Beijing: Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have laid out the vision for the belt and road initiative (BRI) at a summit in Beijing. Shi said that the initiative has been positioned as an alternative to Western-led development.
The two leaders held bilateral discussions on Wednesday as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leaves Putin increasingly isolated. Putin’s rare overseas trip to Beijing underscores the strength of the alliance between Russia and China.
More than 145 countries have signed up for the $1 trillion belt and road initiative accounting for three quarters of the world’s population and half of the globe’s total wealth.
It is a decade since Xi unveiled plans to rebuild the ancient Silk Road, and with it, reshape global trade and politics with China planted firmly in the center.
His signature project has ballooned into a $1 trillion endeavor, but it is still only a loosely coordinated network of power plants, ports, roads and railways. It has generated significant controversy, with host countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal struggling to overcome mounting debt distress, while in countries like Laos, activists fear Chinese largesse is laced with threats to national sovereignty.
In an effort to recast the initiative, Xi on Wednesday pledged a greener, higher-tech, more targeted and more interconnected phase of the project that would turn the “lowlands of development into the highlands of prosperity.”
He also painted it as necessary in an increasingly polarized world, taking aim at American and European efforts to “de-risk” supply chains by reducing dependence on China. “Seeing other people’s development as a threat and economic interdependence as a risk will not allow you to live better and develop faster,” he said.
China has shifted from major infrastructure to smaller technology projects as its ability to fund overseas projects has been constrained by mounting debt and a slowdown at home. A raft of policy support secured 4.9 percent economic growth during the past three months, despite a continuing downturn in the property sector, data released on Wednesday showed.
But Xi has shown no sign of abandoning a project that remains central to China’s efforts to challenge the U.S.-led world order. This year alone, projects worth $40 billion have been launched under the scheme, according to the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank.
The Belt and Road Initiative began as an effort based on huge construction projects, but it has evolved into a slimmed-down vehicle for China’s geostrategic goals and a way to help sanction-proof its economy, the Eurasia Group said in a note.
Beijing has long considered Moscow a critical friend in that effort, forging their “no limits” partnership and ignoring Western-led efforts to censure Putin over the invasion of Ukraine and an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for the unlawful deportation of children.
This is only the second time Putin has left Russia since his March indictment, after a trip last week to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.