By Guan Zhaoyu and Wang Yongyuan Source: Global Times Published: 2019-4-25
In an article titled "Three Questions on China's 'Belt and Road Initiative'" published in the China Economic Review, the official journal of US-based Chinese Economists Society, Leonard K. Cheng questioned the motive behind the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As the article says, the real intention of the China-proposed BRI is not just limited to exporting excess production capacity, boosting domestic demand, increasing foreign investment, securing supply of strategic resources, and promoting the Chinese yuan's internationalization.
The BRI's real objectives may also include cultivating geopolitical relationships with specific countries, such as Pakistan and Myanmar, along the BRI route, according to the article. Moreover, some Western scholars view the BRI as a "coterie" or a "China club."
However, such accusations are obviously unfounded. The concept of the BRI comes from the ancient Chinese Silk Road and the ancient Chinese maritime Silk Road.
The ancient Silk Road started from Xi'an, capital city of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and passed through many Central Asian countries to reach the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient maritime Silk Road departed from coastal cities in southern China, passed through Southeast Asia and South Asia, and arrived on the African continent.
The ancient Silk Road was an important road for exchange and communication between Eurasian and Western civilizations, contributing to booming trade and business along the route. Thanks to the prosperity of the Silk Road, Asia and Europe were able to communicate with each other, deepening mutual understanding.
In today's world with globalization being challenged and extremism and terrorism gaining ground, the BRI is seen as unorthodox by some Western scholars. With a long history and profound cultural connotation, the development potential of the BRI has become a major concern of those who advocate anti-globalization and protectionism.
For countries against globalization, the grand prospect of the BRI worries them. On the one hand, they are trying to eradicate the hazard brought by economic globalization by favoring their own countries. On the other hand, those countries feel threatened by the rising and booming new free trade economies taking away their market share.
Due to fast-changing international patterns, those so-called concerns are not confined to economics but also politics as their political status will be challenged by the newcomers. As the BRI covers more ground, emerging economies will gain more influence and have more say worldwide, which will shake the established world order.
Besides, coterie diplomacy or secret diplomacy originated in the West, where countries use their advantages and join with others that have common interests to exclude, isolate and even block, through economic or political measures, countries that may have conflicting interests. Those conducting coterie diplomacy do so to protect their interests and get more for themselves. The BRI is nothing like that.
The BRI does not exert sanctions on any countries, seek opponents or bully others. The concept of the BRI came from ancient Chinese history but with an eye to the entire world - the initiative opens the door to sincere friends with similar goals and does not exclude anyone.
The BRI emerged not because one country had its interests infringed or wanted to dominate the interests of another country. The initiative was born when the world's economy hit hard times. China intends to find a way out of the economic crisis with connectivity on policy, infrastructure, trade, financing and people-to-people exchanges. As a country that has benefited from opening up, China firmly supports and promotes economic globalization to share its successful experience with every BRI participant. Many companies from countries that have not signed the BRI agreement have taken part in the construction of BRI projects, which underscores the open, equal and cooperative nature of the BRI, making it the opposite of coterie diplomacy.
The concept of the BRI in the new era is still evolving internationally. The initiative does not belong to just a handful of countries. In fact, any country that approves the idea and participates can be counted as a BRI partner. It is very important to clear up this misconception, bringing more countries into the BRI to achieve development and prosperity together.
Guan Zhaoyu is an associate research fellow with Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China (RDCY). Wang Yongyuan is an intern with the RDCY.