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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres attended the sixth annual forum, held in Beijing, to honor China’s ambitious multinational infrastructure program known as the Belt and Road Initiative. As described by the World Bank, the Belt and Road Initiative “aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade, and investment links between China and some 65 other countries that account collectively for over 30 percent of global GDP, 62 percent of population, and 75 percent of known energy reserves.” The links, involving networks of ports, rails and roads, include countries in Central, South and Southeast Asia, the Gulf Countries, and North Africa. China is also extending its initiative to Europe, where it has made significant investments in ports.
Secretary General Guterres was effusive in his praise of China and its Belt and Road Initiative, which he said will benefit the world and help accelerate the achievement of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. “I want to recognize China for its central role as a pillar of international cooperation and multilateralism,” the Secretary General said. “The five pillars of the Belt and Road – policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people exchanges – are intrinsically linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These are conceptual pillars that can be translated into real-life progress for people.”
Secretary - General - Guterres - Encomium - Facts
Secretary General Guterres left out of his encomium some real-world facts. The Belt and Road Initiative is not all milk and honey for the countries on the receiving end of China’s extended helping hand. “Some countries complained about unsustainable debt, while others criticized the overwhelming numbers of Chinese workers imported for construction,” the New York Times reported.
China, for example, used the leverage of Sri Lanka’s huge unpaid debts owed to Chinese state-owned companies to take control of a strategic...
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