International environment increasingly getting complex for BRI: President Xi warns officials
Beijing: The global environment for building projects under China’s BRI is becoming increasingly complex, President Xi Jinping has said, encouraging officials to seize the strategic opportunities and actively respond to challenges facing his multi-billion-dollar pet initiative, which is set to face competition from the US’ B3W plan.
Xi on Friday called for efforts to continue promoting the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through joint efforts and the initiative should aim for high-standard, sustainable and people-centered progress.
Noting that the international environment for building the BRI is becoming increasingly complex, Xi, while addressing a high-level symposium on the initiative, asked the Chinese officials to maintain determination, seize strategic opportunities, actively respond to challenges and move forward.
Without any direct reference, Xi called for promoting political consensus into concrete action, and transforming idea recognition into practical results, the official media reported.
He also suggested expanding new areas of cooperation, such as pandemic control, low-carbon development, and e-commerce.
This is the first time Xi spoke about the BRI after US President Joe Biden launched the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative during the June G-7 summit, with the goal of creating “a values-driven, high-standard and transparent infrastructure partnership” to help finance projects in developing countries.
China has played down any competition between the two, saying that the BRI is open for international cooperation.
In his November 16 virtual summit with Biden, Xi, in a veiled reference to the BRI-B3W initiatives, told the American president that the global initiatives China has proposed are all open to the US.
“We hope the reverse is also true,” he said.
A pet initiative of Xi, BRI was launched in 2013 to fund infrastructure projects in the world taking advantage of China’s massive USD 3.21 trillion forex reserves to further Beijing’s global influence.
Since then, the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connecting China’s Xinjiang with Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has emerged as the flagship project over which India has raised protests as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Lack of transparency in BRI agreements and mounting debt on smaller countries have raised global concerns.
The 99-year lease of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka to China has raised red flags about the downside of the BRI and Beijing’s push for major infrastructure projects costing billions of dollars in small countries.
Since the launch of the B3W initiative with an emphasis on transparency and democratic values, China appears to be rebranding the BRI.
Han Wenxiu, an official with the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) for Financial and Economic Affairs, told the media here recently that: “we should make sure that BRI adapts to new circumstances and new vitality”.
“First, we will lay great emphasis on green belt and road development” giving importance to green infrastructure, green energy and green finance, he said.
New railway projects being undertaken under BRI ensure animal passages, he said, highlighting Xi’s recent announcement at a UN conference that China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.
Han also spoke of the BRI’s emphasis on inclusive development projects with a focus on sustainable development.