The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been warmly welcomed in the Pacific island countries because it has helped boost their social and economic development over the past decade, a Fijian expert said.
In an interview with Xinhua, Keshmeer Makun, a lecturer at the University of the South Pacific based in the Fijian capital Suva, said that the BRI has become a platform for win-win cooperation between China and the participating countries across the world, including the Pacific island countries located at the southward extension of the BRI, now important economic and trade partners of China.
“To date, 149 countries, including the 10 Pacific island countries, have diplomatic relations with China, and 32 international organizations have joined the initiative. The world has already witnessed China’s expanding trade and investment ties with countries along the Belt and Road over the years,” he said.
The BRI, which consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is aimed at building a trade, investment, and infrastructure network that connects Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.
Makun said that “as an important platform for China and these countries to advance the cooperation, the BRI is bolstering bilateral ties between China with her partners across the Belt and Road with shared interests and mutual benefits. The enhanced ties between China and the Pacific can be exemplified in this regard.”
“China has provided support in infrastructure development like roads, hospitals, and climate mitigation projects in the Pacific island countries and also pledged to support them in the areas of need in the future. The tangible benefits under various projects and development support have lifted the relations between the Pacific (island countries) and China to a new height,” he said.
The Chinese-run projects and businesses have become part of the local economy in the Pacific island countries, generating jobs and incomes for the people, he said.
The building of the BRI continues to demonstrate strong resilience and vitality, injecting strong impetus into global openness and cooperation and world economic recovery, he said.
Believing that China and the Pacific island countries have great potential in their future cooperation, Makun said that the two sides should work together to synergize the BRI with the recently-launched 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, a roadmap for sustainable development in the Pacific region.
“The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and green development of the BRI are win-win cooperation for both China and the Pacific. In fact, they are making a strong commitment to sustainability and demonstrating their social responsibility for the developing world,” he said.
He pointed out that Chinese expertise and know-how in the field of renewable energy can be of tremendous help to the Pacific island countries which are rich in renewable energy resources such as hydropower, solar power and wind power.
Makun also stressed the importance of cooperation in climate change between China and the Pacific island countries, saying that China, as the world’s most populous country and the second largest economy, will be a key partner in mitigating natural disasters and climate-induced risks, reducing poverty and achieving the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“China is increasingly showing environmental leadership on the global stage, supporting the Paris Agreement on climate change and promoting a philosophy of reviving an ecological civilization. The BRI can offer a significant contribution toward meeting the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement,” he said.
Makun made it clear that the BRI is not a debt trap for participating countries, but a platform for mutually-beneficial cooperation.
Developing countries like the Pacific island countries need massive infrastructure investment, and China can certainly help to provide some of this, he said, adding that despite the so-called “debt trap” myth raised by some media reports, the world has come to know that the BRI is endowed with a coherent set of principles where “win-win” situation, rather than “win-lose” or “zero-sum,” through “all-round connectivity” gets the ultimate priority.
The lecturer urged international development partners to work together to help the Pacific island countries address their challenges as the BRI is an initiative for peaceful development, economic cooperation and it will make economic globalisation become more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all.
“The BRI is a process of open, inclusive and common development, it is in the interests of both the Pacific island countries and the international development partners if they can work together and take concrete actions,” he said.