China brushes aside U.S. concerns over BRI

The following is the full and unedited text of a statement which Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming issued here in capital Dhaka on Tuesday:  “Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and
Road initiative (BRI) has been a trending word that frequents news
headlines all around the globe, even more so in Bangladesh as it is one of
the first South Asian countries to join the initiative. We highly appreciate
that Bangladesh along with many other countries have showed great
support toward BRI for their good faith in China and the benefits the
initiative has already delivered to their people.
However, with it also came up suspicions and speculations over
China’s true intention for the biggest public good any country has ever
proposed to the world so far. And in spite of repeated efforts of China in
explaining the nature of the BRI, there is a curious obstinacy from some
quarters that rejects the Chinese narrative and insists on making
unsubstantiated allegations against the initiative. One of the latest was
reportedly made by US Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall G
Schriver during his recent visit to Bangladesh, where he claimed that the
BRI didn’t support free and open regional development nor ensure the

protection of nations’ sovereignty and international law. It is rather
groundless given where China is standing today in issues concerning
global interest and international governance, in stark contrast with how
the US has behaved in the past few years. More than anything else, such
malicious slander and irresponsible claim are certainly not the least
helpful for any kind of peace and development in this region.
Nonetheless, seeing there is still an inadequacy of understanding on
what BRI really represents as a whole, especially in certain developed
countries who falsely interpret the initiative as a threat to the existing
international order, I feel obliged to provide a more comprehensive
explanation on what the BRI really is and the true spirit it embodies:
openness, inclusiveness and mutual benefits.
What is BRI?
The Belt and Road initiative is proposed for building forms of
connectivity among the continents and countries around the globe in
order to facilitate closer cooperation in development and beyond. It could
find its root long back into history in the ancient Silk Road, a collection
of trade routes that spanned across the Eurasian continent about 2000
years ago that enabled the trade of silk, porcelain wares, spices, wines
and so on among countries along the routes. At that time, China was the
starting point in the east for merchants to start their quest. Today, China
once again served as the initiator of Silk Road Economic Belt and the
21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and it is meant for the world to share.
The BRI connects different countries and regions, different stages of

development, different historical traditions, different cultures and
religions, and different customs and lifestyles. It is an initiative for open,
inclusive, shared and peaceful development, as well as a way to build a
Community of Shared Future for Mankind, which is, essentially, the
Chinese way of saying a better world for each and every one.
Based on the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution
and shared benefits, the BRI pursues a path for shared development and
prosperity through cooperation in five major areas — policy coordination,
connectivity of infrastructure and facilities, unimpeded trade, financial
integration, and closer people-to-people ties. Big infrastructure projects
and active economic activities focusing on trade and investment are
undoubtedly the most tangible part of the BRI, but it has much more to
offer in other areas of connectivity such as cultural exchanges,
technology transfer and people-to-people contacts. The yearly “Happy
Chinese New Year” gala, convened by the Chinese Embassy in
Bangladesh in cooperation with local organizations, has become an
annual cultural carnival for a wide range of Bangladeshi audiences over
the past 6 consecutive years. The number of Bangladeshi people
travelling to China for the purposes of tourism, education or training is
growing at a stunning rate. Chinese think tanks, scholars and experts are
flooding into Bangladesh for experience sharing and academic
exchanges. All of these are also a fundamental part of the BRI.
Why BRI?
Up to today, more than 150 countries and international organizations

have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. From 2013 to 2018,
the trade volume between China and other B&R countries surpassed 6
trillion USD, and China’s investment in B&R countries exceeds 90 billion
USD, with more than 244,000 jobs being created for the locals. The idea
of a Community of Shared Future for Mankind has also been written into
relevant documents of various international organizations including the
UN and the G20. It is increasingly evident that BRI has become an
important contributor to global peace and development, and thus it is
gaining more and more popularity and recognition around the world. And
this is why it’s being accepted by more nations and organizations as an
important channel to move forward together. As an early and strategically important partner of the BRI,
Bangladesh is well-positioned to reap the benefits. In 2018, the amount of
our bilateral trade reached 18.7 billion USD, up by 16.8% over the last
year. And the country is well projected to become the 2nd largest trading
partner with China in South Asia this year. Bangladesh is now the leading
cooperation partner to China in G-to-G projects as well as a major
destination of Chinese investment. The construction of the Padma Bridge,
the dream bridge of Bangladeshi people, is under full swing by the
Chinese contractor China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group.
Various projects funded by Chinese grants, including Bangladesh China
Friendship Bridge 1 to Bridge 8, Bangladesh China Friendship Exhibition
Centre and Bangladesh (Bangabandhu) International Conference Centre,
are sprouting up all over Bangladesh, with more to come in the pipeline.
The ever-strong momentum of China-Bangladesh cooperation, especially

after the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the country in 2016,
continues to speak of the true strength of BRI cooperation.
Is BRI A Debt Trap?
A commonly seen allegation against the BRI is that it creates heavy
debt burdens on some countries as China provides loans beyond their
ability to repay in order to gain control of certain key projects, or the so-
called “debt trap” as cooked up by certain western media. It has been
repeatedly debunked by China as well as officials from the relevant
recipient countries.
A typical example would be Sri Lanka. According to a report
published by the central bank of Sri Lanka, its China-related debt
accounts for merely 10.6% of the total, 61% of which is at an interest rate
far below that of the international market. Sri Lankan President, Prime
Minister, Speaker of the Parliament and Head of the opposition party all
have mentioned that the bigger part of Sri Lanka’s current debt burden
comes from multilateral lending institutions, not China. Rather, to
cooperate with China will help them walk out of the debt crisis. Similar
case is found in Pakistan where the Chinese loans make up only 10% or
so of the total.
Bangladesh already has strong institutional arrangements in place
with a healthy debt to GDP ratio well below 30%, as the Governor of
Bangladesh Bank once pointed out, so there’s even less ground to be
concerned about the make-believe “debt trap”. In addition, in order to
increase financial security for BRI projects, China and its partners have formulated the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the
Belt and Road and published the Debt Sustainability Framework for
Participating Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative to provide
guidance for BRI financing cooperation.
As a matter of fact, the BRI wouldn’t pose any form of risk to its
partners, which has been well proved in the practice and implementation
of the BRI in the past 6 years. BRI is open, Inclusive and beneficial for
all. Moving into the future, China will seek to build a more dynamic and
inclusive BRI by engaging in bilateral, trilateral and multilateral
cooperation with all participants, an open, green and clean BRI that is
transparent and free of corruption, and a higher standard BRI that aims to
improve people’s lives in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of
UN 2030 Agenda, as stated by President Xi Jinping of China at the 2nd
Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2019. And China
always stands by its words to welcome all countries to join the BRI in a
common effort to make our world a better place.”