BRI stands for peace, development | By Hussein Askary

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BRI stands for peace, development

Two recent events consolidated the idea that economic development and cooperation are the main drivers of China’s foreign policy. Despite the political and military provocations by Western powers, especially the United States, China has been asserting that any problems between or among countries can be addressed by adhering to international law based on the UN Charter and by building economic and cultural bridges across borders.

These concepts were highlighted by the “Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century” issued by the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee in November and the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Dakar, Senegal, on Nov 29-30.

Using development to maintain peace

The historic resolution highlights the principle of using economic development and cooperation as a means to maintain peace and normal relations with other nations. It also says China’s own development is a contribution to global peace as it contributes to the development of other countries.

The resolution also emphasizes that the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is an “initiative for peace”. Asserting that “China has promoted high-quality development” of the Belt and Road Initiative, it says, “We have advanced a large number of cooperation projects with significant implications for fuelling economic development and improving people’s lives in countries along the BRI routes and worked to build the BRI into an initiative of peace, prosperity, openness, green development, and innovation that brings different civilizations closer, and a widely welcomed public good and platform for international cooperation in today’s world.”

China-Africa cooperation a best example

The best example of this is China’s cooperation with African countries. Delivering his keynote address, via video link, at the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, President Xi Jinping reminded African leaders that 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the People’s Republic of China’s seat at the United Nations and that the African countries had played a key role in it.

Focusing on the economic aspect of China-Africa relations, Xi said: “At the UN General Assembly this year, I put forward the Global Development Initiative, which dovetails with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We welcome the active support and participation by African countries.”

President Xi presented a nine-point program to be implemented by China according to the “China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035” which the two sides had previously agreed upon. An interesting aspect of the document is that it emphasizes China will never cross “five lines”. It will not interfere in African countries’ internal affairs, not force African countries to choose a certain development path, not impose its will on African countries, not attach any political strings to assistance to Africa, and not pursue selfish political gains through investment and financing cooperation with Africa.

China’s diplomacy in stark contrast to the US

This is in stark contrast to the flagrant interference by the US and its allies in the internal affairs of African countries, including their economic policy, foreign policy, and internal social and political dynamics. And when political and economic pressure does not produce results, the US and its allies use their military power to get what they want, as has happened in Libya in 2011-with horrifying consequences for the Libyan people-and many other African nations.

Worse, US officials travel regularly to African countries to warn them against cooperating with China, which is an insult to those countries as it suggests they cannot make their own decisions. In fact, just 10 days before the FOCAC meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Senegal, after travelling to Kenya and Nigeria, and made ludicrous claims about how the US’ “Build Back Better World” was superior to the Belt and Road Initiative and denounced China for allegedly violating human rights and enticing countries into a “debt trap” through its development projects.

The reaction from Africa to such baseless accusations was that two more countries-Eritrea and Guinea Bissau-joined the Belt and Road Initiative the same week. This means all but four African countries are now part of the initiative.

It is ironic that the more the West warns African countries against cooperating with China, the more countries and organizations join the Belt and Road Initiative because, unlike Western initiatives, it is result-oriented and people-centred.

Also, despite being a major aid provider, China has always tried to make sure African countries don’t become addicted to aid, because aid cannot help them raise their productivity or improve their infrastructure facilities.

Addressing the FOCAC Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015, President Xi mentioned the “three bottlenecks of development”-lack of capital, lack of infrastructure, and shortage of skilled labour. If African countries can overcome these bottlenecks, Xi said, they can eliminate poverty, just as China has done.

“It is entirely possible for Africa, as the world’s most promising region in terms of development potential, to bring into play its advantages and achieve great success…. The achievement of inclusive and sustainable development in Africa hinges on industrialization, which holds the key to creating jobs, eradicating poverty and improving people’s living standards,” Xi said. China’s efforts in Africa since then have been consistent with this vision.

Despite China’s efforts, however, the pace of development in Africa has been slow because China is standing almost alone with African countries in tackling the massive challenges. If the US, the European Union, Japan and other advanced economies had contributed in a similar manner, Africa’s fight against poverty, famine and disease would have been greatly enhanced.

It’s time the West realized that peace and security come from economic development. This is the vision presented in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, who believed in the encyclical populorum progresso (development of the people), saying “development (is) the new name for peace”.

The pope wrote: “When we fight poverty and oppose the unfair conditions of the present, we are not just promoting human well-being; we are also furthering man’s spiritual and moral development, and hence we are benefiting the whole human race. For peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men.”

Courtesy: China Daily

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