Chris Faure for The Saker Blog

President Xi Jinping announced The Belt and Road initiative or ‘the new Silk Road,’ six years ago during a state visit to Kazakhstan. The idea is to establish and maintain trade corridors between more than 60 countries in Central Asia, Europe, and Africa. The design is inspired by the legacy of the historical Silk Road that connected the East and the West for centuries. Some of the objectives are unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. The 2nd Belt and Road Forum came to completion Saturday, April 27th in Beijing, and while 60 countries initially were envisaged, even Mexico has now announced its interest with much activity around Belt and Road in South America as well.  This initiative is growing.

Politicians and entrepreneurs from 150 nations attended the second Belt and Road forum.  This is 3/4 of the world.  President Putin took part in the event, addressed the delegates, held a meeting with President Xi Jinping as well as a series of bilateral sideline meetings. China’s elite Tsinghua University awarded him with an honorary doctorate.

Mr. Putin’s presser at the end of the forum again confirmed:

  • China is merely putting stability into place.
  • Russia and China are closely aligned strategic partners.
  • China has to strengthen the principles of international trade and create conditions for growth in their interests. China should develop transport infrastructure, aviation, ports, railroads, trucks, roads, but this is not enough.
  • And here it becomes interesting because Mr. Putin stops talking about China and starts talking about what became clear in this process to Russia and this was it! “We need to strengthen the fundamentals of international trade, international cooperation.”  “Russia wants to use its potential in full, and China does this in a very civilized manner. (I love the word civilized in this context!)
  • “I think this prospect, this initiative has an excellent outlook.”
  • He goes on to say that ‘almost all the countries are interested in this’ and ‘nobody wants to see trade wars except possibly for the countries that initiate such processes’.

Mr. Putin arrived at this 2nd Belt and Road Forum straight from his meeting with Kim Jong Un from North Korea where he stated that there are no secrets. North Korea is looking for security assurances, and a group of countries needs to be drawn together to give them this, to advance de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Mr. Xi JinPing addressed the leader’s round table of the Belt and Road forum and outlined the progress from the first forum. He says BRI should be “Open, Green and Clean.” By this, he means open to whoever in the world wants to participate, green in technology and clean in terms of bribery and corruption.

Xi JinPing made it very clear that the relationship between China and Russia is epitomized by:

  • the highest degree of mutual trust,
  • the highest level of coordination and,
  • the highest strategic value since the two countries established diplomatic ties 70 years ago.

But besides all the positive language, what actually happened at this 2nd Belt and Road forum?

Let’s first take a look at the name. Belt and Road Forum for International Development. China holds that BRI is not a geopolitical extension or projection of power, but rather a methodology that can lift all boats, or The Sun Shines Over Everyone.

No less than 283 concrete results in six categories were announced as deliverables of this 2nd Belt and Road Forum. Note how this is stated, as deliverables, and not as plans, or objectives or as vague promises for the future. These deliverables are indeed a juggernaut of world development.

Have we ever seen such a size of hopeful international development in our lifetimes? I think not.

Let us look at just 3 of those 283 concrete deliverables:

From the Category of Investment Projects and Project Lists:

8The Silk Road Fund of China established co-investment platforms with the International Company for Water and Power Projects of Saudi Arabia, the Three Gorges Corporation and the International Finance Corporation of China and the General Electric of the United States. The Silk Road Fund is establishing a co-investment platform with the Surbana Jurong Private Limited of Singapore.

I count impacts in at least four countries.

From the Category of Financing Projects:

3The Export-Import Bank of China signed loan agreements on road projects with the Ministry of Finance of Serbia, the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia and the KazAvtoZhol of Kazakhstan respectively, on bridge rail link and pipeline projects with the Ministry of Finance of Bangladesh, on photovoltaic and hydroelectric power plant projects with the Ministry of Finance of Argentina and the Ministry of Economy and Finance of the Republic of Guinea respectively, on steel plant project with the Ministry of Development Planning of Bolivia, on railway projects with the Ministry of Transport of Egypt and the Federal Ministry of Finance of Nigeria respectively, and signed working capital facility agreements with the AL Khalij Commercial Bank of Qatar and the Global Bank Corporation of Panama.

I count impacts in at least 11 countries.

From the Category of Projects by Local Authorities and Enterprises:

Local authorities and enterprises built the China-Serbia Friendship Industrial Park in Serbia; developed Industry and Sci-tech Cooperation Project of China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone; developed Cambodian Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone industry upgrade and social development cooperation program; invested in and constructed Zhongtai New Silk Road Tajikistan Agriculture Industrial Park in Tajikistan; implemented the PhaseⅡ of Diamniadio Integrated Industrial Park in Senegal; upgraded and constructed the Project of Chan Mya Shwe Pyi Bus Terminal in Mandalay, Myanmar; invested in and constructed the Belt and Road Logistics and Trade Complex in the United Arab Emirates; acquired Tata Steel Southeast Asian Plants in Singapore and Thailand; undertook with Saudi Aramco the Fine Chemicals and Raw Materials Engineering Project in Panjin, Liaoning Province, China; built Tharcoal block-178MTPA open-pit coal mine & 2*660MW coal-based power plant integrate project in Pakistan; invested in and constructed the project of high-performance radial tires with an annual output of 13.62 million in Serbia; developed 1.5mtpa cement clinker project in Nepal; engaged in laterite nickel ore for battery-grade nickel chemical (nickel sulfate crystal with an annual output of 50,000 tons of nickel) production in Indonesia; constructed PTA/PET project in Saudi Arabia; developed a healthcare medical diagnostic integrated project in Kenya; and constructed China-Uzbekistan Medical Science and Technology Park in Uzbekistan.

I stopped counting when I found impacts in more than ten countries.

As you will immediately notice, the 283 concrete results are not in ones or twos but encompass many countries and many projects. It is already clear that what Mr. Putin said, seems to be very accurate: “We need to strengthen the fundamentals of international trade, international cooperation.” “Russia wants to use its potential in full, and China does this in a very civilized manner.”

(Of course the West remains somewhat clueless and cannot really decode this language of civilized cooperation and I really wonder who has mastered The Art of the Deal).

So, if we pull across the crystal ball which is hazy at best, I respectfully submit that we, globally, have passed the nexus point and that we are now de facto living in a multi-polar world. Here is the list of Deliverables of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation

And here you can download the full text of the joint communique of leaders’ roundtable.

A snippet: The ancient Silk Road contributed to the strengthening of the connectivity and the expansion of the world economy in the spirit of promoting peace and cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, equality, mutual learning and mutual benefit. We look forward to restoring and rejuvenating such spirit, through the Belt and Road Initiative and other cooperation frameworks and initiatives.”

You will agree, this is a global juggernaut. It remains to be seen what the dying empire will do in its final frenzy, but we can already now ask the questions: Are we building a better world here? Will economic development and peaceful international cooperation lead a peaceful world, or does military power projection lead, into the future? Are we seeing a new and improved erstwhile United Nations being born where ‘international trade, international cooperation’ form the basis of moving to ‘people-to-people’ bonds’?

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