China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday strongly endorsed a greater global role for the BRICS countries and pledged to push back against anti-globalisation forces through China’s massive Silk Road infrastructure plan, as Beijing eyes greater sway amid global flux.
While careful to play down notions that Beijing might aspire to global leadership as America under Donald Trump promises to turn increasingly inward, Wang told reporters at his annual press conference in Beijing that China would push back against “protectionism and unilateralism”.
As the world awaits to see how President Trump may carve out a different global role for the US, Wang suggested China would push its own competing vision for global trade and governance through its massive “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI).
A land and sea infrastructure push that is a pet project of President Xi Jinping – as well as its hosting of the BRICS Summit in September. In May, China will hold the first Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which Wang said would place China “at the centre of the world’s attention”.
“With protectionism and unilateralism on the rise, the Belt and Road will find common cause where all countries roll up their sleeves and pitch in together. We will help rebalance globalisation,” Wang said.
BRICS’ GLOBAL ROLE
The forum, he said, would be attended by more than 20 world leaders and 100 ministerial-level representatives. China has also invited India to attend the summit, which India is still considering given its opposition to a key leg of the Belt and Road, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, that passes through Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The forum will identify major projects under the plan, Wang said.
Wang also strongly endorsed a greater global role for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, suggesting it should become the leading platform to represent interests of emerging countries and the global south.
“BRICS countries represent emerging economies,” he said. “Over the years, their fortunes may have risen or fallen, and each faces challenges.”
“As President Xi put it, BRICS are like five fingers each with their own strength but when we come together we are a fist that can punch. When we stay united we won’t lose lustre but will shine more brightly.”
Ahead of this year’s summit, he said China would work with India and the other BRICS countries to share ideas on political and security cooperation as the five National Security Advisers plan to meet in China later this year, and Beijing would also “build consensus for holding a stand-alone Foreign Minister’s meeting”.
Wang said China would also “explore modalities for BRICS-plus, to hold outreach dialogues with other major developing countries”. “We hope to establish extensive partnerships and widen our circle of friends to turn it into the most impactful platform for South-South cooperation”.
At the same time, the Chinese Foreign Minister was keen to play down suggestions that China would look to step up to fill any vacuum should Trump’s America seek a reduced global role.
CHINA BELIEVES IN EQUALITY OF ALL COUNTRIES
“China believes in the equality of all countries,” he said. “We don’t believe some countries should lead other countries.”
At his annual press conference on the sidelines of the on-going session of Chinese Parliament or the National People’s Congress (NPC), which opened on March 5, Wang fielded questions from reporters from the US, UK, Russia, Britain, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Qatar and Tanzania, besides Chinese journalists. There were no questions on India.
Speaking on March 4 ahead of the start of parliament, the NPC spokesperson Fu Ying addressed China’s relations with India and while not directly commenting on recent disputes, Fu said both “need to be move sensitive to each other’s concerns, so we can better address them.” “We cannot allow issues that cannot be worked out for the moment to stop us from moving forward,” added Fu.
Fu also reiterated China’s invitation for India to join the Belt and Road, saying it was “a connectivity programme for economic development and will also benefit India,” Fu said. “So we need to bear in mind the larger picture,” she added, while not addressing India’s strong concerns on its sovereignty in PoK being violated by the plan.
On increasing tensions in the Korean peninsula, Wang, the Foreign Minister, on Wednesday put forward a plan that called for North Korea to stop missile tests and for South Korea and the US to cease military exercises.
He described the two sides as similar to “two accelerating trains coming at each other with neither side willing to give way” and “ready for a head-on collision”.
He suggested a “dual suspension” plan to resolve this “security dilemma”, with North Korea as a first step to suspend missile activities and in return, the us and South Korea ceasing what he described as “enormous military exercises” that were pressuring the north.
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