Beijing
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is traveling to Beijing with a high-level delegation and chief ministers of the four provinces, to attend a two-day international gathering promoting China’s OBOR.

Besides attending the forum, the prime minister will hold bilateral meetings with President Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

The Prime Minister was invited by President Xi Jinping to attend the event which is part of “Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” initiative, which was launched by Xi in 2013.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation starts on Sunday and will be attended by over 1,500 delegates from 130 countries, including 29 heads of state. Along with PM Nawaz Sharif, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are the star names on show, and even North Korea is sending a delegation.

During the summit, Sharif will participate in a high-level dialogue and the ‘leaders’ roundtable’, the PM Office said.

Besides attending the forum, the prime minister will hold bilateral meetings with President Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Multiple Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are also expected to be signed for CPEC projects during the visit.

Read More: Bringing Afghanistan & Pakistan close: Will China’s efforts bear fruit?

Sharif will also hold bilateral meetings with several other heads of state on the sidelines of the forum. He will also visit Hangzhou and Hong Kong where he will interact with business leaders and attend investment conferences.

Rising international apprehensions regarding the role of the US as a world leader after the election of President Donald Trump have created an opening for China to become more of a global player and has found a receptive audience for its New Silk Road.

Xi has conceived and is currently advocating what China formally calls the “One Belt, One Road” or OBOR initiative to build a new Silk Road. This route will link Asia, Africa and Europe, and is a landmark program which will lead to the investment of billions of dollars in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids.

OBOR will cover 65 percent of the world’s population, three-quarters of global energy resources and 40 percent of World’s GDP. China’s annual trade with OBOR countries already exceeds $1.4 trillion.

China has dedicated $40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea subsequently became the driving force behind the establishment of the $50 billion China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

International ally 

While China has portrayed its New Silk Road initiative as a sincere effort to share its capabilities and resources to help close infrastructure gaps that hinder growth for many countries, many in the West remain suspicious due to the lack of detail and transparency in the project and are wary of China’s broader political intents.

There is fear of China’s strategic intents. If it materialises, the OBOR, will extend China’s economic, political and military power well beyond its borders and across the world and place China on par with the US. CPEC, is the first leg of OBOR where work has commenced.

Diplomatic sources said the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin and other leaders from countries with dubious human rights records, like the Philippines and Central Asian states, had made Western leaders reluctant to attend.

Leaders from countries that would appear to have little, if any, connection to the plan are coming to the summit, including Chile and Argentina.

A prominent western diplomat in Beijing told reporters that western leaders would prefer not to be seen on the same forum as Putin.

International Wariness from those that see OBOR as China’s rise

Rising international apprehensions regarding the role of the US as a world leader after the election of President Donald Trump have created an opening for China to become more of a global player and has found a receptive audience for its New Silk Road.

Leaders from countries that would appear to have little, if any, connection to the plan are coming to the summit, including Chile and Argentina.

“Everyone wants to be China’s friend now with Trump in office,” said a senior Asian diplomat in Beijing. However, India is one significant country that has stayed out of OBOR despite Chinese cajoling to join. One major concern for India has been it will take China to another level in terms of regional power. India which sees China as a regional power like itself is not happy that Chinese will leave it significantly behind on the world stage. It has also protested over parts of CPEC which it claims is running through disputed territory.

Read More: “We can think about renaming CPEC” China offers India

China has dismissed those concerns, saying CPEC had nothing to do with the dispute and India was welcome to participate in the New Silk Road.

The past few weeks have seen Chinese diplomats proactively wooing the Indian establishment in an attempt to get India to attend its international conference. To allay Indian reservations, Chinese Ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui even offered to rename CPEC but refrained from suggesting any alternatives to the name. The offer was later retracted after the Indians persisted in their cold stance towards this initiative.

Comments & Discussion