‘Misperception’ only challenge for BRI: China

‘Misperception’ about the Chinese belt and road initiative or BRI is the only challenge for Beijing, Charge d'Affaires of the Embassy of China in Dhaka Chen Wei said.

Nurul Islam Hasibbdnews24.com
Published : 22 April 2019, 09:05 AM
Updated : 22 April 2019, 09:05 AM

“The BRI was put forward by China, but it’s open to the world,” he said, speaking to a group of journalists at the embassy ahead of the second summit in Beijing from Apr 25-27.

“While receiving active support and warm responses from the international community, the BRI has no geopolitical calculations, seeks no exclusionary blocs and imposes no business deals on others,” he said.

“The BRI was incorporated into the outcome documents of important international institutions including the United Nations.  124 countries, including Bangladesh and 29 international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China to jointly build the BRI.”

Some 37 foreign heads of states and governments have confirmed will attend the summit. In total 5,000 guests from over 150 countries and 90 international organisations have confirmed their participation, covering a larger scale than the first forum in 2017, Wei said.

From Bangladesh, he said, the daughter of the prime minister, Saima Wazed Hossain and Minister for Industries Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun will attend the thematic forums on people-to-people bond and policy connectivity at the invitation from the Chinese side.

“We attach high importance to the participation of our Bangladeshi friends, and will make all the necessary arrangements with best efforts”.

However, the initiative has been the subject of controversy in many Western countries, particularly the US, which views it as a means to spread Chinese influence abroad and trap countries into debt through “nontransparent” projects.

India also opted against joining the BRI citing concerns over China’s projects with Pakistan. Some analysts say India is not comfortable with Bangladesh joining the initiative.

IS THE BRI A DEBT TRAP?

“The theories that put the BRI as a geopolitical tool of China, or a possible debt trap for relevant countries, are total misunderstandings, prejudices, even smears against the BRI, and are completely groundless,” Wei said.

“China is a latecomer to the international finance markets, whose loans account for only a low percentage in the national debt of the relevant countries. And four-fifths of the development loans China gives out are below market interest rate.”

In Bangladesh, he said they mostly encourage private sector investment that creates jobs and contributes in growth.

“If you look at the government to government arrangement, we provided soft loans. The interest rate is between 2 percent and 3 percent. We don’t even encourage this loan. We promote investments for Bangladesh,” he said.

In Sri Lanka, according to a report published by the central bank of Sri Lanka, its China-related debt accounts for merely 10.6 percent of its total, within which 61 percent is at an interest rate far below the international market, he said.

“Last month the Sri Lankan president, prime minister, speaker of the parliament and head of the opposition party, when interviewed by the media, admitted that the bigger part of Sri Lanka’s current debt burden comes from the international financing markets, not China.”

“Instead, to cooperate with China will help them walk out of the debt crisis,” he said.

“The Hambantota port project is open and transparent. The so-called 'military base' is a smear and a frame-up of China, and also an insult to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.”

He said the latest research from the World Bank shows that the BRI will reduce the global trade cost by 1.1-2.2 percent, accelerate the global economic growth by at least 0.1 percent, and generate 240,000 jobs and over $2 billion of revenues to countries along the routes.

“So far, not a single country has been trapped in a debt crisis for joining the BRI."

“On the contrary, many countries are lifted from the trap of underdevelopment because of it,” he said.

“East Africa got its first express way, Maldives built its first inter-island bridge, Belarus managed to establish its own automobile industry, and Kazakhstan for the first time got connected to the sea.”

“Under the BRI, Padma Bridge, the dream bridge of the Bangladeshi people, is on its way to becoming a reality.

“With the bridge, it’s no longer a distant dream to drive up the GDP of the south-western Bangladesh by 2.3 percentage points.”

“So the BRI is not a ‘debt trap’, but an ‘economic pie’ that benefits the local population; not a tool of geopolitics, but an opportunity of development for all,” he said.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher