LONDON, April 26 (Xinhua) — It is now time for fully embracing the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to secure better growth and development opportunities, the head of a British business association said.
“BRI’s main focus is helping the developing world develop. It is to open a world the West long left behind,” Stephen Perry, chairman of the 48 Group Club, told Xinhua in an interview ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) being held in Beijing.
The West should seize the opportunity for growth, said Perry, whose father founded the 48 Group Club in the 1950s, led a historic “Icebreaking Mission” to China, and helped create one of the first modern-day trade links with the Asian country.
“We would be smart to recognize a partner and not turn our backs. Time for icebreaking,” he added.
The BRI has reaped tangible results in the past years since its birth in 2013, helping nurture faster trade and investment flows and allowing for easier financial access across Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond. So far, 126 countries and 29 international organizations have signed up for the initiative.
However, doubts still remain in some Western countries. One of the accusations is that China is trying to drag the participating countries into a “debt trap.”
“That is what its critics do and what the Western media usually does. So they say that bad debts are a policy designed to gain ownership of projects, or even nations. I think that is nonsense,” said Perry.
“Without major rail and road arteries, water channels in rivers, canals and sea, major energy availability, and power and telecommunications, these nations will be resigned to poverty and aggression. China is helping them facilitate the infrastructure to exit poverty. But the infrastructure is low return and China is taking that hit,” he said.
The BRI, a major part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal to build a community with a shared future for mankind, “is about sharing, and cooperating to alleviate poverty, ensure sustainable economic development, and face regional and global challenges. It is the way forward for the world,” he said.
The chairman of the 48 Group Club said the BRI brings huge opportunities not only in building infrastructure in the countries involved, but in the ensuing process of urbanization.
“The primary benefit of the infrastructure is the downstream developments, particularly urbanization, especially in areas of the world that are low in population density and economic activity, the forgotten areas of the globe,” he said.
“Opening up these areas to economic activity will lessen the likelihood of hiding places for terrorism, and gain the buy-in of peoples for peace and stability, and economic growth,” he said.
The business leader urged more Western governments and companies to join the BRI, adding that if they don’t move now, the opportunities will slip away.
“If Western companies stand on the side they will get run down. Globalization is a two-way street,” said Perry. “The West needs to move now. Icebreak now!”