China's Belt and Road gets a reboot to clean up its image

Wang Yi, China's Foreign Minister, center left and Luigi Di Maio, Italy's deputy prime minister, center right, an MoU on China's Belt and Road Initiative/Alessia Pierdomenico

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China is stepping up efforts to get developed nations to join in to spread the risk of building projects in poorer nations and to counter allegations that Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is just an attempt to build China’s political influence.

Tuesday 23, April 2019

(Bloomberg) --Chinese President Xi Jinping’s grand Belt and Road Initiative is getting a makeover to tone down government rhetoric and tighten oversight, after allegations of corruption and a lack of sustainability dogged some of its highest-profile projects.

Beijing is taking a range of steps to exert more control over the programme, officials and participants said, including a more muted publicity drive, clearer rules for state-owned-enterprises, restricting use of the BRI brand, and building overseas auditing and anti-corruption mechanisms.

As global leaders gather in Beijing this week for Xi’s second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China is having to defend its image in the light of the trade war with the US and growing concern about Beijing’s political and economic influence in Asia and Europe.

The evolution of BRI also reflects a need to ensure more robust standards expected by developed nations as China works to extend the initiative into Europe.

Italy’s announcement this year that it will participate in BRI, the first Group of 7 country to sign up, was a big win for China. But negotiations with other major European Union (EU) nations face major hurdles over regulations and standards. Stumbling blocks include the request that financing meet the standards of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU.

According to a government official involved in China’s overseas development, third-party market cooperation, signing up a developed nation to help build infrastructure in one of the Belt and Road countries, is the focus of the next phase of BRI.

This is a way to depoliticize the BRI and China will sign documents with Britain, Switzerland and Austria on this kind of cooperation during the forum, following similar agreements with France, Spain and Australia.

TAGS : BRI, President Xi Jinping, EU, IMF

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