China rising (1)

“China has no geopolitical calculations, seeks no exclusionary blocs and imposes no business deals on others.”

If Russia was once famously described by British statesman Winston Churchill as a “riddle wrapped inside a mystery within an enigma,” its neighbor to the south, the People’s Republic of China, likewise defies easy understanding and convenient categorization.

After all, China’s contemporary history since 1949 has been marked by big upheavals, including the Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and early 1970s, the passing of Communist Party of China (CPC) Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976 and the assumption to power of Deng Xiaoping and other leaders who carried out far-reaching economic reforms from the 1980s onwards leading to what’s now described as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” This is what President Xi Jinping now wants to further strengthen through his Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the One Belt One Road (OBOR).

Xi Jinping unveiled the ambitious 21st Century Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road projects in 2013 and began to implement these the next year with main focus on infrastructure development.

The Silk Road or Silk Route, history tells us, was an ancient network of trade routes that also facilitated cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent and connected the East and West from China to the Mediterranean Sea.

At present, more than 100 countries and international organizations participate in the Belt and Road Initiative project, with 30 of them having signed agreements with China on jointly implementing the strategy. More than 20 countries have worked with China in such areas as railway construction and nuclear power generation.

Bilateral trade between China and countries situated along the Belt and Road reached $995.5 billion in 2015. This figure represents 25 percent of the national total. China has also expanded the scope of 50 overseas economic cooperation areas.

In 2016, Chinese companies infused direct investments in 29 countries along the Belt and Road totaling $14.82 billion, or an increase of 18.2 percent over the previous year and accounting for 12.6 percent of the total.

“The media tour was specifically designed to highlight China’s achievements.”

In a key speech outlining his vision at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in the Chinese city of Boao last April, Xi Jinping said the Belt and Road Initiative may be a Chinese concept but its opportunities and outcomes would benefit the world.

“China has no geopolitical calculations, seeks no exclusionary blocs and imposes no business deals on others,” he said amid fears that his pet project where China would invest billions of dollars in port, road and rail connectivity projects across Asia and parts of Africa and Europe is aimed at boosting its influence across the globe.

“As long as the parties embrace the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, we can surely enhance cooperation and resolve differences,” he said.

“This way, we can make the BRI the broadest platform for international cooperation in keeping with the trend of economic globalization and to the greater benefit of all our peoples,” Xi said.

In a bid to explain the Belt and Road project to its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Chinese Government, through the State Council Information Office, in coordination with the ASEAN-China Center (ACC), conducted a tour of two central China provinces, Hunan and Jiangxi, for 20 journalists from the 10 member-states of ASEAN, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The 2017 media visit was actually the third of a series that started in 2015. The visits are intended to show to ASEAN journalists what the various provinces in China can offer as their contributions to the One Belt, One Road project.

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to join the visit along with two broadcast journalists from the Philippines. The 10-day media offered us a first glimpse into the rapid economic development of China since the late 70s up to the present.

This year, I was part of a 12-member group of journalists from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania invited by the Information Offices of Beijing Municipality and Heilongjiang province in coordination with China Radio International Online to join what they called the “Silk Road Rediscovery Tour of China” from June 26 to July 4. The media tour was specifically designed to highlight China’s achievements in scientific and technological innovation in the last 40 years of reform and opening up. Our itinerary, covering various science and technology projects as well as visits to various offices and factories in Beijing and Harbin in northeast China, allowed us to see for ourselves precisely what science and technology plays in China’s overall-economic development and in the Belt and Road Initiative. (Next: S&T in Beijing)