Home > Mission Headlines
Transcript of Ambassador Fu Cong’s Remarks at the Panel Discussion of the Hybrid Conference on the Belt and Road Initiative
2023-09-20 21:10

On September 19, 2023, Ambassador Fu Cong delivered a keynote speech at the Hybrid Conference on the Belt and Road Initiative hosted by Euractiv and attended its panel discussion. The transcript of the Ambassador’s remarks at the panel discussion is as follows:

Euractiv: Ambassador, there is some skepticism about the BRI. How do you tackle that, particularly in light of Europe's Strategic Autonomy policy? 

Fu Cong: When it comes to the BRI, whether this is good or bad, we need to listen more to the receiving countries. I think that's only fair. We know that there is a lot of criticism in the Western media and also from the Western governments sometimes. But actually, as far as we are concerned, we will continue to do that because we care more about the reactions from the receiving states, especially in the Global South.

In Europe, there are some flagship projects that I mentioned in my speech, like the port in Greece, the railway in Serbia, and the bridge in Croatia. In all these countries, BRI is very positively received. With respect to other countries, we are ready to cooperate. Actually, we are heartened to see that the BRI has motivated some major initiatives on the part of the Western countries, like the latest “India-MiddleEast-EuropeEconomicCorridor”(IMEC) and the Global Gateway initiative from Europe.

We see this as a good thing, even though some Western politicians say that all these are a counterbalance or counterweight to the BRI. In our view, we do not see them as a counterweight. We see them as complementary initiatives. We know that the world needs much more investment in terms of basic infrastructure, especially in the Global South. China alone cannot afford to make all these happen. We welcome all these initiatives, so there is no reason that we should become a counterweight or counterbalance against each other. We hope that we can cooperate and we are willing to do that. Actually, there are some projects that have already been carried out in Africa. I personally have met with the special envoy of the EU on Central Asia, and she is very interested in having joint projects in Central Asian countries.

As we enter the second decade of the BRI, the sentiments towards the BRI will definitely improve. I am not so concerned about some of the criticism launched by some Western media. I think that facts speak louder than words. What we need to do is to concentrate on what we do and let the facts show to the world what BRI is really all about.

Euractiv: We also have raised the IMEC. What are the advantages of the BRI compared to the IMEC? Ambassador, tell us where you see those two in relation to one another.

Fu Cong: Actually, on the IMEC, We don't know much about that initiative, do we? We need to learn more details about that. So I don't want to compare these two.

According to the reports, some of the US scholars and officials are saying that the initiatives are serving as a counterweight against China or something like that. As I said, if they are purely for developmental purposes, we do not see that as a counterbalance. Whatever the initiative is, if its real purpose is for the development of the region, we do not see China having anything negative about them. 

Just now, the speakers talked about the competition between development models. Let me tell you how we see this. If we talk about whether it's going to be a greener model of development, I think there is no competition. There is only cooperation. There are no differences between BRI and the Global Gateway strategy. For the next decade, BRI is also evolving. As I said in my speech, green is a distinctive color of the BRI, so we are actually putting a lot of emphasis on green development and digital cooperation.

But I do want to draw attention to some basic facts about the BRI. When it comes to the BRI, there are a lot of good experiences that have accumulated over the past ten years. Some of them can be positive lessons for the Global Gateway or the IMEC, which is that projects need to be host-country-driven. China never imposes any project on any country. It’s always the country that comes up with the project, and China comes in with help and assistance. So that is a very good experience we want to share with potential investors. 

The second good point I want to share is that the basic principle of the BRI is what we call the “triple principle of reciprocity”. That is reciprocity in consultation, reciprocity in construction, and reciprocity in benefit-sharing. At the early planning stage, China and the partner countries would coordinate and plan together. That's very important. It's not that China comes up with a project and tries to sell it to the country. When it comes to the construction, we also have a lot of cooperation. China uses the local labor force. That's why, in my speech, I mentioned how many jobs China has created in those infrastructure constructions. That's what we call the reciprocity in construction. 

More importantly, the reciprocity in benefit sharing. We see the BRI projects more from the economic perspective. I do not deny that, in the process, China's soft power increases, because if you do good things for the country, of course you will be positively received. But that is not our initial objective. Our initial objective is to engage on an equal footing. I think that is also important for Western countries. You need to engage with the countries on an equal footing and in a cooperative manner so that countries can reap the benefits equitably. We do not pretend to be the savior of the world. The Chinese companies are going there for their own purposes and for their own benefits. But at the same time, we also bring benefits to the local people.

So that's why, in our engagement with governments, people, and communities, we always do this on an equal footing. So my advice to the Global Gateway initiative and the IMEC is that if you can do as China has done, in terms of giving a sense of equity to the Global South countries, you will do well. 

Euractiv: What can we expect from the upcoming 3rd BRI Forum in October, especially in light of President Xi Jinping’s renewed emphasis on small but beautiful projects?

Fu Cong: We're going to hold this 3rd Forum in mid-October. This is to celebrate the achievements of the past decade and chart the way forward. As I said, we'll continue with this great initiative, and we will move in lockstep with the world in terms of green transition and digital transition.

If you look at the concrete projects, green is already one of the basic elements, both in terms of the projects that are being invested in, for instance, in renewable energy, and also in the way the infrastructures are being built, as they're built in greener ways. That may be a direction. “Small and beautiful” is also one of the underlying principles of BRI. Just now, people mentioned the Global Development Initiative. These are working in conjunction with each other. We are trying our best to help other developing countries in meeting the UNSDGs. We believe that, through small projects which improve the livelihood of the local people, this is the most direct way to lift people out of poverty and to meet the UNSDGs. Indeed, that may be another direction that we will be moving in. 

Another point I want to emphasize is that BRI is not what I call the "solo show" of China. By inviting all these countries to Beijing, we are poised to listen to the views of countries. This is a joint effort. Together, we can decide in which direction the BRI should be moving forward. 

Ambassador’s intervention: I want to say a few words in response to the “fragmented world” that the speaker mentioned. Indeed, the world is becoming more fragmented. But let us remember, whether the world is moving toward fragmentation depends on our choice. It's not a natural evolution that the world should be fragmented. It all depends on our choices. BRI is a project that promotes globalization. As we go to other parts of the world to jointly develop, we see that as a part of globalization.

So that's why we would like to advise Western politicians not to see the BRI as an effort to undermine the West. That becomes a basis or an excuse for you to make the world more fragmented. We don't think that's how the BRI should be looked at. That's why we have been emphasizing that for all those initiatives coming from Europe or the United States, when it comes to the Global Gateway or whatever initiative you have, don't put it against the BRI. We do not see them as something against BRI. We see them as complementary. That is the mentality. I think that is very important. If we see this as competition, sometimes even geopolitical competition, it would beyond economics. That's very dangerous. I don't think that will be welcomed by the other parts of the world, or the Global South. We do not need more ideological division. There is no need for geopolitical division. In our case, we want to promote more globalized efforts in the development of all corners of the world.

So don't try to put your initiative against the BRI. It's not going to work because it will not be welcomed by the Global South. There is no need for this. Just now, you mentioned the high-level engagement between China and the US. Indeed, tensions need to be reduced, not enhanced, and having a more relaxed international environment is going to be beneficial to all sides. That is an appeal that China has been making to the Western countries. 

Euractiv: Ambassador, I think you've made your points quite well. Do you have a final comment you want to make before we say goodbye?

Fu Cong: My final appeal to European countries is that let's work together for the benefit of the Global South and for the entire world. There is no need for us to have all these competitions. As I said throughout my interventions today, we see our initiatives as complementary to each other. 

By extension, we also believe that globalization is still beneficial. We do not accept that it is already something that has become a fait accompli, as if the world is going to be fragmented. I'm sure all of you have read the very important article in Foreign Affairs by the IMF Managing Director. If the world gets further fragmented, the global GDP will be reduced by a certain percentage, and the whole world will lose. We do believe that common sense can prevail in this regard. There is no need for geopolitics when it comes to economic cooperation. 

Thank you.

Suggest to a friend: