Discussing “China’s Voice” #2 (钟声)

On the eve of the next Belt and Road Summit, “China’s Voice” (18th April, 2019) presents the Chinese view on the current course of events. As can be imagined, the perspective offered is a very positive and optimistic one. Against the backdrop of unilateralism and economic protectionism, China advocates global economic interdependence. Belt and Road itself is the vehicle for bringing a better, brighter future and is portrayed as a vital project. According to “China;s Voice”, the Belt and Road initiative „has entered deeply into people’s hearts” (xin can also be translated also as minds) and more and more governments have actively participated in the Chinese initiative. But the key for the Chinese government is cooperation within the United Nations framework. This allows problems to be minimized and ensures greater effectiveness in securing the country’s interests in the developing world. As the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions, China can secure its position and build more effective soft-power.

An interesting point is raised when it comes to the institutionalization of the Belt and Road Summit. The second edition of the forum, which takes place later this April, will be held in Beijing. The current and future status of the summit is presently being negotiated between China and the participants. To what extent might the BRI, with its peaceful logic based on economy and cultural interaction, be turned into reality? Analyzed on a case by case basis, this logic must be regarded as far from reality. Global economic interdependence has failed to fulfill its promises, and at the moment there are trade wars between the United States and China, Japan and the European Union. Secondly, after 30 years, cultural interactions and the whole concept of soft-power have proved unworkable and countries resort to hard power, such as Russia in Donbas. Finally, as presented by “People’s Daily”, the Belt and Road has entered “people’s hearts”. This notion should also be approached with great caution by the Chinese government. People across the world envisage Belt and Road as the important vehicle for bringing stability, economic growth and prosperity. The danger here is that once out of total control BRI could turn against its originator and a disappointed global community might easily find the culprit.

Moreover, the Belt and Road Initiative has taken on a life of its own; it is used by policy makers worldwide for their own political purposes, and sometimes the Chinese government is the last to be informed about the narratives that are circulating. In other words, Belt and Road should be promoted carefully, because it might not bring the Middle Kingdom as many benefits as presented by the Chinese media.