Belt and Road - Paranoid -The Asian Age

Second engagement of BRI Forum with much larger gathering than the first one of 2017 has generated fresh debate on its future prospect. Participation of 37 heads of state and representatives of 150 states including many developing nations like German, France and UK, makes it a focused global event to draw international attention. Attendance of IMF, World Bank and many giant corporations like Siemens, Standard Charter Bank etc shows hopes for larger global economic cooperation.

The current hype on the 'Belt and Road Initiative by China is an attempt to build inter-state trust based on a cooperative world on one hand, and a hysteria to lose the hold on the global economy under the process of globalization by the west on the other. The question is- are there threat for the current empires under globalization to lose to China by its new initiative like BRI; or the attempt taken by the Chinese to build a cooperative world is really not deceitful but noble?

The absence of six out of seven heads of G7 countries and most of the oil rich Middle Eastern countries in the 'Second BRI Forum' suggest there are greater suspicions on it. The suspicion seems to be stemming mainly from the alternative land based trade route developing under belt and road, which is likely to a challenge for the established maritime based trade route serving the larger interest of West and oil rich few Middle Eastern countries.

In the opening speech of the forum, the Chinese Premier Xi Jin Ping proclaimed renewed commitments to sustainable global economic cooperation based on shared prosperity and equitable benefits regardless of the size of the participatory country or its global standing. Unlike free market economy, which largely focuses on the free flow of goods and funds only, he underscored on the inter-state flow of personnel and transfer of technologies along with goods and funds to help every countries draw equal benefit.

Besides, the reformation of global tax administration to combat national complicacies, global economic e-governance and redesigned financial cooperation, lower tariff rates and removal of tariff barriers also resonated in his opening speech.

He invited WTO to reformulate global microeconomic policy with a view to facilitating the SMEs to penetrate and take benefit of the initiative equally like giant business houses. He recognized the initiative as a bridge for cultural cooperation between countries to mutually benefit rather than not using it as a geo-political tool to manipulate economy and enhance Chinese economic influence.

Let's analyse both the points of view on BRI by the Chinese and the West. The investigation will be focused to finding out if the rules of game for global economy under globalization are conducive to both developed and under-developed countries, and if BRI is really committed to rewrite it for equitable benefit to all.

The West claims globalization as a global service for every country to derive equal global benefit. But globalization has actually created a competitive world to favour one who has more economic power and stronger culture, while the weaker are only to be subsumed by the stronger economy and culture for lack of any other alternatives.

The formal entry of Italy in the BR has infused new momentum in BRI pouring fresh fuel of critics largely pointing towards the Chinese debt trap in specific. Factually, Chinese share in the debt is only thirty percentages, while the rest is the share of many renowned international financial agencies, like WB, IMF or Paris Club member states.

On the contrary, the Chinese explanation of the BRI is- it is a global call for prosperity based on a win-win situation, where every country can derive similar benefit from each other on rewritten rules of games of global economy. China underscores on building relations between human being through developing cultural relation i.e. software development rather than focusing on only business and trade relation i.e. of hardware development.

The future prospect of it is perhaps a call for better opportunities that impelled so many multinational corporation including Siemens and Standard Charter Bank including IMF and World Bank to join the Second BRI Forum. China commits to work on formulation of connectivity policies and better use of digital technologies in cooperation with every participating country to forge a better global economic system. The prospect suggests better opportunities for SMEs in a global scale not only giant business house.

The suspicion of countries to stay away from BRI or step carefully to it is perhaps the dilemma of whether to trust the existing western geopolitical construct or believe in the new Eurasia construct. It might take few more years to realize the effect of it as it releases its benefit gradually to the participating nations.

The conservative and circumspect approach of Bangladesh to the initiative, and keeping total silence of the Bangladesh electronic media from this mega event is whether or not going to be a future regret like that of our approach to sub marine cable is to be seen in future. If the train of prosperity leaves the platform, the opportunities of better economic growth might fade and the time to catch the next train of prosperity could be considerably delayed.  

The writer is a freelance
contributor to Asian Age