Home Diplomatic Suite China’s BRI and the world in 21st Century

China’s BRI and the world in 21st Century

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Chinese citizens living better economic lives mill around at central Shanghai in May 2016 ACMC photo

By IKENNA EMEWU

In November 2016 in Beijing at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) office, I interviewed Mr. Jin Liqun on what role the bank would play in world affairs, and if there wouldn’t be a clash between it and the World Bank.

The AIIB president said such won’t arise because the World Bank has never met all the world’s financing needs. Jin said infrastructure deficit in Asia alone was in excess of $3tr per year. The AIIB fits into the task of possibly closing the gap.

China, for the records, birthed the AIIB that incepted in January 2016 and already becoming an alternative to the Bretton Woods global financial bodies with about 87 state parties today.

After the socialist/communist East crumbled in the late 1980s, the world operated a monolithic order by the West. 

From somewhere out of the blues came China – with a different political and economic ideology that has started providing alternatives for the entire world.

Even Africa is enjoying the alternatives and today, like a good bride, everyone solicits her friendship after the seriousness of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation picked speed. Japan’s TICAD and US platforms have started coming stronger and seriously too.

So, China stepping into the arena is changing the game and that is exactly her outlook and the rest of the world in the 21st Century. The next of their steps were to unfold later in diverse ways.

Conceiving the BRI

In 2013 at Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping mooted the One Belt One Road economic agenda which was later inaugurated on May 14, 2017 in Beijing. Today about 137 state parties have signed up to it or shown interest. It’s a project that plans to link the world up by rail, road, sea and air routes for cooperation and development. As the plan sails through, that might later provide the world another alternative to the United Nations, a rallying point for global unity and development. Right now, the agenda keeps expanding. As the global interest and need for it also widen in scope,

I guess more surprises await the world from China from diplomacy to the environment, climate change, culture, global peace, economic development, new energy, shared benefits, technology, world politics, etc.

As the world was about settling down to the concept of the AIIB,, the One Belt One Road, now called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was rearing to go. President Xi followed his first mention of it in September 2013 with frenetic diplomatic actions and on May 14, 2017 in Beijing, the BRI came to the stage. I was a witness to it as the world converged on Beijing. About 29 presidents were in attendance in addition to the presidents of the World Bank and the IMF. Over 50 other countries sent ministerial level representation. 

The objective is to “construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural exchange and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool and technology database,.Accordingly, the share of investment to BRI countries increased to 12% of total China’s ODI from 8% in 2016. quoting President Xi in a media report. . 

The report further indicated that: “As the share of ODI in the service sector declined, the shares of ODI in commodity and energy sectors rose. ODI to transport and logistics sectors also rallied, benefiting from China’s implementation of the BRI in 2018.”  

In just two years of its life, the BRI project is the next rallying point for the world after the UN. This is awesome achievement for China and perhaps the world that is steadily finding alternatives in China.

World peace

China is second largest financial supporters of UN peacekeeping. 

Her involvement in UN peacekeeping contributions has been on the rise over the years. As the country has been investing heavily abroad, it has stared expanding and stepping up military and security operations overseas to safeguard her economic interests. Bear in mind that world peace is one of the key objectives of the BRI which Xi, the Chinese president said at the inaugural speech in Beijing was a prime concern. He had argued that only a peaceful world brings the assurance of a prosperous world which in turn depends on improved livelihood for all through a common robust economy that the BRI aims to foster.

China’s contribution to UN peacekeeping in the last 10 years has expanded dramatically. In September 2016, it pledged $1 billion to help fund UN peace, security and development works, while in 2018 it supplied 10.3 per cent of the UN peacekeeping budget, up from 3.93 per cent in 2012. She is also the largest contributor of peacekeeping forces among the five permanent members of the Security Council. As well as its regular troop contributions, it has established a stand-by rapid deployment force of 8,000 peacekeeping troops, according to chathamhouse.org

China Daily also reported that the head of China peacekeeping office, Ma Zhaoxu said more than 2,500 Chinese peacekeepers are serving in eight missions around the world, undertaking tasks including demining, medical treatment, engineering, transportation and security guard.

To comprehensively implement the commitments made by President Xi Jinping to further support UN peacekeeping operations, Ma said China has established an 8,000-member peacekeeping standby force and two standby police units.

Tech influence

Shenzhen, China’s south east city creeps with tech innovation – Huawei, ZTE, Xaomi, Tencent and thousands of start ups.

There are two ICT hubs in the world today – in the US championed and driven by the famed FANG which are Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. China takes the other end of the ICT turf and created the BATH – Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei. Most global ICT activities and consumption revolve around them, while Shenzhen, the city of innovation in China’s Guangdong Province has got no equal in rolling out ICT patents worldwide. The same Guangdong Province also commands the world’s densest industrial cluster today.

After US whose Google moves the world of the internet and the new media, China is the other country that boasts of its own formidable internet search engine – Baidu that is the rave in the country as it has Wechat and Sina weibo as own equivalents of Facebook and Twitter respectively. Jack Ma’s Alibaba has got no equal in e-trading globally. China’s resilience to ban usage of Google and Facebook is what has birthed a myriad of ICT-powered billionaires that a good percentage of China’s richest in the Forbes list are linked to the ICT, including Jack Ma Yun (Alibaba), Pony Ma of Tencent, Ren Zhongfei, Huawei founder, Xiaomi, and many more. Recently, Trassion group of smartphones – Tecno and Infinix were announced to have the largest market share in Africa with about 58% domination as at September 2019. Foxconn, the largest gadgets assembly company in the world with 12 plants in nine Chinese cities makes about 48% of all gadgets used in the world from TVs, to play station, mobile gadgets etc. It singlehandedly produces 55% of all Apple gadgets worldwide. 

After Trump’s accusations against Huawei on patent rights, theft of intellectual property and others, it has gone its separate way, dropping the Google’s Android OS, and built its own. Starting from last September, Huawei gadgets run on Huawei’s own OS as it remains the champion of the G5 wireless connectivity that is shocking the entire world and keeps it guessing.

It was this year that China toppled US polling highest number of Fortunes 500 firms with 129 companies against US 123, while in the past dominating the top 10 with a minimum of between three and four companies. 

An American wrote: “I have often jested that the main difference between the United States and China is not that one is capitalist and the other communist. Rather, it is that one is run by lawyers and the other by engineers.

Nowhere is this truer than in the astonishing “catch-up” occurring on the mainland in the explosion of digital technologies and their application to the daily lives of hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese consumers… In awe of the smart technologies on display at PayPal, Google and Dolby sound studios, we were blown away by Huawei, where 40 per cent of its 170,000 staff are working on pure research, and the foundations are being laid for roll-out of 5G across the whole of China by 2020.”

Extract from a paper presented by Emewu in October 2019 at the University of Lagos Africa-China-Canada conference on higher education

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