The European Union has refused to embrace the plan of Chinese President Xi Jinping to lead a global infrastructure revolution on the grounds of missing commitments to social and environmental sustainability and transparency. China made its latest bid for global leadership on Monday (15 May) when President Xi said to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the world should say no to protectionism and embrace the new era of integration, internationalism, and globalization. His comments were made on the last day of a high-profile summit on the Belt and Road initiative that took place in Beijing.
The Belt and Road initiative is China’s most ambitious foreign policy project, a multibillion-dollar infrastructure venture that is aimed to make China a leader in the new ear of trade and development. The project is immensely ambitious – Beijing spends about $150 billion a year in the 68 countries that have signed up for it. It was launched in 2013 as “one belt, one road” and it involves China underwriting billions of dollars of infrastructure investment in countries along the ancient Silk Road connecting it with Europe. The main goal of this initiative is to encompass pipelines and a port in Pakistan, bridges in Bangladesh and railways to Russia to ultimately create what China calls a “modern Silk Road”.
However, EU leaders decided not to support the idea of China’s one-sided leadership. “We made clear that, for Europe, the Belt and Road initiative can only be a success if it’s based on transparency and co-ownership,” said one high-level EU diplomat. “Apparently to Chinese surprise, the EU was united on this.” The Beijing summit was the most important diplomatic event of year that attracted the biggest number of foreign dignitaries since the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.