The Belt and Road Summit held in Beijing from 14th to 15th May 2017 concludes on a high note. State leaders from 29 of the 65 countries that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and representatives from over 100 countries attended the summit to endorse President Xi’s new globalization strategy. With greater connectivity between Europe, Asia and Africa, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to make the shared destiny of these regions as its purpose for win-win cooperation. From Pakistan alone, Chief Ministers from all four provinces under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s leadership attended, making a statement of true solidarity. Senator Mushahid Hussain, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of CPEC, also graced the event along with Ministers Ahsan Iqbal and Khwaja Saad Rafique among others. Given that China Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project of China led cooperation spanning all Eurasia, this level of participation by the Pakistani delegation has strengthened the resolve and political will between the Iron Brothers to make this a success story.
The overarching theme of this year’s Belt and Road Summit was “people-to-people ties”. China’s ambitions to spread the gains of infrastructure and industrialization to a region comprising 60% of the world’s population have been fueled by the impetus to accomplish true win-win cooperation. But win-win for whom? At the heart of these projects for deeper integration lie the people. While state leaders and representatives seemingly symbolize the interests of the economic and political blocs, the end goal of these developments is to provide greater opportunities and better livelihood to ordinary people. How does the increasing cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad, and that between the 60 countries that are part of this groundbreaking initiative, connect the people? For in China’s philosophy of modernization, development and cooperation, all belts and roads must lead to the people. China has the unprecedented achievement of having already lifted 600 million out of the poverty trap.
Therefore, with remarkable emphasis on people-to-people ties, China’s plans for this century represent a marriage between the political, economic and social needs of our time. Russia, Turkey and Pakistan, three players of strategic importance for China, have collectively emerged as key partners for Beijing as the turns in favor of the Global South. The signs of Pakistan’s inclusion in this power bloc were becoming increasingly apparent with Moscow’s bid for Pakistan’s permanent member status in the Shanghai Corporation Organization, and recent convergence in security cooperation. In light of Russia’s strategic relationship with India for decades, this unlikely partnership with Pakistan is a notable tilt in Moscow’s policy. More winners from the win-win partnership series include Central Asia, East Asia, the Middle East and African nations, which have supported China’s vision. Even Latin American countries with a history of connectivity with China, have expressed their desire to become part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The rise of an Asia ready to unite in order to take charge of its own destiny is not exclusive to the Global South. President Xi’s invitation was extended to leaders from Europe and the United States, but received a lukewarm response. Even though European countries are significant stakeholders in China’s economic development and globalization plans, their hesitation to become frontrunners in this new-age globalization is dampened by traditional alliances.
As the much anticipated Belt and Road Summit comes to a dramatic end, little doubt remains of China’s growing political clout and emergence as a global leader. The vision promulgated by this new diplomacy of shared destiny, respect for sovereignty and focus on people, has in a sense revolutionized the global order. The endorsement of over 100 countries has stoked this energy. Questions remain regarding the nuances and technical challenges in actualization of this vision, but the needed political will demonstrated by the success of the BRI summit stands as a firm foundation. Winners of this development start with China, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey all across Eurasia and Africa. However, it is also important to note that both India and US’ economic cooperation with China has been on the rise. India has become one of the largest beneficiaries of Chinese FDI, with exponentially increasing trade. Similarly, despite political differences, the US and China boast a strong trade and FDI relationship. Therefore, it would be wise to note, that China’s clout neither begins nor ends with the Belt and Road initiative.
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