China’s Xi warns West against economic ‘decoupling’

The Chinese president praised his Belt and Road Initiative at its 10-year anniversary forum, saying it is the ‘right path forward’.

China's President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening ceremony of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2023. (Photo by Pedro Pardo/ AFP)
China's President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening ceremony of the third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on October 18, 2023 [Pedro Pardo/ AFP]

Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned Western states against “decoupling” from his country’s economy, insisting amid declining foreign investment that China’s development should be viewed as not a threat but an asset.

Xi’s caution came as he opened the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum in Beijing on Wednesday. He also used his speech to laud the scheme, which was launched 10 years ago with the professed aim of building infrastructure and energy networks to link Asia, Africa and Europe.

“We stand against unilateral sanctions, economic coercion, decoupling, and supply chain disruption,” Xi said, hitting back at perceived Western efforts to hamper China’s growth.

“Viewing others’ development as a threat or taking economic interdependence as a risk will not make one’s own life better or speed up one’s development,” he added. “China can only do well when the world is doing well… When China does well, the world will get even better.”

Attracting investment

As part of China’s efforts to attract more foreign investment, one measure of which hit a 25-year low earlier this year, Xi also pledged to ease investment restrictions and facilitate better trade ties.

“We will comprehensively remove restrictions on foreign investment access in the manufacturing sector,” while opening up “cross-border trade and investment in services and expand market access for digital products,” Xi said.

He added that China plans reforms for state-owned companies, as well as the digital economy, intellectual property rights, and government procurement.

At the same time, China will continue to pour billions of dollars into the economies of developing countries as it builds on the BRI, the Chinese president pledged.

Who’s attending the forum?

Leaders and representatives of over 130 countries are attending the forum, which celebrates the 10-year anniversary of Xi’s ambitious scheme, which he has called the “project of the century.”

Prominent guests include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, and Pakistani Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar.

Xi met with Putin, whom he calls a “dear friend,” before the forum, and reaffirmed their strong partnership.

“The political mutual trust between the two countries is continuously deepening,” Xi said, according to the state news agency Xinhua, hailing their “close and effective strategic coordination”.

Western scepticism

European leaders largely stayed away from the event, with Hungary’s nationalist-populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban the sole European Union head of state in attendance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Beijing, China, October 17, 2023. (Sputnik/Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a meeting ahead of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, October 17, 2023 [Grigory Sysoyev/Pool via Reuters]

Western leaders have come to view China’s BRI with suspicion, seeing it as a tool to amplify Beijing’s global influence and reach. Many Western countries are seeking to diversify supply chains to reduce reliance on China, which is the world’s second-largest economy.

‘Right path forward’

Going forward, Xi said the Belt and Road Initiative would move towards addressing issues of artificial intelligence and climate change, including through intensified cooperation in “green infrastructure, energy, and transportation”.

The Chinese president added that the BRI has put it on the right side of history, according to China’s Xinhua state news agency. “It represents the advancing of our times, and it is the right path forward.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies