Xi Not Setting Up "China Club"
China's President Xi Jinping has said that the Belt and Road Initiative does not aim at a geopolitical or military alliance, nor will it set up a "China club."
Xi made the comments on Monday at a meeting to mark the fifth anniversary of his proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - which aims to create a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa. On land, the plan is to develop the economic corridors of: China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia, the China-Indochina peninsula, China-Pakistan and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar. The maritime part of the initiative focuses on jointly building secure and efficient transport routes connecting major sea ports.
Under the initiative, infrastructure such as railways, roads, ports, energy systems and telecommunications networks are receiving the most attention. China’s development of ports and hubs in Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Oman and Djibouti are intended to provide China with maritime access and economic benefit across the Indian Ocean. These will connect to Piraeus, Greece’s major port, which has been bought by Chinese shipping group COSCO and which will allow direct access to the markets of Europe.
China seeks win-win cooperation, Xi said. The significance of jointly building the Belt and Road goes beyond economic cooperation, and it is a great way to improve the global development model and promote economic globalization, he said.
China's trade volume with countries involved in the BRI has exceeded $5 trillion in the past five years, with an annual average growth of 1.1 percent. Qian Keming, vice-minister of commerce, said China’s combined direct investment in BRI countries has grown by an average of 7.2 percent annually, and the nation has now become the largest trade partner for 25 countries. China has also signed or upgraded five free trade agreements with 13 countries.
He said 82 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones have been established in countries along the Belt and Road, with an accumulated investment of $28.9 billion. The zones attracted nearly 4,000 enterprises, creating $2 billion of tax revenue for these countries and providing 244,000 local jobs.
BRI supporters suggest that the initiative permits new infrastructure and economic aid to be provided to needy economies. However, critics claim that it facilitates Chinese economic and strategic domination of the countries involved. China has been criticized for using its massive financial assets to dominate smaller economies through long-term control of infrastructure, natural resources and associated land assets, and through offering less than desirable credit terms for infrastructure loans.