China’s Belt and Road vs. Geopolitics

One day before U.S. President Joe Biden requested over $100 billion in new funding for wars abroad (cf. above), Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the equivalent of approximately $100 billion in new funding for Belt and Road Initiative development projects. The contrast in policy orientation could not be clearer.

Xi Jinping was speaking at the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Oct. 18, which hosted participants from some 150 countries, including thousands of entrepreneurs and 22 heads of state and government. The guest of honor was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who spoke in the opening session right after his Chinese counterpart, reviewing Russia’s infrastructure projects and how they are to be integrated into the Belt and Road (cf. below).

In its decade of existence since 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has led to 200 accords with 150 countries and 30 international organizations, and over 3,000 individual projects worth over $1 trillion. The main categories of investment and construction are energy and power, transport, metals, and public services, including health and education. At this year’s forum, at least 450 concrete new projects were agreed upon, according to Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who presented the overall results of the two-day event Oct. 19.

Wang stressed that the BRI was open to all nations and that China was prepared to work with others on the basis of cooperation in infrastructure, citing as an example, the willingness to work with Europe’s Gateway program. However, he pointed out, trying to weaken a competitor rather than competing on a level playing field is unacceptable.

President Xi, in his keynote address, laid out an approach to the solutions of the crises facing mankind, which is clearly in the spirit of the historic Treaty of Westphalia. “We should all treat each other as friends and partners, respect and support each other, and help each other succeed,” he stated. “Helping others is also helping oneself.”

Xi stressed that “We have learned that humankind is a community with a shared future. China can only do well when the world is doing well. When China does well, the world will get even better.”

He referred several times to the ancient Silk Road and the aura of cooperation surrounding it, noting that “the pioneers of the ancient silk routes won their place in history not as conquerors with warships, guns, horses, or swords. Rather they are remembered as friendly emissaries leading camel caravans and sailing ships loaded with goods.”

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