China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday reiterated that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was a high-quality public good initiated by Beijing, “built by the parties involved, and shared by the world”, with over three-quarters of countries across the globe and 32 international organisations having joined it already.

In his first appearance after assuming the office three months ago, Qin addressed a number of hot-button issues on the sidelines of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress.

The ongoing Ukraine crisis and festering tensions with the US remained the ominous backdrops of the tone-setting presser that outlined China’s multilateral cooperation efforts and assertive foreign policy agenda to counter what it dubbed ‘cold war style’ bloc politics and bullying.

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Striking a no-holds-barred tone, the foreign minister warned ‘reckless’ US risked ‘catastrophic’ conflict if ‘brakes’ were not hit and said the ties between the two countries should be guided by common interests, shared responsibilities and friendship between the two peoples, and “not US domestic politics and hysterical neo-McCarthyism”.

‘US worsened international debt problem’

Asked for his response to western claims that Beijing’s overseas infrastructure investments were part of its ‘debt-trap diplomacy’, the top diplomat said China should be the last country to be accused of the so-called debt trap.

He went on to attribute the deepening economic perils of the developing nations to the multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors which account “for over 80 per cent of the sovereign debt of developing countries”.

“They are the biggest source of debt burden on developing countries,” Qin said and noted that particularly since last year, the unprecedented, rapid interest hikes by the United States have led to capital outflows in many countries and worsened the debt problems in the countries concerned.

He insisted that China has been making efforts to help the countries in distress, and is the biggest contributor to the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), and affirmed that the country will continue to participate constructively in the resolution of international debt issues.

However, the foreign minister also called on other parties to act together and share the burden fairly. “When parties sit together and talk things through, there will be more solutions than problems.

Ten years after its inception, he noted, the BRI has evolved from vision into reality, boosting development in partner countries and bringing real benefits to the people.

Over the past decade, the BRI has galvanised nearly US$1 trillion of investment, established more than 3,000 cooperation projects, created 420,000 local jobs, and helped lift almost 40 million people out of poverty.

“The BRI is a practical and open initiative guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Its cooperation is conducted through consultation, and its partnerships are built with friendship and good faith.”

We welcome all initiatives that are not ideologically driven proposed by other countries, and we are happy to see them succeed if they don’t carry a geopolitical agenda, the foreign minister added.

Airship incident

Speaking of the unmanned airship incident, Qin reiterated that it was purely an accident caused by force majeure. However, the US has violated the spirit of international law and practice by the presumption of guilt, overreacting and dramatising the case, and thus created a diplomatic crisis that could have been avoided.

If the US has the ambition to make America great again, it should also have the grace to let other countries thrive. Suppression will not make the US greater, and it will not stop China’s march toward rejuvenation, Qin said.
“The US so-called guardrails or the concept of non-conflict in its relations with China actually means that China must not fight back. But this cannot be done,” noted Qin.

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Such competition is a gamble with the fundamental interests of the two peoples and even the future of mankind, and China is of course firmly opposed to it, Qin remarked.

Taiwan first ‘uncrossable red line’

In response to a question about Taiwan question, the foreign minister brought out a copy of China’s constitution and read out parts reaffirming its sovereignty.

He said the issue was the nation’s first uncrossable red line. If the Taiwan question is not handled properly, China-US relations will be thrown off course. If the US truly wanted peace across the Taiwan Straits, it should stop using the island to contain China, and make clear its opposition to secessionist forces.

He hoped that the US government will listen to the voices of the two peoples, eliminate the strategic anxiety, abandon a Cold War mentality and reject the unwarranted abduction of “political correctness,” but honour its commitments and walk in the same direction as China.

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