China is set to host its third Belt and Road Forum, a significant event in President Xi Jinping’s diplomatic agenda. This forum, scheduled for October 17-18 in Beijing, commemorates the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project that has gained both admiration and skepticism worldwide. Notably, President Vladimir Putin of Russia is expected to attend, marking a rare international trip for him amid certain legal challenges. This article delves into the upcoming forum, its historical context, the expectations, and the controversies surrounding the BRI.
The Belt and Road Initiative: A Decade of Ambition:
The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as BRI, was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping a decade ago with the aim of creating a vast network of infrastructure and energy projects connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe through land and maritime routes. The initiative takes its name from the historic Silk Road trade routes, symbolizing a vision of enhanced global trade and cooperation.
Forum Attendees and Expectations:
The upcoming Belt and Road Forum is expected to draw representatives from numerous developing countries, particularly from Latin America and Africa. The forum serves as a platform for discussing infrastructure development, trade, and economic cooperation. President Putin’s presence at the event underscores the close ties between China and Russia, with the Kremlin confirming his participation after receiving an invitation from President Xi.
President Putin’s Rare International Appearance:
President Putin’s attendance at the Belt and Road Forum marks a significant international engagement amid his relative absence from foreign trips. Notably, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest in March, related to the deportation of children from Ukraine. Nevertheless, Putin is embarking on a visit to Kyrgyzstan before attending the Beijing meeting, indicating the importance of this forum for both Russian-Chinese relations and regional dynamics.
ICC and Non-Membership of China and Kyrgyzstan:
It is worth noting that neither Kyrgyzstan nor China are members of the ICC, the international court that prosecutes war crimes. This fact may provide some context for Putin’s decision to visit these countries despite his legal challenges on the international stage.
BRI’s Global Reach and Critics:
The Belt and Road Initiative has garnered mixed reactions globally. While proponents view it as a transformative vision to boost global trade and connectivity, critics argue that it serves as a tool for China to expand its geopolitical and economic influence. Italy, a member of the Group of Seven (G7), is the only G7 country to have joined the BRI, a decision criticized by some of its leaders. Italy’s foreign minister has recently expressed disappointment over the lack of tangible improvements in trade between Italy and China since their participation in the initiative.
In a message to President Xi earlier this month, President Putin highlighted the importance of their talks in strengthening Russian-Chinese ties and enhancing security and stability on the Eurasian continent and worldwide. The relationship between these two global powers is closely watched and often shapes geopolitical dynamics.
Global Cooperation Through BRI:
China’s foreign ministry asserts that it has signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with over 150 countries and more than 30 international organizations. This extensive network of agreements underscores the global reach and ambitions of the BRI, which seeks to foster collaboration on a multitude of infrastructure and development projects.
As China prepares to host its third Belt and Road Forum, the world watches with keen interest. This event, commemorating a decade of the Belt and Road Initiative, brings together leaders and representatives from diverse regions, highlighting both the potential benefits and controversies associated with this ambitious project. President Putin’s attendance adds a layer of significance to the forum, signaling the enduring partnership between China and Russia in the evolving landscape of global politics and economics.