The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in late April in Beijing. This summit will be highly important in terms of its participation and depth of issues under discussion. It is expected that representatives from 100 countries and regions will attend the event. Preparations are at their peak, as it will be a major diplomatic event in Beijing and the Chinese government grants it very high importance.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was first proposed by China in 2013. Many countries appreciated this initiative and joined it immediately, while a few countries took their time to understand the rationale behind the BRI and then recognized and joined the initiative. A few countries are still considering it and have not yet decided.
But there also exist a few countries that oppose it, whether because they have misunderstood the rationale of the BRI or just resist the initiative out of jealousy or enmity. We should be honest and brave enough to acknowledge that there exists resistance or opposition to the BRI, too.
More than 100 nations and international organizations have supported and joined the BRI. In the beginning, friendly nations and neighboring countries joined the initiative, and later on its scope was widened and many nations from far away also joined. The most recent example is Italy. Italy's participation will have a long-lasting impact on the EU. The EU is facing severe challenges, including Brexit, a divide between rich and poor states, and some member countries have almost collapsed economically without any relief from the EU. Ultimately, these countries need to knock on the doors of nations outside the EU for their rescue.
Since its inception, the BRI has delivered a lot in terms of connectivity, economic activity, trade, and cultural exchanges. A network of motorways, railways, airports, and seaports have increased the connections among BRI states, with heavy investment from China. Trade and economic activities have been enhanced among BRI states, and the initiative has helped the ailing global growth.
China alone contributes one third of the global growth. Chinese soft power and diplomacy have brought many nations closer to each other, while China's peaceful rise has been cited as an example for the rest of the world.
It is expected that during the upcoming summit, China may announce something even more interesting, as China has gained strong experience through the BRI during the last six years.
At least half of the world is supporting China, while most of the remaining nations are still trying to understand China and may make up their minds soon. Only a few countries are against and oppose the BRI - a stance that threatens to isolate them.
In fact, China is the only nation with such a capacity for large-scale investment and know-how. No other nation can compete with China or provide the resources to invest in other countries on this scale. China is willing to invest in the least-developed countries, which other countries avoid due to the fear of non-recovery.
I believe the Second Belt and Road Forum is a platform that should be attended by all nations. Those that support the BRI may explore ways and means to benefit more. Those that have not joined the BRI yet, but may join in the near future, can explore the initiative and its true spirit. Those that oppose it are also welcome to attend the summit, where they can clarify their reservations. If they have stronger rationale or logic, let them share with the rest of the world and try to convince.
The author is a sinologist and researcher with the Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.
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