A just cause should be pursued for the common good
Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi met the press on Friday on the sidelines of the annual session of the country's top legislature, the National People's Congress. He answered questions on almost all of the hot button issues in the world today, from the relations between the big powers to the situation on the Korean peninsula and development in African countries.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi answers questions during a press conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress in Beijing on Friday, March 8, 2019. [Photo: VCG]
China has undergone profound changes over the past 40 years of its reform and opening up. It has become the world's second-largest economy, more than 800 million of its people have been lifted out of poverty, and its development model has become a point of reference by an increasing number of developing countries.
A journalist from Ghana covering the annual meeting of China's lawmakers said that African countries identify with China's development model. And they are not alone: So far, 123 countries and 29 international organizations have signed cooperative agreements with China for the Belt and Road Initiative. Some of these have led to major achievements in infrastructure construction and the development of economic capacity. The Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya is one such example. It has contributed 1.5 percentage points to local economic growth since it went into service in May 2017. And the number of countries taking part in the Belt and Road is still growing, and not just in the developing world. Italy, a member of the G7, is reportedly interested in taking part. And when the next Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is held in Beijing next month, many more government leaders are expected to attend than last time.
The reason so many countries are interested in the Belt and Road Initiative is that they can see its value as a driver of development. As Minister Wang pointed out, it isn't a "geopolitical tool" wielded by China solely for its own advantage. Nor are countries being lured into a "debt trap" by false promises. Rather, as the minister said, the countries taking part understand that decoupling from China is decoupling from opportunity and, to some extent, decoupling from the world.
Wang Yi took the opportunity of his meeting with the press to address the assumption underlying many of the fears about the Belt and Road Initiative, and that is that China is seeking to become a new hegemonic power in the world. Fears about a rising China have become acute in recent years, and it's not a coincidence that this has happened at a time when some of the world's traditional great powers have become increasingly protectionist and isolationist. As the foreign minister made plain, China has no interest in going down the path of becoming a hegemon. It will continue to adhere to its policy of peaceful coexistence with all other countries and cooperation with the international community.
As the country has opened up to the world, it has assumed an even greater share of global responsibilities. This can be seen in the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, and its role as the world's largest provider of United Nations peacekeepers. The underlying philosophy of China's foreign policy is that development should be fair and equitable. This is why China will continue to be an advocate of world peace and human progress.