China’s Xi Pledges ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Corruption to Calm Belt and Road Initiative Criticism
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged transparency and zero tolerance for corruption in an attempt to alleviate criticism for his country’s Belt and Road Initiative from the United States that described the massive infrastructure project as a debt trap for poorer countries.
“Everything should be done in a transparent way, and we should have zero tolerance for corruption,” Xi said on Friday while addressing some 5,000 attendees at the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. “The Belt and Road is not an exclusive club.”
The Belt and Road Initiative, which was launched in 2013, wants to create a modern version of the ancient Silk Road, a network of trade routes that connected Asia to Europe and Africa, through enormous infrastructure investments in maritime, road and rail.
Since launching the initiative almost six years ago, direct investments from Chinese enterprises in countries linked to the BRI have exceeded $90 billion, Gao Feng, spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry, said.
When Xi initially unveiled the plan, he identified five main goals: political coordination, infrastructure connections, trade liberalization, free movement of capital and boosting mutual understanding between nations.
However, the project has come under fire from a number of Western countries such as the United States and Germany.
Acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen said in March that the Belt and Road Initiative had “known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and lack of transparency.” During the same month, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Global Development issued a study that said eight countries may face difficulties with debt sustainability linked to the Belt and Road Initiative.
German politicians last month criticized Italy’s decision to join the initiative. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that “China is not a liberal democracy.” He added that countries engaging in business dealings with China will “suddenly wake up in dependency.”
Furthermore, European Commissioner Guenter Oettinger suggested that the European Union should have the right to block China from taking control of critical infrastructure on the continent.
“I view with concern that, in Italy and other European countries, strategically important infrastructure projects – power grids, high-speed train lines or ports – are no longer in European hands but in Chinese hands,” he told Germany’s Funke Mediengruppe. “That is why we should consider a European veto right or a European right of approval, carried out by the commission.”
Despite those criticisms and warnings, over 125 countries have signed BRI cooperation documents, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in February, citing Chinese state media.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country joined BRI in 2015, was among more than two dozen head of states that attended this week’s forum in Beijing. Washington, on the other hand, did not send any high-level officials to the three-day meeting.
During the forum, the BRI received further international backing. U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond said that Britain intends to cooperate with China on the project, while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed Beijing’s plans as one of “remarkable importance.”
“The Belt and Road Initiative assumes remarkable and urgent importance. With the scale of its planned investments, it offers a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the creation of a more equitable, prosperous world for all, and to reversing the negative impact of climate change,” Guterres said.
It appears the United States is once again having a hard time finding European allies in its opposition to a large international project; similar rifts exist over Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project and the use of information equipment from Chinese IT giant Huawei.
In The News
Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin of Russia spent more than three hours discussing issues Wednesday at their summit in Geneva. They ticked through their respective lists so quickly and in such "excruciating detail," Biden says, that they looked at each other and thought, "OK, what... Read More
GENEVA (AP) — With stern expressions and polite words before the cameras, President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin plunged into hours of face-to-face talks Wednesday at a lush lakeside Swiss mansion, a highly anticipated summit at a time when both leaders agree that relations between... Read More
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — U.S. plans to donate 500 million more COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries were met Thursday with both celebration and hesitation amid questions over whether the effort will be enough to help poor regions desperate for doses. Some health officials and... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Defense Department may seek authorization to carry out airstrikes if the capital of Kabul or any other major city in Afghanistan is in danger of falling to the Taliban after the U.S. completes the withdrawal of its troops from the country in early... Read More
The White House announced Thursday that the United States will purchase and donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower middle-income countries and the African Union, a historic action intended to supercharge the global fight against the pandemic. In a statement, the White... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday that aims to boost U.S. semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing international competition, most notably from China. The 68-32 vote for the bill demonstrates how confronting... Read More