China’s recent actions in various facets of their diplomatic relations with other countries have been received with a lot of raised eyebrows from the West including their mistreatment of Uighur Muslims and boosts in economic production. However, their signature foreign policy initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative which aims to expand Chinese influence around the world with supporting infrastructure projects, has been one of their most controversial policies yet, from the West’s perspective. And, China’s latest alliance with their neighboring country in the North, Russia, should further worry the United States and their partners as the two nations reaffirmed their economic, political, and social commitment to one another at the Belt and Road Forum on Tuesday.
First, let’s start with some context. The Silk Road Economic Belt (Belt and Road, for short) Initiative was launched and adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 as a global infrastructure development strategy to invest in more than 155 countries and 30 international organizations. A centerpiece of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy, the BRI has reached all corners of the world from South America to Africa to Europe with the participating countries accounting for nearly 75% of the world’s population and over half of the world’s GDP.
The policy essentially allows China to loan out money to developing nations to build and grow sustainable infrastructure in those countries. However, these loans often end up being too expensive for the small nations to pay back and, due to their inability to pay off their debt, China takes advantage of this situation to take control of parts of land, militaries, and important trade routes or shipping ports. Some experts have called this policy “debt-trap diplomacy” and have accused China of participating in this method of economic trapping.
In order to ensure its leadership in this policy, China began hosting an event known as the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2017 where member countries of the Belt and Road Initiative come from all over the world to discuss the progress on their infrastructure and meet with their loaner. The third Belt and Road Forum occurred this year from Tuesday, October 17 through Wednesday, October 18, and was even more significant considering that it marked the 10 year anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative itself.
However, the most significant event of the two-day forum was the reaffirmation of an alliance that has been brewing up for the past few years. Apart from the larger group conferences and meetings, President Xi set aside an entire three hours to meet with and lead a press conference with Russian President Vladmir Putin. The two leaders hailed each other as “old” and “dear” friends cherishing a “deepening” trust. The New York Times reports that they also “took swipes at the United States” and proved themselves to be curating a “fairer, multipolar world.”
President Xi used the forum to showcase his future plans of upending US global hegemony and leadership to create a new world order in which China takes over as leader while Russia serves as a vassal state to their Southern neighbor and close ally. During a time of tense animosity and augmented conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, and various other places, Xi brought up his country’s excellent record as an economic and infrastructure leader as a first step towards undermining American global power, giving a lesser, but prominent role to President Putin and the Russian government.
President Joe Biden was busy on Wednesday visiting Israel to prevent an all-out war between Israel and Hamas after the recent events in Gaza. Putin used even this as an opportunity to blame the US for increasing tensions in the Middle East due to their recent military and maritime involvement in the region, claiming that these regional conflicts were “shared threats that only strengthen Russo-Chinese relations.”
In reference to the war, President Xi expressed unwavering support for Russia from an economic standpoint. “What we stand against are unilateral sanctions, economic coercion and decoupling and supply chain disruption,” he said, talking about the US and the West’s attempts to pressure both countries’ economic and technological sectors, especially when it comes to Taiwan’s production of semiconductors, an issue where the US and China have shown major disagreement over.
No matter the situation or context of what was said at the Belt and Road Forum, one thing was made clear. Xi and Putin seek to promote their nations’ alliance as a force for stability in the world when it is needed the most. The Chinese President made clear in his speech at the opening of the forum that their partnership would fuel development in all global sectors, reaching far past the economic impacts the Belt and Road Initiative was originally created for. Instead, the two countries would seek to act as the hero that developing nations have been waiting for, making a tangible impact on these countries that the West has, for far too long, ignored. “Ideological confrontation, geopolitical rivalry and bloc politics are not a choice for us.”
Hello! My name is Krishna Mano and I am a sophomore at City High School. This is my fourth year writing for The City Voice and second year as an editor. Apart from the newspaper, I am part of the Speech and Debate team, President of the 10th Grade Student Council, and Treasurer of the NHS. Outside of school, I enjoy playing the violin, reading, skiing, and paddleboarding. If you have any questions about my articles, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.