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April 28, 2019

China's Belt and Road Forum ends with signing of deals worth $64 billion

By Abdus-Sattar Ghazali

China's high-profile 2nd Belt and Road Forum ended Saturday (April 27) with the signing of deals worth billions of dollar.The forum attended by 37 heads of the state and governments concluded with an announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping that cooperation agreements worth $64 billion were signed at a CEO conference during the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) meeting.


China's high-profile 2nd Belt and Road Forum ended Saturday (April 27) with the signing of deals worth billions of dollar.

The forum attended by 37 heads of the state and governments concluded with an announcement by Chinese President Xi Jinping that cooperation agreements worth $64 billion were signed at a CEO conference during the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) meeting.

According to China Daily since 2013, when President Xi Jinping launched the BRI initiative, China has signed over 170 agreements with more than 120 countries. BRI has created around 300,000 jobs abroad, with trade between China and BRI partner countries exceeding $6 trillion.

The BRI projects are funded mainly through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Fund and Chinese-funded banks, with the initiative's network now spanning five continents.

The BRI is seen as one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived. The plan is two-pronged: the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road. The two were collectively referred to first as the One Belt, One Road initiative but eventually became the Belt and Road Initiative.

A joint communique issued at the end of the meeting highlighted that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation should respects openness, transparency, inclusiveness and level playing field. It affirmed the respect for sovereignty.

"We respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other and affirm that each country has the right and primary responsibility to define its development strategies in accordance with its national priorities and legislation," it said adding:

"Determined to pursue trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, we aspire to further open our markets, reject protectionism, unilateralism and other measures that are incompatible with WTO rules. We highlight the importance of special and differential treatment in accordance with WTO agreements."

Who attended?

Those who attended the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing (April 25-28, 2019) meeting included Russian President Vladimir Putin and heads of several Asian, African and Latin American countries besides heads of the UN and the IMF. Beijing hosted 5,000 guests from 150 countries, as well as 90 international organizations.

The 37 heads of state and government attending the BRI Forum included 16 from Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam), 12 from Europe (Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Serbia and Switzerland) and five from Africa (Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique). The United Arab Emirate and Chile also attended.

The 2017 BRI Forum was attended by 30 heads of state and government including 10 from Europe, and 13 from Asia. In 2017, the BRI projects extended to 65 countries with a combined Gross Domestic Product of $23 trillion.

US & India boycott

Amid widening rift with China the United Sates did not participated in the Beijing BRI forum 2019. In 2017, Matt Pottinger, the National Security Council's senior director for Asia, ended up attending; this year even he didn't make the trip. This says a lot about the current state of U.S.-China relations.

It may be recalled that in December 2018, U.S. National Security Adviser John R. Bolton claimed in a speech that the ultimate goal of the Belt and Road Initiative is to advance Chinese global dominance.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning News, in an editorial said the United States, locked in a trade war with China, has been especially critical, claiming the initiative is about pushing geopolitical aims and making nations subservient through ensnaring them in debt.

"Trump refuses to join the belt and road scheme and has been pressuring allies to follow suit, although Italy recently became the first major Western economy to sign on. But others should follow the Italian lead," SCMN added.

Like in first BRF meeting in 2017, India also boycotted the forum over its objections on the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Economic corridors & connectivity projects

The joint communique also carried an annexe mentioning names of "Economic corridors and other projects catalyzed and supported by connectivity".

The Annex included in Asia 16 projects supported by connectivity: (1) Baku-Tbilisi-Kars new railway line and Alyat free economic zone in Baku; (2) Brunei-Guangxi economic corridor; (3) China-Central Asia-West Asia economic corridor; (4) China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridor, including Laos-China economic corridor; (5) China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan International Highway; (6) China-Laos-Thailand Railway Cooperation; (7) China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park; (8) China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor; (9) China-Myanmar economic corridor; (10) China-Pakistan economic corridor; (11) Eastern Economic Corridor in Thailand; (12) Economic corridor in Greater Mekong Subregion; (13) Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park; (14) the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional Connectivity Network, including Nepal-China cross-border railway; (15) the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor of the China- Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity; (16) Regional Comprehensive economic corridors in Indonesia and (17) Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-China International Highway.

The Annex included seven projects supported by connectivity in Europe: (1) China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line; (2) the EU Trans-European Transport Networks; (3) Europe-Caucasus-Asia International Transport corridor and TransCaspian International Transport Route; (4) the Industrial Park "Great Stone" Belarus; (5) New Eurasian Land Bridge; (6) the Port of Piraeus and (7) Transcontinental shipment of cargo using the capacities of the Northern Sea Route.

In Africa, seven Economic corridors and other projects were listed in the annex: (1) Addis Ababa-Djibouti economic corridor, including the development of industrial parks along the economic corridor; (2) the Lake Victoria-Mediterranean Sea Navigation Line-Linkage Project (VICMED); (3) the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor; (4) Northern Corridor Trade Route in Africa linking the maritime port of Mombasa to countries of the Great Lakes region of Africa and Trans-Africa Highway; (5) North-South Passage Cairo-Cape Town Pass-way; (6) Port Sudan-Ethiopia Railway Connectivity and (7) the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

China is lending huge sums of money for infrastructure projects in countries from Asia to Africa and Europe. It has clarified that less than 20 per cent of the CPEC projects are based on loans provided by it and rest of the 80 per cent ventures are either directly invested by Beijing or used Chinese grants.

Authors Bio:
Author and journalist.
Author of
Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality;
Islam in the Post-Cold War Era;
Islam & Modernism;
Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America.
Currently working as free lance journalist.
Executive Editor of American Muslim Perspective: