Initiative aims to connect not divide: China Daily editorial
With claims being heard in some Western European countries that China's bid to advance the Belt and Road Initiative in Europe is aimed at dividing the European Union, it will clearly require more time for some EU countries to fully appreciate how the initiative serves as an antidote to the increasingly prevailing unilateralism and trade protectionism.
It is true that the 16+1 framework China launched in 2012 did involve the 16 Central and Eastern European countries in the initiative, and that among them 11 are EU members.
But has China's cooperation with some individual EU member countries affected its economic cooperation with the EU as a whole? Has China's developing relations with Central and Eastern European countries politically estranged them from the EU?
The answer to both these questions is "No".
China's Belt and Road Initiative is open and inclusive, and any economy is welcome to participate. Nor does it prohibit any participant country from cooperating with a nonparticipating country.
Central and Eastern European countries have welcomed cooperation with China under the Belt and Road framework, and some Western European countries have also demonstrated their acceptance of the initiative. In fact, Italy is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with China on the Belt and Road.
China’s cooperation with individual countries in Europe does not mean it is unwilling to collaborate with the EU under the framework of the initiative. Actually, China welcomes cooperation with individual EU countries and the bloc as a whole.
That it is much more complicated to cooperate with the EU as an entity, because some EU countries and EU politicians are still skeptical about the initiative, has hindered China-EU cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road.
The EU is an important pillar to sustain the political and economic stability of a multipolarized world, and as the largest developing country in the world, China has no reason not to support an EU that is independent in thought and action.
China only hopes that its cooperation with more individual countries within or outside the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative will strengthen its friendship with the EU as a whole. It hopes that such accumulation of friendships will further consolidate its relations with the EU.
Those who interpret the initiative as being designed to split the EU are too narrow-minded to embrace its vision.
For as well as mobilizing development capital for infrastructure and trade connectivity, the initiative, announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, also envisions fostering the Silk Road Spirit of openness and inclusiveness, peaceful cooperation and mutual learning and understanding.