BRI: a historic opportunity.

Byline: Munir Akram

CHINA'S President Xi Jinping hosted the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on April 26/27 125 countries and 40 international organisations have joined the Belt and Road Initiative. The BRI is an enormously ambitious project which envisages the linkage of the entire Eurasian mega-continent, and its near and far periphery in Southeast, ASouth and West Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, through interconnected land and sea infraAstructure, trade and investment.

Thirty-seven heads of state and government, scores of ministers and 5,000 delegates participated in the Forum, reflecting the growing endorsement of the BRI. This acceptance reflects a desire among developing countries to emulate the successful 'model' of China's economic development and a recognition that it can provide an invaluable path towards global economic growth, greater Aprosperity and peace and stability in developing countries.

Reportedly, 175 agreements have been signed under the rubric of the BRI. Projects amounting to $90 billion have been implemented. The planned outlay on infrastructure projects is $1 trillion. This figure is likely to increase as non-Chinese sources of official finance and private sector finance join in funding BRI projects. The scope of the concept now envisages incorporation of various forms of Acooperation such as the digital economy, e-commerce and creation of a BR Studies Network linking think tanks.

Not one of America's Asian allies has the stomach to confront China, their largest trading partner.

The US has declared its opposition to the BRI and sponsored a political and media campaign to discourage developing countries and its allies from joining it. The US and Western refrain of China's so-called debt-trap diplomacy, stories of corruption and failed projects have been repeated as nauseam although the basis for such reports has been credibly refuted by the parties concerned.

The admonitions regarding the debt owed to China are particularly galling given that over 90 per cent of developing country debt is owed to Western countries and institutions. Servicing this debt consumes around 30pc of annual hard currency outflows from these developing countries. This debt is due to flawed Western development 'aid' which has contributed only marginally to the development of recipient countries.

The US opposition has a strategic rationale. The initiative trumps the US aim of creating a ring of alliances around China's periphery...

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