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China refutes growing concerns about Belt and Road Initiative

China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, on March 19, 2017. (State Department/Released)

China has refuted reports that its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a connectivity project launched by President Xi Jinping, is aimed at expanding and strengthening Beijing’s political influence and military presence.

A US think tank called C4ADS has said its research has shown that BRI is not driven by the aim of economic cooperation and “win-win” development for all the countries involved, but is solely propelled by China’s interests.

A separate European Union report carried by German business daily Handelsblatt said diplomats have warned that BRI projects planned across Europe are “counter to the EU agenda for liberalising trade” and push the “balance of power in favour of subsidised Chinese companies”.

According to the daily, the report was signed by the Beijing envoys of 27 of the 28 EU member states, with the lone holdout being Hungary.

The BRI is Xi’s multi-billion dollar legacy project and aims to connect China with Eurasian countries through a network of infrastructure projects such as ports and highways.

India has kept away from BRI despite Beijing’s efforts to convince New Delhi about its benefits. India has cited sovereignty issues and the lack of transparency in multiple projects that make up the initiative.

The US think tank analysed 15 China-funded projects under BRI and came to the conclusion that it is aimed at expanding China’s influence.

Beijing has dismissed those claims.

“The BRI is about economic cooperation, and the core concept of the initiative is to promote common development by advancing connectivity in infrastructure and other fields,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted as saying by official Xinhua news agency.

“The initiative has gained support from more than 100 countries and international organisations, with more than 80 of them signing cooperation agreements with China,” she said.

Hua noted this worldwide support “would never have been impossible were the initiative not adapted to the trend of the times and beneficial to people of various countries”, Xinhua reported. She contended the initiative has been open and transparent, with all participants involved in consultations on planning and project implementation.

“China has no geopolitical calculations, seeks no exclusionary blocs and imposes no business deals on others,” she said.

Earlier this month, Xi had said the BRI is not an “intrigue of China, as alleged by someone overseas, but aimed at benefiting more countries and people”.

“(The initiative) is neither the Marshall Plan after World War 2 nor an intrigue of China. It is, if anything, a plan in the sunshine,” Xi said at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), an economic forum.

“What we uphold is seeking shared growth through discussion and collaboration,” Xi said.


© 2018 the Hindustan Times (New Delhi)

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