Europe’s New Silk Road Global Gateway: With or Against China’s BRI?

Europe’s New Silk Road Global Gateway: With or Against China’s BRI?

From the perspective of the Global Times, EU foreign policy chief Borrell is the healthy voice in the EU, while van der Leyen is the pro-American force. Borrell now allegedly wants to connect the European Silk Road Global Gateway with China’s Silk Road BRI:

“Borrell sends EU’s healthy voice to strengthen China ties, linking Global Gateway to BRI

By GT staff reporters Published: Aug 08, 2023 08:19 PM

China-EU relationship Photo: VCG

China-EU relationship Photo: VCG

Chinese observers have welcomed the healthy voice within the European Union (EU) after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that both sides want to strengthen bilateral relations, as such voices could help build forward-looking, pragmatic, and mutually beneficial relationships, in order to promote a more balanced development of the international order.

After what Borrell described as „good call“ with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy posted Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he and China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi both want to strengthen EU-China relations. „We discussed the upcoming Strategic Dialogue in Beijing in preparation of the EU-China Summit,“ Borrel said. 

According to the Xinhua News Agency on Sunday, Wang Yi, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said during his phone call with the senior EU official that China and the EU should conduct more institutional dialogues to inject new and strong impetus into the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

Borrell stressed that he looks forward to visiting China as soon as possible and launching a strategic dialogue with the Chinese side to jointly prepare for this year’s EU-China leaders‘ meeting and to promote the further development of EU-China relations.

Wang noted that China welcomes Borrell to lead a delegation to visit China this fall and hold a strategic dialogue to make political preparations for the China-EU leaders‘ meeting through extensive and in-depth exchanges.

Besides healthy voice that stresses EU’s strategic autonomy and the region’s own interests, there are also words and actions led by pro-US forces within the EU that advocate blindly following the US in disregard of Europe’s own interests, such as Ursula von der Leyen, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

The vehemently pro-US European Commission chief used a speech in Manila on July 31 to take aim at China, accusing China over the Ukraine crisis and China’s „show of military force“ in the South and East China seas, and in the Taiwan Straits, news outlet Politico reported.

EU leaders also launched a „de-risking“ policy targeting China on June 30, after Von der Leyen went into a summit of leaders in Brussels, the Guardian reported. The bloc reportedly took the view that supply chains for chemicals, electric vehicle batteries, semiconductors and many other critical products were especially vulnerable to a severing of ties with Beijing.

Von der Leyen told reporters after the summit that „diplomatic de-risking“ was central to the bloc’s approach, which allowed the EU to be tough on China over issues such as Russia but at the same time leaving channels open for trade and for dialogue on concerns such as global heating, according to the Guardian report.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, criticized the de-risking rhetoric proposed by the pro-US Von der Leyen as exactly what is leading to greater risk. 

Healthy voices would not only make the EU a respectful power in international affairs, rather than being deemed as a subsidiary to the US, but also help build forward-looking, pragmatic and mutually beneficial relationships with China, in order to promote a more balanced development of the international order, Li said.

The blindly pro-US path would gradually cost Europe’s own interests, he warned.

During his phone call with Wang Yi, Borrell stressed that the EU’s Global Gateway strategy and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are not rivals but complementary to each other, as both are aimed at promoting global development, Xinhua reported.

By making such remarks, Borrell is not only sending a friendly signal to China, but also conveying an opposing voice against the so-called „de-risking,“ Wang Yiwei said, while warning that Europe would only fall victim if it continues using the label „de-risking“ to create confrontations.

Borrell is also using such words to offset the pressure the US levied over Italy recently to push the latter to exit the BRI, according to Wang Yiwei.

The phone conversation between Wang Yi and Borell, reported in Global Times, is interesting in that it emphasized that Global Gateway is not anti-China and not designed as a competitor, but both should contribute to the development of mankind. In addition, the hope was even expressed that the two could also be combined and connected, so that it would then become a Eurasian Silk Road. Nothing is read about a possible role for Russia and Ukraine. This will perhaps be a very central question in the event of an end to the war and reconstruction, also with regard to the subsequent disputes over a post-war European order with, without or against Russia. Some, like Alexander Motley in Foreign Policy, are calling for an anti-Russian lockdown barrier from the Baltic States to Ukraine to Central Asia, or the term the New Iron Curtain has also been mentioned.In addition to Borell as the „healthy voice“ in the EU, the Global Times also speaks of EU Commission President Ursula Van der Leyen as the pro-American force in the EU, which suggests that she may see Global Gateway more as a project against China. It will also be interesting to know who will be chosen to succeed her. Another article about Macron’s earlier visit in China also spoke of joint Chinese-French infrastructure projects in third countries, which sounds more like Borell and a Eurasian orientation.

The Global Gateway website is also not particularly informative, and it remains unclear whether the lighthouse projects listed or planned there are designed as a strategic network or rather a patchwork of image-enhancing showcase projects. Although there are also those who claim that BRI is by no means all strategically and centrally planned as many assume. Perhaps the truth also lies in the fact that a strategic hard core is centrally controlled, while other projects by local governments or Chinese investors are additionally allowed according to the try and terror method. The latter seems to be the case, for example, with the ominous Chinese entrepreneur who bought a regional airport near Berlin to compete with Berlin new airport BER. A documentary was even made about it, which portrayed him as a pioneer of the Chinese New Silk Road. In the meantime, nothing more has been heard about it and the project seems to have failed.

It would also be interesting to know whether there are already agreements between Biden’s B3W and Global Gateway or whether it is not (yet) a transatlantic project or an American competing project or whether it is independent of Global Gateway. Surprisingly little is heard about this in the media, if at all, while the Chinese are aggressively pushing their BRI in propaganda and the media. There is also the Asia-Africa Economic Corridor initiated by Japan and India, but you don’t hear anything either.. It remains to be seen to what extent the USA and the EU Western can plan projects with certainty and if they survive in the long or even mid term, for example if Trump or a Republican is re-elected. But it remains to be seen whether Trump is willing to spend US money on African and other „shitholes“ – at best and maybe if he thinks that it is necessary against China, that benefits the US economy, creates American jobs and makes America great again . So far, his infrastructure program has been limited to building a wall against Mexico, and he and the Republicans have otherwise been rather reluctant to build infrastructure in the USA, especially since they are not Keynesian Eisenhower Republicans, but rather restrictive with a view to debt burdens. Even public-private partnerships are not greeted with euphoria.

But the official Global Gateway website isn’t particularly informative, and it doesn’t give a proper, systematic overview of the projects either. It uses more visionary, abstract, general and catchphrases:

“The Global Gateway stands for sustainable and trusted connections that work for people and the planet. It helps to tackle the most pressing global challenges, from fighting climate change, to improving health systems, and boosting competitiveness and security of global supply chains.

The European Commission and the EU High Representative have set out the Global Gateway, a new European strategy to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world.

We will support smart investments in quality infrastructure, respecting the highest social and environmental standards, in line with the EU’s values and standards. The Global Gateway strategy is a template for how Europe can build more resilient connections with the world.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Between 2021 and 2027, Team Europe, meaning the EU institutions and EU Member States jointly, will mobilise up to €300 billion of investments   for sustainable and high-quality projects, taking into account the needs of partner countries and ensuring lasting benefits for local communities. This will allow EU’s partners to develop their societies and economies, but also create opportunities for the EU Member States’ private sector to invest and remain competitive, whilst ensuring the highest environmental and labour standards, as well as sound financial management.

The Global Gateway is the EU’s contribution to narrowing the global investment gap worldwide. It is in line with the commitment of the G7 leaders from June 2021 to launch a values-driven, high-standard and transparent infrastructure partnership to meet global infrastructure development needs. The Global Gateway is also fully aligned with the UN’s Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Paris Agreement.

China expert Professor van Ess assessed Global Gateway as follows: „Smart investments in quality infrastructure, respecting the highest social and environmental standards, in line with the EU’s values. That means one thing above all: It will be very expensive and keep the number of successful projects small. Then there is: “democratic values and high standards”, “good governance and transparency”, equal partnerships”, “green and clean”, security focused and “catalysing private sector investment”. Sounds very nice, but it could also be read to mean that you have to stick to European values and standards, even if there is a firm handshake at equal partnerships. And from there it will be difficult in many places to compete with the Chinese. The EU, with a German economy that is in a recession from which there seems to be hardly any way out, has to raise the 300 trillion, after all, the Green Deal can hardly be paid for. In that respect, I think Wang Yi is rather relaxed about the project anyway.”

It all sounds very ambitious and value-oriented. An ESG Global Gateway. And it are 300 billion euros, not trillions. Van der Leyen even said something about 600 billion euros. Freudian slip of the tongue as to what she would like or does she not know her own numbers exactly? It is quite possible that the Chinese do not see GG as a serious competitor simply because of its design.

Professor Van Ess tried to solve the confusion with van der Leyen’s figures as follows:

“I believe the 600 billion is 300 x2. In the ideal of the EU (but also the BMBF) you pay 300 billion yourself, and the partners from the „Global South“ also pay 300 billion. In this way you meet „at eye level“. This is called “matching funds”. Unfortunately, this only works in theory. In practice, that causes a lot of trouble.”

And if democracy and freedom from corruption are demanded because of good governance, a number of countries of the Global South, including Central Asia or the „new Uzbekistan“ are very likely to be eliminated or will be very difficult partners, insofar as one wants to stick to the noble principles or maybe they are readjusted by raelpolitik. Or that’s green washing on paper, since the EU also has a number of corruption scandals and perhaps more empty slogans. Interesting that in Central Asia the Rogun Dam in Tajikistan is already a flagship project by Global Gateway. There is a lot of criticism from many environmental and climate protection organizations.

But recently, Westerners have claimed that China appears to be having trouble with the number of participants at the proposed BRI summit in China. China says it is unimportant that a number of western countries do not want to take part in the BRI summit in China. The main interesting partners were the developing countries and emerging economies, and almost all of them would come. In addition, Western people who are interested in BRI are still welcome, even if their heads of state are not. A study by the Bruegel Institute, an otherwise relatively unknown institute, is cited as proof of the success of the BRI.

“Some leaders of developed countries not on the invitation list for the 3rd Belt and Road Forum: source

By Zhao Juecheng Published: Aug 12, 2023 08:03 AM Updated: Aug 12, 2023 02:35 PM

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Ahead of the 3rd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) to be held later this year in China, some foreign media have been consistently badmouthing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), claiming that certain leaders of developed countries will not attend the forum, before detailed information about the event is released. 

A source familiar with the event preparation told the Global Times on Friday that the vast majority of invitations of the upcoming forum are extended to those of developing countries, while some of developed countries will not be included. „Whether it’s the invitation of leaders or related cooperative arrangements, China is pursuing not scale and quantity, but quality and effectiveness,“ the source said. 

According to the source, the core purpose of the forum is to collaborate on development, the source said, with the majority of participants of the BRI being emerging economies. Consequently, invited leaders will come mostly from developing countries.

Information revealed by the source also comes as a response to some Western media reports, which claimed that foreign officials agreeing to attend the BRF are currently „fewer than expected.“ The reports also suggested that Europe is „avoiding“ participation in this forum, with European leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni reportedly not having plans to attend the forum.

The source said China has not extended invitations to some of the Western leaders as mentioned in the reports, and the speculation of „avoiding participation“ is simply not valid in the absence of such invitations.

In fact, many countries proactively reached out to China to express strong willingness to be invited to attend the forum upon learning that the third BRF will be held this year.

A recent report from the European think tank, the Bruegel Institute, indicated that over the past decade, the Belt and Road Initiative has successfully withstood numerous challenges and tests, earning widespread acclaim on a global scale. Developing countries, in particular, hold steadfast sentiments toward the initiative.

China is currently in the process of carefully considering the invitation list for the summit forum. „It will not be held only this three times; some leaders may participate in this year’s forum, while others may attend the next. China hopes that leaders of participating countries will have ample opportunities for meaningful expression and in-depth communication, and will receive thoughtful arrangements,“ the source stressed.

As an initiative that has garnered participation from over three-quarters of the world’s nations and numerous international organizations, the Belt and Road Initiative has received widespread acclaim from the international community, particularly from developing countries. 

„The doors of the BRF are open to all nations, regions, institutions, business communities, and international organizations that are genuinely committed to regional and global connectivity, international economic cooperation, shared development among developing countries, and the United Nations‘ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,“ the source told the Global Times. 

While China currently has no plans to invite the leaders of developed countries mentioned in the reports, other personnel from these countries who wish to participate in activities within the framework of the forum are welcomed by China,“ the source added. „If they choose not to attend, that’s OK too. Certain Western media need not overestimate their importance; the success of the summit forum is not determined by the number of developed countries in attendance.“

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Song Wei, a professor from the School of International Relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times that at this significant juncture, China will leverage the opportunity presented by the summit forum to work collectively with relevant parties and achieve more fruitful outcomes for the Belt and Road Initiative. This effort aims to inject new impetus into global economic recovery and sustainable development.

Over the past decade, China has collaborated closely with various parties to jointly build the Belt and Road, transforming blueprints into reality and translating them into tangible outcomes and benefits for people across nations. Data reveal that over the course of a decade, the Belt and Road Initiative has spurred investment of nearly a trillion US dollars, resulting in the formation of over 3,000 cooperative projects and generating 420,000 job opportunities for countries along the route, thereby lifting nearly 40 million people out of poverty.

The report from the Bruegel Institute said that in recent years, China has provided tangible benefits to countries along the Belt and Road through trade and investment channels. The initiative has also played a complementary role in development assistance alongside institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, creating new development opportunities for these countries.

Song added that the Belt and Road Initiative is widely recognized by the international community as a high-quality public good initiated by China, jointly built by all parties, and shared by the world, while adhering to the principles of extensive consultation, joint efforts, and shared benefits, which is the key to why it has been broadly recognized by the world. 

„Throughout the process, China has never imposed its own ideas on others, nor has it mixed geopolitical agendas. As an open and inclusive international cooperation platform, the Belt and Road Initiative promotes a more inclusive, beneficial, and balanced form of global development, as opposed to a globalization that serves only a few countries. Facts have proven that any attempts to smear the Belt and Road Initiative and the collaborative efforts between China and partner countries will ultimately debunk themselves,“ Song said”

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