Under frequent criticisms over its financial aid package to many Third World countries especially in Africa, the Chinese government has been forced to react to claims that it was taking over a number of key infrastructure projects in some countries that are not able to pay back the funds extended to them.
The Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with hundreds of journalists on March 8 to explain a number of issues including allegations about the so-called debt trap involving the countries that benefit from the Chinese money.
Following are excerpts from the press conference as provided by the local Chinese embassy in Grenada.
One media asked Wang about China’s view of the situation in Venezuela and how will China approach its ties with Latin America as Washington has reacted strongly to several Latin American countries’ decision to establish diplomatic ties with China.
Wang Yi: In regard to the latest developments in Latin America, I wish to emphasise China’s principled position as follows: Firstly, the sovereignty and independence of Latin American countries must be respected. This is a basic norm in international law. It’s up to the people of a country to decide its internal affairs. External interference and sanctions will only aggravate tension and bring back the law of the jungle.
There have been plenty of such lessons in history and they shouldn’t be repeated. The sovereignty and independence of every country is precious, and must be cherished and preserved in equal measure. China will continue to support the search for a political solution in Venezuela through dialogue between the government and the opposition so as to keep the country stable and the people safe.
Secondly, Latin American countries’ right to develop relations with China must be respected. The one-China principle is a widely recognised norm of international relations and an understanding accepted and acted upon by an overwhelming majority of countries. The decision by Latin American countries to establish and grow relations with China on the basis of the one-China principle accords with the trend of history and our times. It’s a correct choice that serves their fundamental and long-term interests. Such a choice shouldn’t be interfered with or criticised.
Recent years have seen significant advancement of China-Latin America ties. Our cooperation, which is part of South-South cooperation, is grounded in equality and mutual benefit. It does not target other parties or try to “move other people’s cheese”. In the year ahead, China will deepen its engagement with Latin American countries through the China-CELAC Forum, the BRI and other mechanisms so as to usher our comprehensive cooperative partnership into a new phase.
One media asked about China’s response towards some skepticism and criticism about the BRI, which is described as a “debt trap” or “geopolitical tool”.
Wang Yi: Six years since it was proposed, the BRI has become the largest platform for international cooperation and the most welcomed global public good. To date, 123 countries and 29 international organisations have signed BRI agreements with China. They have cast a vote of support and confidence in the BRI.
From the start, the BRI follows the sound principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. It has created enormous opportunities for all participants. Thanks to the BRI, East Africa now has its first motorway, the Maldives has built its first inter-island bridge, Belarus is able to produce passenger vehicles, Kazakhstan is connected to the sea, Southeast Asia is constructing a high-speed railway, and the Eurasian continent is benefiting from the longest-distance freight train service.
In Kenya, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, built with Chinese assistance and dubbed “a project of the century”, has created nearly 50,000 local jobs and boosted Kenya’s economic growth by 1.5 percentage points. In Uzbekistan, Chinese construction workers in collaboration with the locals have, in just 900 days, built a 19-kilometer railway tunnel through high mountains, cutting travel time to only 900 seconds.
Plenty of facts like these are proof that the BRI is not a “debt trap” that some countries may fall into, but an “economic pie” that benefits the local population; it is no “geopolitical tool”, but a great opportunity for shared development. Signing up for the BRI has enabled countries to grow at a faster pace, improve their people’s lives and reap win-win outcomes.
Of course, all new initiatives need time to mature. We welcome constructive suggestions from our BRI partners to fully reflect the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. I’m convinced that with everyone pitching in, the BRI will reinvigorate the ancient Silk Road in the new era and be a great help to nations and countries who are joining together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
One media asked about the preparation of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
Wang Yi: The much-anticipated second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) will be held in Beijing in late April. It’s the most important diplomatic event China will host this year and an international gathering that will capture the world’s attention. President Xi will give a keynote address at the opening ceremony and chair a leaders’ round table. There will also be a high-level meeting, thematic forums and a CEO conference.
The second BRF has three things to watch for: First, the number of foreign heads of state and government expected to attend will be much larger than that of the first BRF. Second, it will be a much bigger gathering with thousands of delegates from over 100 countries. Third, there will be more side events including 12 thematic forums focusing on practical cooperation and, for the first time, a conference organised specifically for the business community.
With the theme of “Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future”, the second BRF aims to bring about high-quality cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China looks forward to a full exchange of views on future cooperation plans.
China will build consensus with the parties on high-quality development, follow the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits, champion an open, transparent and inclusive approach to BRI cooperation, and strive for green and sustainable development.
China and the participating countries will seek greater complementarity between the BRI and their development strategies, agree on a line-up of key cooperation projects, promote the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and pay more attention to improving the lives of the ordinary people as we deepen our cooperation.
China will act in the spirit of win-win, focus on improving physical connectivity, build a stronger momentum for common development and forge an even closer partnership.
China will champion open and inclusive cooperation, support economic globalisation, uphold multilateralism and work with all to make the world economy an open one.
As President Xi has said, the BRI originates in China, but its benefits are shared by the world. We have reason to hope and believe that the second BRF will be a great success and another milestone in BRI cooperation.