policy communication, facility connection, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. The BRI is a giant transcontinental platform for international economic cooperation, as well as a systematic platform for cooperation and development. Its core is to promote the common development of all countries through mutual trade and investment. The vast majority of the infrastructure projects launched by China and countries along the Belt and Road are carried out under the practice of project contracting, with a small part being constructed by Chinese assistance.
Third, the purpose of China’s foreign aid is to offer timely help, rather than to deprive the recipient countries of the quality of being self-reliant. China will never encourage dependent mentality in the international community, but will help other developing countries gain strength, and find their own way to development.
Fourth, China offers aid with no political strings attached and respects the unique domestic conditions and state of development of every country. Recently, people in the West have tried to badmouth China’s foreign aid, claiming that it is responsible for some developing countries’ excessive foreign debt, which reflects their ulterior motives that run against the truth. Chinese investors, financiers and project contractors all have their own internal risk identification and control systems. Institutions will have their own plans and arrangements irrespective of the profitability potential of the project, no matter the recipient country can pay back the money or not. The reasons for some countries being plagued with debt are complex and multifarious. China is not the one to be blamed.
(The author is director of the Institute for West Asia and Africa, Ministry of Commerce. email@example.com)