When President Xi Jinping outlined China’s to-do list at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing last Friday, many foreign listeners started taking notes.
People familiar with China’s domestic agenda may marvel at the extent to which its domestic policy discourse ranging from innovation, green development and sustainability to anti-corruption and transparency has captured such a global audience.
But it is hard for foreign participants not to be grabbed by the relevance that Xi’s proposals have to their respective nations, whether that be improving people’s livelihoods or cultivating growth drivers.
Interestingly, what sounds domestic to China sounds global to other countries, and vice versa. Because what China has been doing since the late 1970s opening its door wider to foreign investment, welcoming foreign trade, and strengthening intellectual property protection has over the years acquired increasingly more global significance.
That China has come to such a stage in its development that foreign competition is a welcome spur to its economic restructuring and industrial upgrading necessarily means it has to coordinate its inbound and outbound efforts on a single chessboard.
Many developed countries have experienced this stage. But none could boast of such a complete industrial structure and such a huge population as China.
And, since starting from scratch 70 years ago, China has not sought nor will it seek development based on the enslaving or exploitation of other countries.
China’s rise offers unprecedented opportunities for the world. Both developed and developing countries can find partners in China, as well as sources of investment and technology.
And the Belt and Road Initiative is a means to materialise the opportunities into concrete benefits. Neither a sea nor big river select the streams that flow into it.
And without the water that flows from these, they will dry up, no matter how big they are, Xi said, calling on countries to remove institutional obstacles and break any cliques they may have formed.
The symbiosis of countries that Xi envisions, which is embodied by the Belt and Road Initiative, explains why the forum or the initiative, to be more precise can attract nearly 5,000 participants from over 150 countries at various development stages and 29 international organisations.
And why, when Xi touched on some problems and challenges, the participants all shared similar expressions of concern. The popularity of the initiative and how far it has progressed since the first forum two years ago shows that the canards – such as it being merely a geopolitical tool or a creator of “debt traps” have already been disposed of.
For the foundation on which the Belt and Road are being built is trust. The reality is that, whether between people or countries, a promise kept is worth more than any amount of gold.