Archive for ‘belt and road forum’

29/05/2019

China looks to Russia, Central Asia for support amid tensions with US

  • President Xi Jinping will meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month and address economic summit in St Petersburg
  • Diplomatic flurry will also include regional security forums in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Xi Jinping has met Vladimir Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013. Photo: AFP
Beijing is stepping up efforts to seek support from regional and global players such as Russia and Central Asian nations as its geostrategic rivalry with Washington heats up.

President Xi Jinping is expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next month, when he will also address the St Petersburg International Economic Summit,

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told state-run TASS news agency earlier.

The Chinese president will also visit the Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June, as well as another regional security forum in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Wang Qishan is visiting Pakistan before he heads to the Netherlands and Germany, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan in Islamabad on Sunday. Photo: AFP
The latest flurry of diplomatic activity comes as competition between China and the US intensifies on several fronts including trade and technology, the South China Sea and the Arctic, where Beijing’s partnership with Moscow –

funding and building ports, berths and icebreakers off Russia’s shores

– has drawn criticism from Washington.

It will be Xi’s second time at the St Petersburg forum, and observers expect the Chinese leader will reaffirm Beijing’s commitment to multilateralism and promote the nation as a champion of openness and cooperation.
China-Russia ties unrivalled, Beijing warns before Pompeo meets Putin
It will also be his second meeting with Putin in two months, after talks on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in late April, when the Russian president

offered his support

for the controversial China-led infrastructure and investment initiative.

With China and Russia edging closer, the latest meeting is likely to see efforts to coordinate their strategies on a range of issues – including Venezuela, North Korea, nuclear weapons and arms control, according to observers. Xi has met Putin more times than any other foreign leader since he took power in 2013.

“This time it is very likely that the latest anti-China moves by the US, such as new tariffs and the Huawei ban, will feature prominently in their conversations,” said Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok.

Lukin said Russia’s stagnating economy and sanctions imposed by the West limited its role as a substitute for the foreign markets and technologies China could lose access to because of the US crusade. But he said Putin would “provide political and moral support to Xi”.

“That is also significant as Russia has been withstanding intense US-led sanctions pressure for more than five years already,” Lukin said, referring to sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Xi and Putin are also expected to talk about Venezuela, where US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido is attempting to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has the support of China and Russia.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has the backing of China and Russia. Photo: AP

“Moscow and Beijing are not able to seriously hurt Washington by raising tariffs or denying access to high technology. However, there are plenty of areas where coordinated Sino-Russian policies can damage US interests in the short term or in the long run,” Lukin said. “For example, Moscow and Beijing could intensify their joint support for the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, frustrating Washington’s efforts to dislodge him.”

China and Russia would also be seeking to boost economic ties. Bilateral trade, dominated by Chinese imports of gas and oil, reached US$108 billion last year – falling far short of the target set in 2011 by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, of US$200 billion by 2020.

China and Russia to forge stronger Eurasian economic ties

Li Lifan, an associate research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said bilateral trade was a sticking point. “This is one of the potential hindrances in China-Russia relations and Beijing is hoping to [address this] … in the face of a possible global economic slowdown,” Li said.

Given the escalating trade war with Washington, he said China would seek to diversify its investments and markets to other parts of the world, particularly Russia and Europe.

“China will step up its investment cooperation with Europe and Russia and focus more on multilateral investment,” Li said.

But Beijing was not expected to do anything to worsen tensions with Washington.

“China is currently taking a very cautious approach towards the US, trying to avoid heating up the confrontation and further aggravation of the situation,” said Danil Bochkov, a contributing author with the Russian International Affairs Council. “For China it is important to demonstrate that it has a reliable friend – Russia – but that should not be done in an openly provocative manner.”

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said Beijing and Moscow would also seek to contain US influence “as far as possible” from Central Asia, where China has increased its engagement through infrastructure building under the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

Leaders from the region will gather in Bishkek next month for the SCO summit, a security bloc set up in 2001 that now comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Those members account for about 23 per cent of the world’s land mass, 45 per cent of its population, and 25 per cent of global GDP.

Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE
Newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could meet the Chinese president for talks in Bishkek next month. Photo: EPA-EFE

There is growing speculation that Xi will meet newly re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of that summit.

Independent analyst and author Namrata Goswami said India would be seeking a commitment to a WTO-led and rules-based multilateral trading system during the SCO talks.

“This is interesting and significant given the current US tendencies under President Donald Trump focused on ‘America first’ and the US-China trade war,” Goswami said.

Counterterrorism will again be a top priority at the SCO summit, amid concerns among member states about the rising number of Islamic State fighters returning from Syria and Iraq. Chinese scholars estimated last year that around 30,000 jihadists who had fought in Syria had gone back to their home countries, including China.

Alexander Bortnikov, chief of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, said earlier that 5,000 fighters from a group affiliated with Isis had gathered in areas bordering former Soviet states in Central Asia, saying most of them had fought alongside Isis in Syria.

War-torn Afghanistan, which shares a border with four SCO member states – China, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – is also likely to be high on the agenda at the Bishkek summit.

“With the Trump administration drafting plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the SCO will assess the security situation there and decide whether to provide training for Afghan troops,” Li said.

Eva Seiwert, a doctoral candidate at the Free University of Berlin, expected the security bloc would also discuss Iran after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and ordered new sanctions against the country.

Iran, which has observer status with the SCO, was blocked from becoming a full member in 2008 because it was subject to UN sanctions at the time. But its membership application could again be up for discussion.

Iran presses China and Russia to save nuclear deal

“The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 made it easy for China and Russia to present themselves as the proponents of peaceful settlement of conflicts,” Seiwert said. “Discussing the possibility of admitting Iran as a full member state would help the SCO members demonstrate their support of multilateral and peaceful cooperation.

“This would be a strong signal to the US and enhance the SCO’s standing in the international community,” she said.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua
Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov (right) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bishkek on Tuesday last week. Photo: Xinhua

As well as security, Xi’s visit to Central Asia is also likely to focus on economic ties. Meeting Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov in Bishkek last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would continue to “provide support and help national development and construction in Kyrgyzstan”.

Li said China may increase investment in the Central Asian region, especially in greenfield projects.

“China will continue to buy agriculture products from Central Asia, such as cherries from Uzbekistan, and build hydropower projects to meet local energy demand,” Li said. “Investment in solar and wind energy projects is also expected to increase too.”

Source: SCMP

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27/04/2019

Xi hosts banquet for guests attending Belt and Road forum

(BRF)CHINA-BEIJING-BELT AND ROAD FORUM-XI JINPING-BANQUET (CN)

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a banquet hosted by him and his wife Peng Liyuan in honor of guests attending the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, April 26, 2019. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

BEIJING, April 26 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan hosted a banquet Friday evening in honor of guests attending the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

“On behalf of the Chinese government and Chinese people, my wife and also in my own name, let me extend warm welcome to all guests,” Xi said while proposing a toast at the banquet.

“Today’s gathering makes us recall the beautiful memories in our hearts,” Xi said, adding that “no matter how the international environment changes, the sincere friendship will last forever and the mutually beneficial cooperation will be the eternal melody in our hearts.”

The occasion inspires the participants via exchanges of ideas and insights, he said, calling for fostering global partnerships and creating a bright future of common development.

“Today’s gathering reminds us of the heavy responsibilities on our shoulders,” Xi told the guests that as the world is now undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, “may we all live up to our missions and the times.”

“We should all have faith that people of all countries deserve a better future, and the joint building of the Belt and Road will surely bring about a better world,” he said.

Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji, Han Zheng and Wang Qishan also attended the banquet.

After the banquet, Xi and his wife accompanied the guests in watching a gala.

Source: Xinhua

27/04/2019

Europe wants to deal with China as a group – German minister

BEIJING (Reuters) – Major European Union countries want to deal with China as a group rather than sign bilateral agreements as individual states, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Friday, attending a summit in Beijing on China’s Belt and Road plan.

European countries have generally signalled their willingness to participate in China’s programme to re-create the old Silk Road joining China with Asia and Europe.

But key states like France and Germany have said China must in turn improve access and fair competition for foreign firms.

Italy in March became the first major Western government to back China’s initiative, even as some EU leaders cautioned Rome against rushing into the arms of Beijing.

 

“In the big EU states we have agreed that we don’t want to sign any bilateral memorandums but together make necessary arrangements between the greater European Economic Area and the economic area of Greater China,” Altmaier said when asked if he could see Germany signing a similar bilateral agreement to Italy.

A spokesman for Altmaier’s office later said he was talking about general arrangements and not specifically the Belt and Road.

The minister said he was encouraged by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to pursue free trade, multilateralism and sustainability as part of Belt and Road.

“We will take this promise seriously” and make suggestions on how to achieve these goals in both Asia and Europe, he said.

China is a partner and a competitor at the same time and the EU must define its interests, Altmaier said.

“And for that we need an industry strategy. For that we need our own connectivity strategy,” he added.

Source: Reuters

20/04/2019

Xi to address Belt and Road forum next week: FM

CHINA-BEIJING-BRF-PRESS BRIEFING (CN)

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) speaks during a press briefing for the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing, capital of China, April 19, 2019. The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held from April 25 to 27 in Beijing, Wang Yi announced Friday. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan)

BEIJING, April 19 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver a keynote speech at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) to be held from April 25 to 27 in Beijing, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced Friday.

Leaders including heads of state and government from 37 countries will attend the forum’s roundtable summit, Wang told a press briefing.

Wang said 12 thematic forums and a CEO conference would be held on April 25, the opening ceremony and a high-level meeting on April 26, and the leaders’ roundtable on April 27.

Xi will attend the opening ceremony and deliver a keynote speech. He will also chair the leaders’ roundtable and brief media from home and abroad about the outcomes after the roundtable, Wang said, adding that Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan will also hold a welcoming banquet for the leaders and representatives.

According to Wang, the 37 countries are Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The secretary-general of the United Nations and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund will attend the forum, Wang said, adding that senior representatives of France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Union will also participate.

Noting that the BRF is the top-level platform for international cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Wang said the conference next week would be of landmark significance.

The theme of the second BRF is “Belt and Road Cooperation, Shaping a Brighter Shared Future.” Wang said the main purpose is to promote the high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation, which is the common aspiration of countries participating in the initiative.

Speaking highly of the fruitful results yielded since the initiative was launched in 2013, Wang said the second BRF was greatly welcomed worldwide with some 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organizations having confirmed their attendance, covering areas from five continents and different walks of life such as government, civil society, business and academia.

According to Wang, this year’s forum will have 12 thematic forums, twice of that during the first forum in 2017, and the CEO conference will be held for the first time. A joint communique will be released after the leaders’ roundtable and other consensus reached during the forum will be issued in a report.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, aims at enhancing all-around connectivity through infrastructure construction, exploring new driving force for the world economic growth, and building a new platform for world economic cooperation, according to Wang.

Stressing that Xi and leaders from other countries blueprinted the initiative in 2017, Wang said the progress in the past two years shows that the initiative conforms to the trend of the times featuring peace, development, cooperation and win-win and accords with the common aspiration of openness and joint development of all countries.

“As the host country, we will maintain close communication and coordination with all parties to prepare for the forum with openness, inclusiveness and transparency, upholding the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits,” Wang said.

He said the forum would voice the firm support for multilateralism and an open world economy, enrich the principles of cooperation of the Belt and Road Initiative, build a network of partnership, and establish more mechanisms for high-quality development.

Bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation has been reinforcing each other under the initiative, laying a solid foundation for a closer and more wide-ranging partnership, he said.

Wang said China will showcase the outcomes and introduce the measures of its reform and opening-up to the world, adding that this will allow China to share the dividends of its economic growth, promote the Belt and Road Initiative, and bring more opportunities to the development of all countries as well as the building of the Belt and Road.

“I believe that the forum will inject stronger impetus into the world economy, open even broader horizon for the development of the countries, and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity, ” said Wang.

Source: Xinhua

20/03/2019

East Coast Rail Link deal before belt and road forum? Depends on China, Mahathir says

  • The Malaysian prime minister says the ball is in Beijing’s court when it comes to the long-stalled project, which he has attacked as being overpriced
  • He now estimates the cost could balloon to US$32 billion – as opposed to the US$13 billion claimed by his predecessor Najib Razak
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Photo: Reuters
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Photo: Reuters

Malaysia’s Prime Minister

Mahathir Mohamad

on Wednesday said the future of the China-backed East Coast Rail Link project, in limbo for months, was unlikely to be resolved before he visits Beijing in April for a summit on the

Belt and Road Initiative

.

The multibillion-dollar rail project – once hailed as a key part of Chinese President

Xi Jinping

’s signature project to fund and build infrastructure across Asia – faces the threat of cancellation after work was suspended last July.

Mahathir: green light for China-backed ECRL, if price is right

Mahathir’s administration, with the premier’s top confidante Daim Zainuddin at the helm, is in direct government-to-government negotiations with Beijing to drastically reduce the project’s price tag.

According to Kuala Lumpur’s latest estimates, the true cost of the 688km line would be 130 billion ringgit (US$32 billion), rather than the 55 billion ringgit (US$13 billion) touted by Mahathir’s predecessor as prime minister, Najib Razak.

Mahathir claims Najib offered the contractor, China Communication Construction Company, a sweetheart deal.

Mahathir Mohamad’s predecessor as prime minister, Najib Razak, at the launch of the East Coast Rail Link project. Photo: AP
Mahathir Mohamad’s predecessor as prime minister, Najib Razak, at the launch of the East Coast Rail Link project. Photo: AP

Mahathir, 93, said negotiations on the rail link were unlikely to conclude before his visit to Beijing for next month’s Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, where he will join Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Philippine President

Rodrigo Duterte and dozens of other world leaders.

The second summit of its kind, the forum from April 25-27 will be Beijing’s biggest diplomatic event this year.

“I cannot say [it will conclude] before I go to China because at this moment, we depend not only on the Malaysian negotiators, but also the response from China,” he told reporters on the sidelines of parliament.

I’d side with rich China over fickle US, Malaysia’s Mahathir says

Fielding questions on the controversial project in the legislature earlier, Mahathir said the rail link would be allowed to continue “on an appropriate scale”.

In its current form, the double-track, fully electrified rail link could balloon in cost to 130 billion ringgit, he said.

That estimate is the highest yet, topping an 81 billion ringgit figure suggested by Mahathir’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Mahathir’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng. Photo: Bloomberg
Mahathir’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng. Photo: Bloomberg

At current levels, Malaysia would be servicing its debts for up to 30 years, the premier said.

The outcome of negotiations to pare down the cost of the project would be announced when a decision was finalised, he said.

“If the negotiations are fruitful, the government is confident the project can continue on an appropriate scale, with benefits for the people and saving Malaysia from the burden of large debts,” he said in response to questions from an opposition lawmaker.

The prime minister was also quizzed on why it was Daim, a retired finance minister, and not Lim, the current finance tsar, who was negotiating with the Chinese.

‘We’re too close to China’: is Thailand about to ‘do a Mahathir’?

To that, the prime minister said: “He [Daim] was chosen because of certain of his capabilities. Sometimes when we are negotiating, we need a person who will be accepted by the other parties. We face certain challenges in choosing the best person to carry out the negotiations.”

“That is why we chose someone outside [the government] after making the evaluation as to who is the best suited and capable to discuss this with China,” he added.

The Malaysian government has been sending out mixed signals on the ECRL for months.

In January the government issued a “gag order” on officials, authorising only Mahathir to comment on negotiations.
In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post this month, Mahathir said he would approve the project if the Chinese agreed to a price he had in mind. He refused to divulge the figure.
Scandal hit: Najib Razak. Photo: Reuters
Scandal hit: Najib Razak. Photo: Reuters

The ECRL is the biggest of the China-backed infrastructure projects to have been cast into doubt by Mahathir, who questions the need for the rail link as well as its cost and claims his scandal-haunted predecessor signed up in blasé fashion.

Allies of Mahathir have claimed Najib signed up to the deals as a quid pro quo to Chinese firms that were bailing out massive losses at the 1MDB state fund , a scandal for which he is currently facing criminal charges.

Najib, who denies wrongdoing, claims to have endorsed the ECRL deal solely because it made good economic sense.

Besides the ECRL, Mahathir’s government last year cancelled two China-backed pipelines costing 9.3 billion ringgit after it discovered that, while 90 per cent of the project’s costs had been paid, only 13 per cent of it had been completed.

Source: SCMP

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