Interview: BRI to launch a new phase of economic globalization, says Croatian scholar

2022-December-26 19:08 By:

China has initiated with the BRI a new phase of economic globalization that has been understood in Asia, Africa, and Europe as a fair model of economic globalisation capable to diminish the rising gap between the rich and the poor, says Jasna Plevnik, president of the Geoeconomic Forum Croatia, in a recent interview with Guangming online.

Guangming Daily: The Peljesac Bridge in Croatia is one of the landmark projects under the framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative” and China-CEEC cooperation. This year, the bridge was successfully opened, winning unanimous praise from all walks of life in Croatia. What is the significance of this bridge for Croatia?

Jasna Plevnik: The bridge has strategic and transport significance for Croatia. Since 1991, when the Republic of Croatia became independent, the construction of the bridge that would connect Croatia's Peljesac peninsula with the rest of the country was the dream of the Croats.

Before the opening of the bridge, the locals had to cross the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina to get to their Dubrovnik–Neretva County because the southernmost region of Croatia was separated from the rest of the country by the territory of the neighboring country Bosnia and Herzegovina. Traveling to Pelješac now is faster and with no double border crossing which makes that area more accessible and attractive for tourism and other kinds of investments. The European Commission backed the construction of the bridge with 357 million euros and 15 percent was financed by Croatia while the China Road and Bridge Corporation has done an amazing job constructing the bridge. This project stands as a success story about China-Croatia-European Union tripartite cooperation.

Guangming Daily: At present, CEE countries have all become Belt and Road partners. Your recent study pointed out that the BRI has transformed some CEE countries from the transportation periphery to the centres of China’s trade relations with Europe and increased their economic prosperity.

Jasna Plevnik: Serbia appears as the country that significantly has benefited from China's investments within the BRI and China - CEECS models of cooperation. The Chinese banks and companies have been involved in financing and constructing projects of national importance for Serbia in hard and digital infrastructure. Chinese investment reached €10.3 billion. The Export-Import Bank of China has financed the largest number of projects in Serbia and its region.

The Silk Road Fund, the main financial mechanism for financing medium- and long-term BRI's projects, established in Beijing in 2014, is not directly visible in the Balkans yet, but the Fund's stakeholders like the Export-Import Bank of China, China Development Bank, and China Investment Corporation have acted as main investors into projects in Europe.

Guangming Daily: How has this contributed to the economic development of those CEE countries?

Jasna Plevnik: In the past ten years, the BRI and the China-CEEC cooperation have led to the strengthening of trade ties between China and Europe. Chinese Ambassador Jiang Yu, the new Special Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for China-CEEC Cooperation on her recent European tour stated that the trade between China and CEE nations has significantly increased over the last ten years by 142.6%, reaching US $136.2 billion last year.

The relations have deepened through many agencies, associations, centers, networks, and mechanisms established by the China- CEEC format. A significant achievement of the BRI in Europe is that majority of the member countries of the European Union are part of the Initiative! All European countries have similar goals to attract more of China's direct investments, become a "gate" or "bridge" for China's goods and services to the European Union, and enter China's market. There has been a steady growth in the export of agricultural goods from Central and Eastern Europe to China. The Chinese investments are progressing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia but Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia have attracted the largest share of Chinese FDI.

Guangming Daily: President Xi called for China and CEE countries to align cross-regional cooperation with Belt and Road cooperation. How is this alignment going right now?

Jasna Plevnik: The process of the alignment is underway. In 2021, at the online Summit of the China-CEEC cooperation President of China Xi Jinping announced Central and Eastern Europe, which part is Southeast Europe too, would become the "first region" in the world to be fully covered by the Belt and Road scheme. This could mean that in the next years the focus will be on projects that connect land, rail corridors with the sea, and freight rail traffic between China and that part of Europe.

Approaching of the two models started seven years ago when at the China-CEECs summit, held in Suzhou, Central, East, and Southeast European countries accepted unanimously to develop the two initiatives in synergy. The models of cooperation have not yet merged, however, there is a real possibility that the China-CEEC mechanism will be, in the future, fully transformed into the European arm of the BRI whose cardinal goal is to connect the main world regions.

In 2019, at the Dubrovnik summit in Croatia, Greece became a part of the cooperation which brought also new opportunities for further progress of synergy between the two diplomacies. Greece has a featured place within the BRI’s economic sea and land corridors and that should have a positive influence on faster linking and integration of south, central, and east Europe within the Belt and Road Initiative framework.

Guangming Daily: Your study has shown that the BRI has deepened the economic interdependence between Europe and China, and gives a new impetus to economic globalization. How do you understand the impact of the BRI on the economic interdependence between Europe and China, and what significance does it have for economic globalization?

Jasna Plevnik: The BRI is economic globalisation by itself, focused on creating conditions for the growth of intercontinental connectivity and economic interdependence. Many countries in the world have become partners within the framework with goal to be linked with the economic land and maritime main corridors and sub-corridors of the BRI. The Initiative is also open to third countries as well as regional and global organizations and global companies.

China has initiated with the BRI a new phase of economic globalization that has been understood in Asia, Africa, and Europe as a fair model of economic globalisation capable to diminish the rising gap between the rich and the poor. I see the BRI's focus on more equality and global prosperity in building economic interdependence relations among partners as the Chinese characteristics which can make economic globalisation better for all countries.

The BRI is almost at ten and it has a real strength to continue the processes of economic globalisation in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Today the BRI's values, projects, and influence absolutely can oppose to dangerous ideas of the USA on the "decoupling" of the world. The Communist Party Congress rejects the Cold War mentality, geopolitical conflicts, and deglobalisation seeing them as opposed to the trend of the times and people's expectations.

Editor: GSY
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