By Penza News
The participants of the second forum of One Belt One Road international cooperation held in Beijing on April 25–27 signed 283 agreements totaling more than 64 billion dollars, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a press conference following the event.
“In the run-up to and during the course of this Forum, the parties reached 283 deliverables, including inter-governmental cooperation agreements, practical cooperation projects, the initiation of multilateral dialogue and cooperation platforms in specific areas, and the release of a Belt and Road cooperation progress report as well as the report of the BRF Advisory Council,” he said and added that “all of this shows that Belt and Road cooperation is in sync with the times, widely supported, people-centered and beneficial to all.”
Speaking at the first roundtable discussion, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that for stable economic growth and a global trade partnership, states need to develop modern transport and energy infrastructure, as well as unified telecommunications system.
“Russia is committed to active joint work with all interested partners in seeking new growth drivers, boosting relations in the Eurasian continent, and achieving many other common goals. I am confident that by taking joint efforts we will succeed for the benefit of our nations and all Eurasian states,” Russian President stressed.
Commenting on the results of a large-scale event, Shankaran Nambiar, Senior Research Fellow, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, author of recently published book Malaysia: An economy at the edge of transformation, said the BRI Forum was a success.
“There have been outstanding issues between China and Russia, which over the last year has seen much improvement. Putin’s participation is evidence of a warming of ties and possibly of greater future cooperation. […] Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s attendance is also a feather in the cap for China. Malaysia’s participation is indicative of China’s ability to gain reach into Southeast Asia. Finally, and most importantly, it demonstrates that China is successful in promoting its brand of infrastructure diplomacy, thereby creating a world of peace, prosperity and development,” the expert told PenzaNews.
According to him, Malaysian authorities, in turn, expect that the country’s participation in BRI will bring more trade and investment to the country.
“Malaysian economy is currently burdened by high debts and faces the prospect of relatively low growth this year and possibly in the next couple of years. At this juncture, stronger economic cooperation with China is probably seen as a route out of the country’s tepid economic conditions,” he explained.
“Ahead of the summit, Mahathir had revived the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a China-back infrastructure project, with the hope that it would spur investment in the country. More investment projects are expected from China, so it’s only natural that Mahathir was an enthusiastic participant at the BRI summit,” Shankaran Nambiar said.
Meanwhile, Lak Chansok, Researcher at Cambodia Maritime Silk Road Research Center (CMSRRC), the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and at Democracy Promotion Center, Research Center for Asia Pacific Studies (RCAPS), Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, reminded that Xi Jinping presented One Belt One Road initiative as “open, inclusive and transparent” multilateralism contributing to reducing both tariff and non-tariff barriers as well as facilitating free flows of goods and services, technology and people for mutual socio-economic benefits.
“Chinese President reaffirmed that China would no longer use currency devaluation to boost its export, and promised to keep its currency stable at a reasonable and balanced level. Xi also stressed China’s willingness to further strengthen cooperation with other countries and international organizations on protection over intellectual prosperity rights including banning forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft. Moreover, another Xi’s political commitment is to promote “green and clean” cooperation for sustainable growth. This proposal is in the line with the UN’s SDGs, individual states’ policies and particularly China’s 12st Five Year Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions […] by 2020 and diversify China’s sources of energy for its robust economic growth,” Lak Chansok said.
However, according to him, not all leaders and international entities who participated in the Forum trust China’s intentions.
“Some of them believe that costly infrastructure projects could be driven by other unspoken motives. China’s loans and development assistance have thus far been criticized and often associated with “debt trap diplomacy.” The most cited is Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port conceded to China for a total of 99 years when the local government was unable pay back the heavy loans,” CMSRRC Researcher said.
In his opinion, the absence of the China’s key diplomatic partners and the United States in the second Belt and Road Forum is also an indicative point.
“Amidst the ongoing trade war with China, the US President Donald Trump did not even send any representative to this forum. It implies that the US intention is to counterbalance China’s rapid rise. […] The US is concerned that China intends to alter the existing West-dominated world order,” Lak Chansok said.
From his point of view, it remains early to believe that President Xi Jinping will translate all of his political commitments delivered at this year’s Forum into reality.
“China’s state-owned enterprises, low infrastructure quality and standards, debt trap and other geo-strategic constraints are all challenges for China to materialize its stated promises and rebuild political and strategic trust especially with countries along the B&R regions,” the analyst explained.
Meanwhile, Neil MacKinnon, Global Macro Strategist at VTB Capital, shared the opinion that the project promoted by China is of extreme importance to all states in the region.
“The BRI initiative is a key infrastructure project that will energise the economic growth, trade and investment outlook for the longer term,” he said.
“The BRI Forum is becoming increasingly important in strengthening co-operation and building on the tremendous growth potential for the region,” Neil MacKinnon added.
In turn, Nobuhide Hatasa, Professor, Nagoya University of Economics, said that China is now playing active roles in facilitating multilateralism in global economy by contributing to further liberalization of international trade and investment.
“While the US and EU are heading to rather a protectionism way as symbolized by Trump’s America first policies and Brexit, the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was the perfect place and best opportunity for Xi Jinping to express China’s consistent and strong support in economic globalization,” the expert said.
He reminded that main massages of the Forum were focused on China’s policy directions towards the trade war with the US.
“It is now becoming the most concerned world-wide economic risk. Although President Xi did not touch upon the US-China trade war in his speech during the Forum, he clearly mentioned to follow international economic rules and regulations by strengthening the protection of intellectual property right, reducing state subsidies, avoiding deliberate and unilateral devaluation of the yuan, and removing nontariff barriers,” Nobuhide Hatasa explained.
Moreover, in his opinion, during the Forum China was also working very hard to fend off criticism over its lending activities.
“Some developing countries which received loans from China are plagued by the excess debt problem. In addition, they complain that Chinese aids are often tied so that many workers and materials utilized for the financing projects come from China and their local economy is not much developed. President Xi stressed that China would put its priority on economic and fiscal conditions of partner countries, creating jobs in local market and promoting sustainable financing,” the analyst said.
“All these words that China delivered during the Forum are very much welcomed and unanimously accepted by the whole participants. In this respect, this Beijing’s big event seems quite successful. We now need to watch carefully whether China will in fact take any concrete action in accordance with these principles,” Nobuhide Hatasa concluded.
One Belt One Road project unites Xi Jinping’s initiatives voiced in 2013: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and involves building a number of large-scale economic corridors.
To solve this problem, there has been identified the need for integrated development of cross-border transport and logistics infrastructure, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, combined with measures to coordinate macroeconomic policies, remove barriers to trade and investment, switch to the use of national currencies in trade, establish industrial cooperation, expand the social base of interstate relations by increasing contacts between people.