On the occasion of CPEC-BRI Cairo Dialogue and Trade Summit, we are witnessing new opportunities opening up for all countries involved to take part of a future for peace, cooperation, industrialization and exchange of global cultures. Is it the right image we want others to see?
In order to talk about the challenges facing the cooperation, it is essential to consider the global situation at present and by that, understand the motivation of different parties involved around BRI as a global project.
When the Belt& Road Initiative introduced by President Xi Jinping 2013, the vision of a global cooperative trade and cultural exchanges between countries determined to move forward with development, industrialization and ending poverty shared publicly. The vision announced was that BRI is not a trade project but a project for mankind. There was speculations about this visions and the motivation behind such announcement. Speculationshad, by the time, and still has its roots in expansion models that until now ruled the global governance. They have their root in considering the world divided between industrial developed countries and the rest of the world that is condemned to be underdeveloped and could not jump on the train of development when Western countries were on the way to finish the task of industrialisation. Therefore it considered that the time is over and we should accept the fact that we in Western countries have to take care of others by charity, aids, and loans with high interests to make the life of these regions.
By such approach the BRI evaluated, analyzed and criticized, because by all existing models of governance and World Bank and IMF backing up the system, the vision of BRI could not mean nothing else than an expansion of China to provide a new global governance in its own interest and other countries will be poorer than ever. All the criteria for global trade in the new vision by President Xi Jinping, changed and therefore it was hard to believe them and not to consider it a conspiracy in modern time. Win- Win concept instead of One lose One win, Aimed Project Investment (my own term) instead of general bank loan, Equality of partners in a deal instead of provider-buyer approach, Infrastructure and industrialization of Africa and Asia instead of aids and charity projects, cultural exchange instead of inserting one culture, considering geoeconomy instead of geopolitics and by that accepting and respecting different systems of governance. It was a chock and still is for many and hard to believe. It is hard to believe that diversity gives harmony and different systems can side by side cooperate with each other in development. It was hard to believe that your partner cannot be your rival and that all parties have something to contribute to other and something to learn from.
During the past two years, and specially due to policies of US administration executed in global scale, many parties EU, Russia, Africa, different regions of Asia and American continent, have started to look at different options to deal with new situation. This means that different parties may not share the same strategy in cooperation with another particular party but their cooperation can be a just a part of optional solution at present. This means that many not sharing the vision described by the President Xi Jinping, may still be interested in the cooperation with BRI as an option and not as accepted global solution. As the situation mainly caused by the current administration in USA, it can be considered as temporally and therefore the participations are not due to sharing the vision and acting upon it but can be due to “Make the best of the situation”. This can be a challenge when different parties, with different motivations and different approaches enter into a joint cooperation that is much wider than just a business deal or a trade agreement. It is much harder when these parties do not even share common vision and look at the situation as “a way out”.
In the world of business and market shares, each centimeter of each country is a centimeter of a market! That is a system that has been working globally in centuries. It has created its own culture, attitude and approach that would not be vanished by rising of a difficult situation due to policy of one country with strongest economy, in this case USA.
EU as a major actor in Africa and with its own system of treating Africa in decades will not share the same vision and thereby become in favor of BRI just due to the conflict with USA in trade and Tariffs. The same is with West Asian countries being in strong relationship with USA for centuries and may consider BRI as a major investment opportunity and not essentially sharing the vision.
In a situation that CPEC is really the flagship of BRI and all observing it whether willing to condemn it or praise it, is crucial that the same vision shared by Pakistan and China, being shared by others as a platform to cooperate and not just consider it as a trade or financial project. The first phase of BRI will be completed by 2020. This means that the best practice of BRI in action will be then. It will make the BRI as we use to call it in business, a brand. Until then, and next phases, BRI remains as a vision and as a direction for mankind.
Pakistan and China has a historical responsibility, not only towards its own countries but also towards humanity and new global governance in which CPEC will be a successful story. It will be the first millstone in BRI’s existence. There are many, challenging it as it is against all models we have had, this challenge is huge enough that neither Pakistan nor China should add new challenges to it by considering new partners or cooperation included, without making sure that the new potential partners are really sharing the common vision and the goal and look at BRI much wider than just an investment project.
The success of CPEC or BRI is not just lying on phases of CPEC but in creating the shared culture and mindset provided by the vision first presented by President Xi Jinping among all nations willing to participate in the global cooperation.
The author is a Chairman of China-Sweden Business Council