Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 5 News List

China pushes globalization with new Silk Road summit

AFP, BEIJING

China is on Sunday to host a summit showcasing its ambitious drive to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes and lead a new era of globalization.

Leaders from 28 nations, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are to attend the two-day meeting at Yanqi Lake, in a Beijing suburb near the Great Wall.

However, Western powers seem less enthusiastic about the project, with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni the only leader coming from the G7 industrialized nations.

The forum is to promote Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a massive Chinese-bankrolled infrastructure project to link the country with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

Beijing’s push comes as Washington’s leadership in global trade is changing under US President Donald Trump’s nationalist “America first” stance.

In Europe, anti-globalization sentiment has grown among voters and the continent has been rattled by Britain’s looming exit from the EU.

“There is a pressing need in today’s world to have a shared, open and inclusive cooperation platform ... to jointly tackle global challenges,” Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) told reporters ahead of the summit.

“What we need is not a hero that acts alone, but partners of cooperation that stick together,” he said.

The initiative spans about 65 countries representing 60 percent of the global population and about a third of global GDP.

Analysts are skeptical that China can take the lead in global commerce, while also saying that an integrated world trade system where the Chinese Communist Party sets the rules could come with serious risks and hidden costs.

EU Ambassador to China Hans Dietmar Schweisgut said that EU companies have repeatedly complained about unequal market access in China.

“We hope China will implement domestically what it is preaching internationally,” Schweisgut told reporters on Tuesday. “The Chinese market, when it comes to investment, is not as opened as the European market to Chinese companies.”

However, Europe’s large absence is a “missed opportunity” indicative of a “very inward-looking, very Eurocentric” outlook on the rise as leaders have less to gain politically at home from engagement with China, said Jean-Pierre Lehmann of Switzerland’s IMD business school.

“China’s a reality and it’s not going to go away. We can make things better by engaging with China instead of needlessly containing it,” he said.

New York-based Fitch Ratings expressed concern that “genuine infrastructure needs and commercial logic might be secondary to political motivations,” leading to “a heightened risk of projects proving unprofitable.”

Struggling countries could be saddled with Chinese loans requiring payment regardless of project performance, it said.

The forum is to be China’s first chance since the project’s launch in 2013 to formally communicate its policies to participants on a large scale, said Li Ziguo (李自國), deputy director of a research center for the project at the China Institute for International Studies.

“Many projects have been signed, but these need to be implemented on the ground,” he said.

Yang Shu (楊恕), of Lanzhou University’s Institute for Central Asian Studies, said many countries still do not really understand the project.

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