CHINA FO­RUM TO BOOST

It is as much about pro­mot­ing his im­age at home as it is his vi­sion abroad

New Straits Times - - World -

BEI­JING

CHINA will seek to bur­nish Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­stature ping’s as a world-class states­man at an in­ter­na­tional gather­ing cen­tred on his sig­na­ture for­eign pol­icy ef­fort en­vi­sion­ing a fu­ture world or­der in which all roads lead to Bei­jing.

The “Belt and Road Fo­rum” open­ing to­mor­row is the lat­est in a se­ries of high-pro­file ap­pear­ances aimed at pro­ject­ing Xi’s in­flu­ence on the global stage ahead of a key congress of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party later this year.

“Xi is now seen as a world leader with a lot of in­flu­ence and re­and spect in­ter­na­tion­ally, that will def­i­nitely boost his do­mes­tic ap­peal,” said Joseph Cheng, a long-time ob­server of Chi­nese pol­i­tics now re­tired from the City Univer­sity of Hong Kong.

Lead­ers from 28 coun­tries are set to at­tend, in­clud­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte. The most prom­i­nent at­tendee from the West will be ItalPaolo ian Prime Min­is­ter Gen­tiloni.

The fo­rum is as much about pro­mot­ing Xi’s im­age at home as it is about push­ing his vi­sion abroad.

Chi­nese state me­dia out­lets have linked Xi in­ex­tri­ca­bly to the two-day gather­ing here, which will be cen­tred around their pres­i­dent’s plan for a vast net­work of ports, rail­ways and roads exwith pand­ing China’s trade Asia, Africa and Europe. Xi has even popped up in a se­ries of English-

BIKRAM PRAJAPATI, Nepalese lan­guage pro­mo­tional videos pro­duced by the of­fi­cial China Daily called “Belt and Road Bed­time Sto­ries”.

“He’s show­ing vi­sion. Lead­ers have to be vi­sion­ary. He’s show­ing hope in their eco­nomic fu­ture by propos­ing a very sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic plan,” for­mer US am­bas­sador to China Max Bau­cus said.

“I think it’s go­ing to help him very much ahead of the next party congress.”

The twice-a-decade congress later this year will see Xi over­see­ing an in­fu­sion of fresh blood in lead­ing bod­ies, most im­por­tantly the all-pow­er­ful Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee.

Xi rose to the top of an in­tensely com­pet­i­tive sys­tem riven by fac­tions and ri­val­ries to take the reins of the party in 2012, and has steadily ac­crued pow­ers well be­yond those of his pre­de­ces­sors in ar­eas such as de­fence, in­ter­nal se­cu­rity and the econ­omy.

He has also fallen back on the hal­lowed tra­di­tion of po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns and slo­ga­neer­ing, preach­ing the “Chi­nese Dream” of pros­per­ity and na­tional re­ju­ve­na­tion, and push­ing a sweep­ing anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign.

In the in­ter­na­tional sphere, he has presided over both the Asi­aPa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion fo­rum and the G-20 meet­ing of in­dus­tri­alised states.

In Jan­uary, Xi sought to por­tray him­self as a cham­pion of glob­al­i­sa­tion and free trade at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, in con­trast to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pro­tec­tion­ist rhetoric.

On an en­tirely dif­fer­ent level though is his sig­na­ture ini­tia­tive for­mally known as “One Belt, One Road”.

It aims to re­assert China’s past promi­nence as the dom­i­nant power in

Asia whose cul­ture and econ­omy deeply in­flu- enced its neigh­bours as far as Africa and Europe. It speaks deeply to Chi­nese pride in their coun­try’s ex­plo­sive eco­nomic growth and po­lit­i­cal clout af­ter a cen­tury of hu­mil­i­a­tion at the hands of for­eign pow­ers that for­mally ended with Mao Ze­dong’s com­mu­nist rev­o­lu­tion in 1949.

The ini­tia­tive also fur­thers the Xi ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion for mus­cu­lar for­eign pol­icy. Un­der Xi, China has es­tab­lished the

Asian In­fra­struc­ture Devel­op­ment Bank as a global in­sti­tu­tion along­side such bod­ies as the World Bank,

Asian Devel­op­ment

Bank and In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

And un­like APEC and

Davos, it in­volves the dis­bur­sal of po­ten­tially tril­lions of dol­lars in

AP

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping

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