By Orçun Göktürk, President of the Turkish-Chinese Belt and Road Institute
The 3rd Belt and Road Forum ended last Wednesday. During the two-day forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping described the Belt and Road Initiative as ‘part of a great struggle against colonialism and development injustice’.
The Belt and Road, which is also described as the largest such initiative in human history, completed its Third Forum after 2017 and 2019 with hundreds of participants from 6 continents at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 17-18. The Forum was attended by representatives of more than 140 countries, including 22 heads of state, and more than 10,000 participants from 41 international organizations.
Xi Jinping first introduced the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ initiatives to the world during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in 2013. In the last 10 years, more than 230 Belt and Road cooperation documents have been signed with more than 150 countries and more than 30 international organizations. During this period, an estimated $1 trillion has been allocated for projects in infrastructure, transportation, energy, communications, education and other areas based on the principles of “mutual sharing”, “common development” and “win-win”.
‘Peace, development and cooperation’
“Ideological confrontation, geopolitical rivalry and bloc politics are not a choice for us. What we stand against are unilateral sanctions, economic coercion and decoupling and supply chain disruption.” Xi emphasized in his opening speech and continued:
“This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) I proposed. The BRI, drawing inspiration from the ancient Silk Road and focusing on enhancing connectivity, aims to enhance policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity, inject new impetus into the global economy, create new opportunities for global development, and build a new platform for international economic cooperation. Over these 10 years, we have stayed committed to this founding mission. Thanks to our joint efforts, Belt and Road international cooperation has gotten off the ground, grown rapidly and produced fruitful outcomes. Over these 10 years, we have endeavored to build a global network of connectivity consisting of economic corridors, international transportation routes and information highway as well as railways, roads, airports, ports, pipelines and power grids. Covering the land, the ocean, the sky and the Internet, this network has boosted the flow of goods, capital, technologies and human resources among countries involved and injected fresh vitality into the millennia-old Silk Road in the new era.”
‘We move with confident steps’
Undoubtedly the most notable participant of the Forum was Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Having met several times in the decade since 2013, Eurasia’s two great leaders Xi and Putin held their 43rd meeting in Beijing just before the Forum. Xi called Putin “my old friend” and emphasized the “close and effective strategic partnership” with Russia. “We are moving forward very confidently bilaterally,” Putin said, adding that annual trade between the two countries will exceed $200 billion by the end of the year.
Putin praised the Belt and Road Initiative as “an international plan to create a fairer, multipolar world” and noted the cohesion between the BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union.
The People’s Daily newspaper, the CPC’s mouthpiece, described the Xi-Putin meeting as “a high-level strategic partnership on display” and continued with the following comments: “The China-Russia partnership demonstrates clear cooperation for mutual benefit and the unity of important forces for global stability.”
In addition, in an interview with CCTV before the Forum, Putin was asked by a Chinese journalist about the “rules-based order”, to which Putin responded by referring to colonialism. The Russian leader said, “Have you ever seen these rules? No, because no one has written them and no one has agreed on them with anyone. So how can you talk about order based on rules that nobody has ever seen? From the point of view of common sense, this is nonsense. But it’s convenient for those who support this approach. Because if nobody has seen these rules, then those who talk about it are making them up as they go along. This is a colonial approach.”
New US sanctions on China
China continues its political, economic and technological support for Russia and has been hit with new sanctions from the United States. Just a day before the Belt and Road Forum, the US Department of Commerce announced a new round of sanctions against China, expanding controls on chip and technology exports. Last month, the US Department of Commerce also imposed sanctions, including trade restrictions, on 11 Chinese companies accused of supplying Russia with weapons-making equipment.
In this context, it is significant that in his opening speech at the forum, Xi announced a “Global AI Governance Initiative” in addition to the previously announced Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative. The new “AI Initiative” is mainly about countering the US, given that it was announced a day after Washington launched new sanctions limiting China’s access to more advanced chips.
Who didn’t attend?
The countries and organizations that did not participate in the Third Belt and Road Forum are a clear indication of the position of countries in the world confrontation. Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic and Switzerland have not sent representatives this year, despite having participated in the previous two Forums.
Also, for the first time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also skipped sending a director to the Forum, although Dilma Rousseff, President of the BRICS-affiliated New Development Bank (NDB), was in the front row. Thus, we can say that the NDB’s “loan for development”, instead of the IMF’s “bitter medicines”, have been reassuring in terms of the new international order that continues to be emerging with the developing world countries.
Where is Türkiye’s representative?
It is unfortunate that Türkiye, which is an important component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), did not attend the Forum at a high level. For Türkiye, which has been disconnected from production within the Western system and has been subjected to economic and political sanctions, the BRI not only provides important opportunities but also gives our country a leading role in the establishment of a new international order. The fact that only the Vatan Party in Türkiye has a program of political, economic and military cooperation as a component of the BRI, and that it advocates full membership in the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which will move it to a more active position within the BRI, is a strategy that will deepen the geopolitical rupture in the 21st century.