BRI Summit Re-strengthening International Relations


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International relations, being interdisciplinary in nature, connects nations from political, economic and cultural aspects. The practices and trends in global interstate system stimulate individual states to behave in the favor of its national interest. National policies and agendas are built to blend with the global trends within the boundaries of international laws.

One state’s processes, policies and programs direct other states to act in fear or thrive them to build an interconnected cooperation for mutual benefit. One of such project is Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar project proposed by the President of China, Xi Jinping to foster connectivity and cooperation between Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The first BRI Summit was held on May 2017 in Hong Kong, underlining China’s push to assume a greater role in global affairs and its ambition to boost trade and stimulate economic growth across Asia and beyond.[1] The two-day conference aimed to present developments on BRI and to discuss about possible threats. BRI 2017 successfully hosted 3000 government officials and business leaders, 40 prominent international speakers, 210 one-to-one business matching meetings, 170 investment projects, and 40 exhibitions.[2] The forum was attended by 57 heads of state and government and their respective delegations.[3]

Yet another BRI summit is going to be held on April 2019. The summit this year targets to consult and collaborate for shared benefits to deliver quality outcomes and create even greater development opportunities for the people in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.[4] As BRI is already renowned globally, this year’s agendas will focus mostly on implementing BRI commitments rather than promoting it. The summit will also evaluate first five years of BRI, and frame a road map for upcoming years.

China has enlarged its scope by shifting from historical Silk Road to entire globe. The speeches of Chinese officials in the early BRI days were mostly focused on self-promotion, while China today remains laid back, claiming to only contribute to country’s ‘reformation’ process.[5] China as a state was not the only BRI promoter; media agencies, research firms, tourists, students, and government sources equally promoted BRI, either by admiring it or contradicting it.

The concept of ‘debt trap’ arose after BRI Forum 2017, when the discussion regarding concerns over mounting debt was held.[6] BRI commitments of big sum of investments are reported to be misleading, as the cases has shown that only a fraction of the total sum is invested on the ground.[7]

With the unsolved trade dispute between US and China, BRI summit 2019 will be a platform for China to retell the importance of internationalization, and also seek for an alternative for a large market, if the result of the negotiation with the US is unfavorable.

Since the last summit held on 2017, much has happened, like BRI has been incorporated in the constitution of Chinese Communist Party, and Xi Jinping has removed President’s term limit.[8] BRI Summit 2019 presents China an opportunity to reimage itself by clarifying its intentions: debt structure, transparency, and third country involvement. China intends to focus on constructive relation rather than investment pledges through this summit. 

Author: Kunja Rai

[1] First Belt and Road Initiative. The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society. 2017.

[2] Belt and Road Summit. Hong Kong Trade Development Council. 2017.

[3] Belt and Road Attendees List. The Diplomat. May 12, 2017.

[4] Jannes Suokas. China to host second Belt and Road forum in April 2019. GB Times. November 19, 2018.

[5] Yang Sheng. BRI helps reform global governance. Global Times. August 27, 2018.

[6] Jannes Suokas. China to host second Belt and Road forum in April 2019. GB Times. November 19, 2018.

[7] Thomas S. Eder and Jacob Mardell. Belt and Road reality check: How to assess China’s investment in Eastern Europe. Mercator Institute for China Studies. July 10, 2018.

[8] China’s Xi allowed to remain ‘president for life’ as term limits removed. BBC News. March 11, 2018.

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