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Monday, April 26, 2021, 12:30
Xi shares vision for BRI cooperation
By Xu Wei in Beijing and Chen Weihua in Brussels
Monday, April 26, 2021, 12:30 By Xu Wei in Beijing and Chen Weihua in Brussels

President Xi Jinping delivers the keynote speech via video link at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2021 on April 20. (LI TAO / XINHUA)

President Xi Jinping outlined a new vision for the joint building of the Belt and Road Initiative championing open, green and clean cooperation as well as multilateralism and international justice.

In the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2021, Xi reiterated China’s commitment to make the BRI “a public road open to all” instead of a “private path owned by one single party”.

“All interested countries are welcome aboard to take part in the cooperation and share in its benefits. Belt and Road cooperation pursues development, aims at mutual benefits and conveys a message of hope,” he said on April 20.

The president elaborated on China’s vision for high-quality Belt and Road cooperation under the principles of extensive consultation, joint contributions and shared benefits.

The goal is to make the cooperation high-standard, people-centered and sustainable, he said.

The president also expounded on China’s appeal for all nations in Asia and beyond to fight the pandemic through solidarity, strengthening global governance, and pursuing a community with a shared future for mankind.

“Humanity is facing a growing governance deficit, trust deficit, development deficit and peace deficit. Much remains to be done to achieve universal security and common development,” he said.

However, Xi said that there has been no fundamental change in the trend toward a multipolar world, with economic globalization showing renewed resilience and the call for upholding multilateralism and enhancing communication and coordination growing stronger.

He emphasized the importance of consultation on an equal footing to create a future of shared benefits, saying that global affairs should be handled through extensive consultation, and the future of the world should be decided by all countries working together.

“We must not let the rules set by one or a few countries be imposed on others, or allow unilateralism pursued by certain countries to set the pace for the whole world,” he said.

Experts from around the world applauded President Xi’s upholding of multilateralism, global cooperation and building a future of shared benefits.

Erik Solheim, former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said Xi’s speech “was a passionate call for a world of shared interest”.

“We need to defend global cooperation in all areas and build upon win-win solutions,” said Solheim, a Norwegian politician who also served as UN under-secretary-general.

“Together the world can fight the pandemic, poverty and environmental destruction. Divided we are weak,” he said.

Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that Xi’s speech was “reassuring, because he reaffirmed China’s unwavering commitment to reforms, openness, multilateralism, innovation, cooperation and trade globalization”.

“I believe confidence in Asian and global economic recovery is accelerating, especially with the world’s 

No 2 ... economy, China, sustaining decisive economic growth,” he said.

Irfan Shahzad Takalvi, founding president of Eurasian Century Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad, said the “Belt and Road Initiative is the single largest hope of harmonious and broad-based development for the entire humanity in the prevailing global context”.

The BRI is instrumental in ensuring that globalization is about the equal flow of goods and services between the East and the West, the Global South and the Global North. “This is the way forward for a rule-based, fair and free global system,” he said.

“Xi’s message is very loud that the world — particularly, its underprivileged populations — are yearning to work together, to join hands for mutually win-win development and progress.

“In the prevailing global context, where some of the major powers of the world are continuously moving towards protectionism and fanning conflicts, Xi’s reassurance of continuity of global-level cooperation and further enhancing it is a ray of hope for billions of people of the world,” said Takalvi.

Wei Li, a lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School, found President Xi’s citation of BRI as “a public road open to all” very interesting.

On the one hand, it highlights the “public” right to access to these projects, he said. “These projects will be accessible by people and firms locally and internationally, instead of just from China. On the other hand, it recognized potential market failures involved in providing these public goods, such as environmental concerns and equity access.”

Moreover, the speech confirms China, as a leading global power, is prepared to share international responsibility. Besides growth, inclusivity and sustainability will be increasingly emphasized as key elements of the BRI.

“As a growing power, China is not pursuing a strategy to be the sole rule-setter in international initiatives. Instead, China will resort to multilateral mechanisms, built upon cooperation and consensus,” said Li.

Dennis Munene, executive director for Nairobi-based China-Africa Center at Africa Policy Institute, said Xi’s message at the forum was “loud and clear”.

“The world needs a dialogue of humanity that is pegged on the ethos of multilateralism, strong global governance, solidarity, justice and not hegemony or unilateralism, in order to pursue a common goal of a shared future for mankind,” he said.

Munene praised Xi for expressing his desire of “safeguarding the UN-centered international system, preserving the international order underpinned by international law and upholding the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core”.

Shada Islam, head of the New Horizon Project, a Brussels-based global strategy and advisory company, stressed that it is time for the world to continue to battle the pandemic and its devastating impact on human lives and growth prospects amid vaccine nationalism.

“President Xi Jinping has sent a reassuring message that China is not ready to engage in a Cold War, which would pit nations against each other, but rather wants increased international cooperation on the R&D, joint production and distribution of vaccines as well as efforts to increase their accessibility and affordability in developing countries,” she said.

Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy, said: “By reiterating its support for multilateral institutions, China makes a valid point that it accepts the rule-based global order. It is the West that is increasingly uneasy about a multilateral system where China participates on equal footing, and wishes to revise it.”

He pointed out that China’s economic leadership brings attention to regions that are normally in the blind spot of the United States and Europe.

Xi’s remarks are “in consonance with the principles of global governance and multilateralism,” said Karori Singh, emeritus fellow and former director of South Asia Studies Centre at the University of Rajasthan.

By highlighting China’s contribution and enunciating the Chinese approach, Xi has assured all the participants for China’s endeavor to overcome the deficits in governance, trust, development and peace through greater solidarity and global governance on the basis of equality and inclusiveness, Singh said.

Xi has laid emphasis on partnership in health cooperation, connectivity, green development, openness and inclusiveness. “Such a partnership on the basis of basic principles of international relations will certainly yield the desired results for realizing the goal of shared prosperity and judicious world order,” he said.

Moreover, by setting specific goals and charting pathways of their realization, Xi emphasized multilevel partnership on different aspects for achieving “green development”. 

“Hence, it is imperative that the nation-states must strive together for shared prosperity and common future for humankind,” Singh said.

The Chinese leader has emphasized the principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual trust at the center in state-to-state relations.

Aaron Jed Rabena, a research fellow at Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress, a foreign policy think tank in Manila, added: “The message of President Xi’s speech is that China remains committed to opening itself and providing public goods to the world, let alone that there are threats for global supply chains to be realigned and that there is an intensifying great power politics.”

Jan Yumul, Xu Weiwei and Yang Han in Hong Kong and Liu Hongjie in Beijing contributed to this story.

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