CHINA FORUM TO BOOST
It is as much about promoting his image at home as it is his vision abroad
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,
Bank and International Monetary Fund.
And unlike APEC and
Davos, it involves the disbursal of potentially trillions of dollars in
Chinese President Xi Jinping