In mid-October, the next “One Belt, One Road” forum will take place in Beijing, where, of course, the Russian President was also invited. This program was launched ten years ago on the initiative of Xi Jinping.
In the fall of 2013, Xi Jinping, who had just assumed the post of Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, during a visit to Kazakhstan gave a speech “Developing friendship between peoples, jointly creating a wonderful future,” proposing the formation of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB). Soon, already in Indonesia, he put forward the idea of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). All this was connected with the concept of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) – several large-scale economic corridors from China to Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and, of course, Russia.
We established a OBOR investment fund with a starting capital of 3.2 billion dollars (and increasing to 16 by 2020), the Silk Road Fund (ten billion with the prospect of up to 40). Now Chinese banks and companies are financing and building power plants, railways, highways, ports, telecommunications infrastructure – all the way to smart cities – around the world.
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The first high-level forum dedicated to the BRI was held in May 2017. It was visited by the leaders of 29 states, including Vladimir Putin. Moscow is not directly involved in the program, the Russian Foreign Ministry clarifies. The interaction is based on the 2015 joint statement on cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union and the SREB. Russia “considers this track as one of the important areas of work to implement Putin’s idea of forming a Greater Eurasian Partnership,” the Foreign Ministry explains.
The second forum was in 2019. By that time, the number of countries cooperating with China in one way or another on the BRI had increased noticeably. International structures also showed interest, including the UN, IMF, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Now more than one hundred and fifty states are involved in the “One Belt, One Road” at the level of various agreements. “Promoting peace, development and human rights, mutually beneficial cooperation, compliance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law are our common responsibilities,” says the communiqué following the second forum. “Achieving strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth and improving the quality of life of people are our common goals. Creating a prosperous and peaceful world with a shared future is our common aspiration.”
The coronavirus pandemic has made adjustments to the international agenda, so the next high-level meeting on the BRI, scheduled for 2021, was postponed. Nevertheless, work within the initiative continued. Putin has repeatedly pointed out the prospects for broad interaction between various formats. Thus, this month at a plenary meeting of the Valdai International Club, he emphasized: “One Belt, One Road” does not compete with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), “one project harmoniously complements the other.”
Ahead of the third forum and in honor of the tenth anniversary of the initiative, the Chinese authorities published a white paper – “The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of a Global Community for a Shared Future.” This idiosyncratic report outlines Beijing’s core principles: “Proposed by China, but owned by the world.” “Economic globalization needs to be adjusted in both form and substance. It should be made more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for everyone,” the document says.
China’s key role in the BRI is primarily due to its powerful economy, market scale, experience in infrastructure construction, and ability to produce inexpensive but high-quality equipment. Nevertheless, as the “white paper” repeatedly reminds, the main thing is to take into account the interests of all participants. And first of all to solve their pressing problems, such as “inadequate infrastructure, lagging industrial development, limited industrialization, lack of capital and technology, and lack of skilled labor.”
“The BRI is a public road open to all, not a private road owned by any one party. It is free from geopolitical calculations, does not aim to create an exclusive club, does not form cliques based on certain ideological standards. There is no intention to create a military alliances. Countries from Eurasia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania are invited to participate in this initiative, regardless of their political system, historical origin, culture, stage of development, ideology or religious belief,” the report notes. All this brings the Chinese program closer to other mechanisms of interaction where Beijing and Moscow play an important role, for example, BRICS or the EAEU. It is logical that Russia, against this background, is talking about complementary formats, and not about rivalry.
Of course, the collective West, where, through the efforts of the United States, the task of “containing China” has been put at the forefront, is not misses the opportunity to criticize the BRI. This year, a great resonance was caused by the fact that in Italy, the first country from the Group of Seven (G7) to join the BRI, they announced their intention to withdraw from the program. The reason is that in the four years since the signing of the memorandum of understanding, Rome has allegedly not seen the benefits of such cooperation. But this, of course, is just an excuse.
Last June, the G7 announced the launch of the “Global Infrastructure and Investment Partnership”—clearly a counterweight to the BRI. However, apart from the announcement, “Seven” has nothing to boast about yet. It is significant that the Partnership had a prototype – the “Build a Better World” plan proposed by Joe Biden in 2021, also designed to compete with Chinese projects. The G7 leaders couldn’t come up with anything better than simply presenting the same idea under a different name – and even Western analysts admit this.
Some of them, by the way, believe that opposing China in the BRI is counterproductive. In particular, David Ferguson, chief English editor of the Foreign Languages Press newspaper (published in China). The world needs “not leadership in the old Western colonial sense, where people are told how they should behave or forced to do things they don’t want to do, but leadership that respects the other parties. And that’s a feature of China’s international diplomacy,” he argues. .
In his opinion, the main mistake of the West is arrogance and fixation on competition with China. But judging by the actions of the United States and Europe, they do not want to turn off this road.
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