G7 leaders, who are meeting in England, have adopted a rival plan to oppose China’s Belt and Road Initiative by helping build infrastructure in poorer nations in a “values-driven, high-standard and transparent” partnership. The adoption of the US-inspired “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project came after President Joe Biden and leaders met to address “strategic competition with China “.
Afghanistan has committed to “deepening cooperation” with China on Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, during the foreign ministers from Beijing, Kabul, and Islamabad Trilateral Dialogue. The reaffirmation comes against the backdrop of America’s accelerated troop pullout from the region. The US and India have been warning other countries against joining the BRI on account of a range of concerns.
The G7 is expected to launch a ‘Clean Green Initiative’ to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative when leaders meet at a summit next week in UK. The strategy would provide a framework to support sustainable development and the green transition in developing countries. Germany, France and Italy are keen for it to support activities in Africa, while the U.S. is pushing for action in Latin America and Asia. Japan argues for more focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
The LAPSSET Corridor Is China’s Latest Silk Road In East Africa
24 MAY 2021
IGAD’s Chinese-backed infrastructure projects will eventually create a regional version of Beijing’s vision for a Community of Common Destiny, one of the central philosophical tenets behind BRI.
The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopian (LAPSSET) Transport Corridor in the northeastern Kenyan port of the same name received its first ships last Thursday. The project hasn’t yet been fully completed but is nonetheless finally operational. China is responsible for its construction and considers it to be a major Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) investment in East Africa. The LAPSSET Corridor will connect those three countries and help relieve congestion along the Nairobi-Mombasa one. Speaking of which, China completed Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) extending between the capital city and its host country’s main port a few years back in 2017.
There’s more to China’s BRI plans for East Africa than just those two infrastructure projects, however. China also completed the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway between the Ethiopian capital and its neighboring gateway to the Red Sea in 2018. In addition, China reached a deal earlier this week with Uganda to rehabilitate a century-old railway between its capital of Kampala and the Kenyan border. Although not a formal extension of the SGR like was originally planned, it’ll nevertheless de facto fulfill the same purpose of facilitating Ugandan exports to the wider world through Mombasa Port.
The end result is that China is gradually connecting the countries of East Africa closer together. Three of them – Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda – are part of the East African Community (EAC), a regional trade bloc that aspires to more closely integrate along the lines of the EU sometime in the coming future. Ethiopia isn’t part of that bloc, but all four countries comprise the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which also includes Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan. It can therefore be said that China’s recent Silk Road efforts are concentrated in the broader IGAD region instead of just the EAC.
This part of Africa is regarded by many observers as among the most economically promising and stable, barring few exceptions like South Sudan and Somalia. Even so, those two have recently stabilized in their own way as a result of political compromises between warring parties. LAPSSET will certainly help bring more developmental opportunities and employment to the former while the latter is a peninsular country with plenty of opportunities to trade with the rest of the world as it is. Concentrating on LAPSSET though, it also serves other strategic purposes than simply providing South Sudan with a corridor to the sea.
Ethiopia is the regional giant with the second largest population on the continent. It has practically infinite developmental promise and previously recorded some of the world’s highest growth levels up until COVID-19 caused the current global economic crisis. A country with such potential understandably wants to diversify its trade routes and not be dependent on any single corridor. This explains the pragmatism behind LAPSSET since it serves that purpose by complementing Ethiopia’s other Chinese-constructed gateway to the Red Sea, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway.
IGAD’s Chinese-backed infrastructure projects will eventually create a regional version of Beijing’s vision for a Community of Common Destiny, one of the central philosophical tenets behind BRI. Regional integration is one of the top trends of the 21st century, but it requires significant capital investment in most Global South cases as well as the proper expertise to construct the requisite infrastructure there. China provides both no-strings-attached loans and highly qualified labor in order to achieve this, thereby fulfilling its responsibility to the Global South as the world’s largest developing nation.
Since IGAD can be regarded as an extension of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) due to its geography, it can be said that such Chinese investments are playing a crucial role in integrating this increasingly strategic space within which many observers predict most 21st-century trends will converge. South-South cooperation through LAPSSET and its regional sister projects provides an excellent example of China’s new model of international development. It treats partners as equals and not as subordinates like the US does, provides no-strings-attached loans unlike conditional American ones, and results in win-win outcomes instead of zero-sum games.
China is willing to advance their Belt and Road Initiative projects in the post-pandemic era with Kazakhstan. The two sides should elevate their level of interconnectivity and explore new growth points in the fields including 5G, the big data, artificial intelligence, digital economy as well as new energy.
The Quad is against China in all respects, especially when it comes to military and economic affairs. Canberra’s canceling of Victoria’s two BRI agreements is therefore consistent with this unstated but increasingly obvious strategy.
The Australian federal government recently canceled two Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) deals that the state of Victoria signed with China in 2018 and 2019 as part of its new policy enabling the central authorities to overrule international agreements clinched by lower-level administrative entities. China vowed to respond to this extremely unfriendly move which further worsens their bilateral relations after several years of steady decline due to Australia’s unprovoked actions against the People’s Republic. Examples of the latter prominently include politically meddling in Hong Kong and promoting harmful conspiratorial claims about COVID-19’s origins.
The latest developments amount to a serious escalation in the ongoing Hybrid War on BRI, which Australia arguably committed at its American ally’s behest. The two nations are part of the emerging Quad military bloc in what both countries regard as the “Indo-Pacific”. Plenty of observers have voiced concern that this growing network is aimed at containing China, which is seemingly proven by what just happened. The Quad is against China in all respects, especially when it comes to military and economic affairs. Canberra’s canceling of Victoria’s two BRI agreements is therefore consistent with this unstated but increasingly obvious strategy.
What’s even more disturbing about all of this is that Australia voluntarily joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last November alongside China and over a dozen other regional nations. The expectation among many, however naive in hindsight, was that Australia would moderate its approach towards China and perhaps enter into a long-overdue rapprochement with its top trade partner. Alas, that doesn’t seem to have much chance of happening now that the country canceled those two BRI deals which were supposed to serve as flagship projects of cooperation between them heralding in a new era of economic cooperation.
American strategists must be delighted that they succeeded in convincing their junior Australian partners to sacrifice their own economic interests out of political solidarity with Washington, albeit on the pretext of so-called “national interests”. Regarding that flimsy justification, which has recently been bandied about with abandon in Australia, it’s vague enough to be used as a pretext for anything actually. The appeal to “national interests” also automatically attracts the support of nationalist elements in society who are programmed to positively respond to anything that the authorities say is in advance of that concept.
Objectively speaking, it’s actually against Australia’s national interests to cancel its BRI deals. For starters, they were agreed to by two internationally recognized governments, albeit Victoria’s being a state one and not federal. This means that abruptly canceling them on a vague pretext harms Australia’s reputation by making it appear unreliable, especially since many suspect that it did so to please its American ally. Secondly, the federal government could have at least in theory attempted to renegotiate parts of these deals if it really had a problem with them instead of just scrapping both of those pacts entirely. This hints at its ulterior motives.
It’s understandable that some countries have complex relations between their state and central governments, especially those nations that practice Western forms of democracy and whose concept of “national interests” could possibly change every few years after the next election. Nevertheless, domestic disputes between administrative entities mustn’t result in international implications like what just happened in terms of greatly harming Chinese-Australian relations. The very fact that this occurred in a country that proudly presents itself as a politically stable model for others proves just how destabilizing democratic systems can sometimes be.
The Australian people must realize that their understanding of “national interests” is being manipulated by some of their authorities and the latter’s foreign allies in America as part of the Hybrid War on BRI, which is a major component of the larger Hybrid War on China. It’s a pity that their objective economic interests are being sacrificed as part of this aggressive scheme. The only ones who will suffer are those same Australian people, many of whom had high hopes about taking their countries’ promising economic ties with China to the next level through BRI. It can only be hoped that their authorities regain their senses and reverse this latest move.
It was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that ‘Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China’. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain.
Bloomberg published an op-ed last week provocatively claiming that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. Opinion columnist Bobby Ghosh argues that the country might soon slip back into an all-out civil war that would not only disrupt China’s connectivity interests in the country, but also spill over to threaten the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In addition, he predicts that Afghanistan will become “a sanctuary for jihadists of every stripe — some of whom will undoubtedly direct their attention to that very short, mountainous and porous border with China.”
This line of thinking is typical of what many in the Western mainstream media are saying. They were against former US President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban last year and subsequent promise to complete his country’s military withdrawal by the beginning of next month. His successor, US President Joe Biden, will instead initiate the full withdrawal by that date and complete it before the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some establishment voices fear that this will create strategic opportunities for China and the US’ other so-called peer competitors like Russia to exploit for zero-sum ends against American interests.
In reality, however, it’s in everyone’s interests that the US completes its promised withdrawal from Afghanistan as soon as possible. America has spent trillions of dollars there without much of anything to show for it. It’s true that Afghanistan now has a governing system comparatively closer (key word) to Western democracy than before and that woman now enjoy greater rights, but the Taliban still controls large swathes of the country and ISIS’ entry to the battlefield in 2014 immensely complicated the anti-terrorist situation there. Indefinitely continuing the US’ occupation of Afghanistan would only make matters much worse without solving anything.
By boldly agreeing to withdraw from the country and clearly articulating the strategic reasons behind this decision in his national speech on Wednesday, President Biden concluded that it’s better to cut America’s losses and simply move on even though the victimized Afghan people won’t be able to move past this twenty-year dark chapter of their national history so easily. In any case, their future is arguably brighter than before, not dimmer. The completion of the US’ withdrawal will unlock promising socio-economic opportunities for Afghanistan provided that their leadership and local stakeholders have the political will to support them.
To explain, it’s precisely because of China that this is possible. Afghanistan’s geostrategic location in the center of the tri-regional Central-South-West Asian space affords it enormous potential for connecting these three massive markets through BRI. In particular, CPEC’s de facto expansion into Afghanistan via the recently agreed Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway will complement existing rail connectivity with China via the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Chinese-Iranian Strategic Partnership deal also creates the chance of further expanding this connectivity network to West Asia with time via W-CPEC+.
Domestically, the Afghan economy would require extensive reconstruction, but its reported $3 trillion worth of minerals – including some rare earth ones – could ideally be extracted in the most responsible way possible to ensure the equitable distribution of this wealth to every citizen. Coupled with grants and low-interest no-strings-attached loans from partner states like China and others, the Afghan people actually stand a very credible chance of succeeding in the future so long as their country can avert the all-out civil war that Ghosh fears might soon erupt.
That worst-case scenario is plausible, but nevertheless not inevitable. The Taliban, despite being designated as terrorists, have recently proven themselves to be shrewd diplomats on the international stage during multiple rounds of peace talks over the past few years. They seem to have understand the pragmatism of facilitating such connectivity and extractive projects for the purpose of improving their citizens’ living standards. Should they enter into the planned inclusive transitional government that’s been proposed, then they’ll probably not do anything to threaten those projects since they’ll too have a stake in their success.
Considering all of this, it was hyperbole for Ghosh to claim that “Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is A Blow To China”. It might only be so in the worst-case scenario, which is far from certain. What’s much more likely is that the existing low-intensity conflict continues but doesn’t reach catastrophic proportions. Instead, with the Taliban possibly becoming part of the Afghan government, the international community might remove their terrorist designation and accept them as equal stakeholders in Afghanistan’s future socio-economic success, a large part of which will be due to mutually beneficial cooperation with China.
China’s new model of International Relations actually isn’t all that new but is basically a revival of the world order that the UN originally envisioned since its founding but which had yet to materialize due to the Cold War and America’s subsequently failed efforts to impose its unipolar hegemony.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi articulated his country’s new model of International Relations while speaking to journalists on Sunday during the ongoing two sessions gathering in Beijing. He credited the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) for guiding China’s foreign policy and promised that it will always do everything to uphold the UN Charter’s principles of democracy, justice, equality, and multilateralism. About the last-mentioned one, Foreign Minister Wang reminded everyone that selective multilateralism is still group thinking, which slows down humanity’s irreversible march towards a community of shared future. It must be avoided, and all countries should embrace true multilateralism as envisioned by the UN instead.
China’s relations with the US must be based on the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs. In particular, the US must stop meddling in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the South China Sea. The Chinese nation’s reunification is inevitable, Foreign Minister Wang said, while all countries including China hold firm to the principle that only patriotic forces should be allowed to run for public office such as what is presently being proposed for the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region. As for false rumors of “genocide” in Xinjiang, he encouraged the whole world to visit the region for themselves to see that its people are doing better than ever. With reference to the South China Sea, he condemned the US’ provocative “freedom of navigation” patrols.
Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Wang said that China hopes that the US will remove all obstacles for dialogue and cooperation. He reaffirmed that competition between the two is natural, but must be healthy, fair, just, and responsibly managed in pursuit of mutual enhancement. The diplomat quoted a Chinese saying about “seeking harmony without uniformity” to show his respect for systemic diversity in the world. All countries should be free to choose whichever model is best for them, whether that’s the Chinese, American, or some other one. None of them, however, should smear the others or aspire for supremacy. It’s only through these means that the whole world can truly embrace the philosophy of win-win cooperation.
About that, China’s engagement with the rest of the world is predicated on its vision of a community of shared future for mankind, which is brought closer to reality through the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and the country’s new development paradigm of dual circulation. BRI’s major projects such as its flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have forged ahead despite the pandemic, even evolving to the point of creating the complementary Digital, Green, and Health Silk Roads. All of these initiatives embody multilateralness and openness, which are in full conformity with the principles of Xi Jinping Thought that form the foundation for China’s new model of International Relations.
Foreign Minister Wang also spent considerable time discussing China’s relations with each of the world’s regions. He refuted the false claims that China is trying to divide the EU from the US and said that China and the EU aren’t systemic rivals but civilizational partners with shared interests. The diplomat also defended last year’s Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) and said that it isn’t aimed against any third party. As for Africa, Foreign Minister Wang praised China’s ties with it as a model of South-South cooperation. Additionally, he pledged more support for its economic recovery, BRI projects, and COVID-19 vaccines. With regards to West Asia, he brought up China’s proposal for a multilateral Gulf dialogue platform to ensure peace and security.
China’s comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia sets an example of strategic mutual trust and has proven its resiliency in fighting against the dual COVID-19 and political viruses, including Color Revolutions and disinformation campaigns. Foreign Minister Wang announced that they’ll further synergize BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union, and both countries will continue upholding the UN-centric world order, multilateralism, and international law and norms. Ties with India are also important, he said, since cooperation between the world’s two largest developing nations is an integral component of what he predicted will be the Asian Century. As for ASEAN and Latin American ties, these are marked by COVID-19 cooperation, improved trade, and trust.
From all of this, it can be seen that China’s new model of International Relations actually isn’t all that new but is basically a revival of the world order that the UN originally envisioned since its founding but which had yet to materialize due to the Cold War and America’s subsequently failed efforts to impose its unipolar hegemony. This crucial observation debunks the false claims that China is a so-called “revisionist power”. It’s not “revising” anything, but rather is advocating for a return to the UN-enshrined principles of the post-World War II order, albeit with gradual reforms implemented in a responsible fashion to ensure greater representation for fellow developing countries. This model of International Relations will inevitably create a community of shared future.
India had alleged that China and Pakistan were behind the ongoing protests by farmers in India (thousands of farmers have been protesting since November against three laws that the government claims are aimed at liberalizing the agriculture sector). Pakistan rejected New Delhi’s claim.
China’s International Development Cooperation Is A Stunning Success
14 JANUARY 2021
One of the most significant chapters in China’s newly released white paper concerns its support of developing countries’ endogenous growth, which crucially contradicts the US’ information warfare narrative that Beijing is laying so-called “debt traps” for its partners.
Xinhua reported on Sunday that China’s State Council Information Office released a 43-page white paper on “China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era” showcasing the country’s stunning successes in a variety of spheres. The New Era began after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012 after Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a global perspective to his country’s historical international development cooperation programs through the unveiling of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and Beijing’s plans to build a global community of shared future.
This period of time has been monumental for the world because it saw the establishment of what the document describes as the “unparalleled level of interconnection and interdependence among countries”. China expanded upon its civilizational ideal of promoting universal harmony and the past six decades of its existing international development cooperation to take the lead as the world’s greatest promoter of South-South cooperation, which is a role commensurate with its status as the largest developing country and a consistently responsible actor in global affairs.
The many accomplishments enumerated in the white paper are too plentiful to mention in the present analysis but can be summarized as comprehensively encompassing the full spectrum of state-to-state cooperation. Not only does this include the traditional sphere of hard infrastructure projects like railroads and ports, but also soft ones like vocational training programs, healthcare, and cultural cooperation. Other important dimensions to point out include policy coordination, promotion of clean energy, humanitarian assistance, support for the digital economy, eco-environmental protection, agricultural assistance, and institutional integration, et al.
About the last-mentioned example, institutional integration, attention should be drawn to China’s steady support of regional connectivity. The liberalization of customs and trade regimes, as well as China’s dovetailing of BRI with the development strategies of participating countries, has resulted in the creation of new platforms for facilitating this. Some prominent examples of this in practice are the efforts currently underway to link BRI with Mongolia’s Development Road program, Kazakhstan’s Bright Road initiative, the EU’s Europe-Asia connectivity strategy, Pakistan’s Naya (New) Pakistan vision, and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.
In stark contrast to the US under outgoing President Trump, China is very proud of the fact that its international development cooperation contributes to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Beijing has helped its partners in the Global South greatly reduce poverty, ensure food security, improve their healthcare systems, provide quality education to their people, and support gender equality, among many other beneficial outcomes. The People’s Republic also helps all of its partners respond to global humanitarian challenges such as famines, public health risks like the COVID-19 pandemic, and migrant and refugee crises.
One of the most significant chapters in China’s newly released white paper concerns its support of developing countries’ endogenous growth, which crucially contradicts the US’ information warfare narrative that Beijing is laying so-called “debt traps” for its partners. To the contrary, China is helping them to improve their governance, promote technological progress, is transferring advanced technologies to them, and building their vocational skills. The country is also educating its partners’ people and inviting them to participate in conferences and other people-to-people events hosted by the People’s Republic on a regular basis.
The impression that one receives after reading this very detailed white paper enumerating the many accomplishments of China’s international development cooperation in the new era is that the largest developing country in the world is the most reliable partner of its Global South counterparts. China is selflessly sharing the secrets of its own economic miracles with everyone else in order to build a global community of shared future that will improve people’s lives. It’s respectful of its partners’ interests and flexibly adapts to their needs through diverse forms of cooperation. With China’s support, the Global South will surely keep rising.