China’s Silk Road forum latest effort to boost Xi Jinping’s stature

China’s Silk Road forum latest effort to boost Xi Jinping’s stature

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BEIJING (TIP): China will seek 
to burnish President Xi Jinping’s stature as a world-class statesman at 
an international gathering centered on his signature foreign policy 
effort envisioning a future world order in which all roads lead to 

The “Belt and Road Forum” opening on 
Sunday 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. All feed a fundamental 
yearning among ordinary Chinese: to see their country’s prestige and 
status rise.

“Xi is now seen as a world leader with a
 lot of influence and respect internationally and 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 Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia
 and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. The most prominent attendee 
from the West will be Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy.

Other Western nations, including the United States,
 will be represented by officials of significantly lower 
standing. Washington is sending a delegation led by Eric Branstad, 
senior White House adviser in the Department of Commerce. Britain, Germany and France are to be represented by finance officials.

That’s partly because of developments at
 home, but also is a reflection of concerns that China may be 
exporting its standards on human rights, the environment and 
government transparency, while leaving poor countries with unsustainable
 levels of debt.

Yet 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 in Beijing, which will 
be centered around their president’s plan for a vast network of ports, 
railways and roads expanding China’s trade with Asia, Africa and Europe.
 Xi has even popped up in a series of English 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 U.S. ambassador to China Max 
Baucus told The Associated Press. “I think it’s going to help him very 
much ahead of the next party congress.”

The party will hold its 
twice-a-decade congress this fall at which Xi will oversee 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 defense, internal 
security and the economy.

He’s also fallen back on the 
hallowed tradition of political campaigns and sloganeering, preaching 
the “Chinese Dream” of prosperity and national rejuvenation, pushing a 
sweeping anticorruption campaign and cracking down on the infiltration 
of “Western” democratic values that could threaten party control.

In the international sphere, 
he’s presided over both the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and 
the G- 20 meeting of industrialized states, both of which were attended 
by former President Barack Obama.
 In January, Xi sought to portray himself as a champion of globalization
 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 influenced its neighbors 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 

The initiative also furthers the 
Xi administration’s reputation for muscular foreign policy. Under Xi, 
China has strongly asserted its claim to virtually the entire strategic 
South China Sea and 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 
contracts, expanding both China’s economic reach and Xi’s personal 
authority as holder of the purse strings. The Asian Development Bank 
says the region, home to 60 percent of the world’s people, needs more 
than $26 trillion of infrastructure investment by 2030 to keep economies
 growing. (AP)


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