Antiguan PM: China-Antigua relationship is one of the closest in the world between a big and a small country

Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, a small island state in the Eastern Caribbean, paid an official visit to China from January 22-28, becoming the first leader from the region to visit China in 2024.

During his visit he was interviewed by Wang Guan for the CGTN series Leaders Talk. 

Prime Minister Browne noted how small island states are extremely vulnerable in today’s world, citing as contributory factors, climate shocks, the COVID pandemic, the impact of conflicts and wars, limited resource endowments and the debt burden.

He sees the relationship with China as crucial to Antigua’s ability to meet these challenges. His country was one of the earliest in the Eastern Caribbean region to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic, 41 years ago. 

Today he says that their bilateral relationship is one of the closest in the world between a big and a small country. Antigua has a population of less than 100,000. 

China’s contribution to global peace and prosperity, the Prime Minister says, is unmatched. He sees it as being driven by President Xi Jinping’s philosophy and noble vision of a shared future for all. He describes President Xi as easily the most powerful and respected leader on the planet. Antigua and Barbuda is a beneficiary of China’s benevolence in many aspects of its development, not least in poverty alleviation.

In 2018, Antigua became the first country in the Eastern Caribbean to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This has had a beneficial impact on many aspects of the country’s development, for example in the renovation and extension of the port in the capital, St. John’s. Funding for this could not be obtained from the World Bank or the IMF and Browne categorically rejects any suggestion of a Chinese ‘debt trap’. Rather, he views China as the most benevolent country on the planet, adding that this and other projects could not have been accomplished without its concessional loans and aid.

Another example he cites is that of agricultural cooperation. This is aimed at taking steps towards food security. At present, some 80% of the food consumed in Antigua is imported, mostly from the United States, with contributory factors being the lack of a sufficient labour force and the exacerbation of the county’s natural aridity due to the impact of climate change. China’s assistance in modernising and replacing the country’s water supply infrastructure is playing a key role here.

With regard to Taiwan,  Browne says that his country is a consistent supporter of the one-China principle. This will not change under his leadership or that of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, which he leads.

The full interview with Prime Minister Gaston Browne is embedded below.

Class character of People’s China: interview with research economist

The following text is the English translation of an interview with Rémy Herrera, a research analyst at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the Sorbonne in Paris. The interview was first published in the magazine Harici (Istanbul, Türkiye), and the newspaper Cumhuriyet (Istanbul) in May 2024. The original French has been translated by John Catalinotto for Workers World.

Herrera, who has co-authored a book by Long Zhiming called Dynamics of China’s Economy: Growth, Cycles and Crises from 1949 to the Present Day, makes several important points about the nature, history and trajectory of China’s socialist market economy. First, contrary to Western neoclassical economists who see China’s emergence as a function exclusively of its adoption of market mechanisms and its integration into the global capitalist economy, Herrera argues that “accelerated growth was made possible only by the efforts and achievements of the Maoist period.” When opening up was introduced, it was “firmly and continuously controlled by the Chinese authorities, and it is under this condition that it can be considered as having contributed to the country’s indisputable economic successes”.

China has engaged with the process of globalisation, but the crucial condition for the success of this experiment has been subjecting it “to the constraints of satisfying internal objectives and domestic needs, … fully integrated within a coherent development strategy”. Engaging with the global economy is not by itself a solution to all problems; after all, “for more than a century before the victory of the Revolution in October 1949, ‘opening up’ had meant above all submission, devastation, exploitation, humiliation, decadence and chaos for the Chinese people”.

Herrera also discusses the nature of China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs). These “are not managed in the same way as Western transnational corporations”; their primary goal is not the pursuit of shareholder profit at all costs. Rather, they are duty bound “to stimulate the rest of the domestic economy, and go beyond a vision of immediate profitability when higher strategic, long-term or national interests so dictate”.

On the underlying socialist basis of China’s economic system, Herrera makes the fundamental point that, in China, “the state controls capitalism, not the other way around”. For example, China’s authorities have “successfully confronted the power of the financial markets”, building a “great monetary wall” to defend the national currency. “Powerful strategic planning, whose techniques have been relaxed, modernized and adapted to today’s requirements — which is what makes it so effective — is a distinctive feature of a socialist approach. State control of the currency and all the major banks is an absolute requirement, as is close monitoring of the activities of financial institutions and the behavior of foreign firms operating on national territory.”

He continues:

The coexistence of public and private activities, stimulated by each other within a mixed, hybrid system, is the means chosen to develop the country’s productive forces to the maximum − including by attracting foreign capital and importing advanced technologies − and thus raising its level of development, with the stated aim of improving the population’s living conditions, and doing this not by abandoning socialism, but by deepening the socialist transition process that began in 1949.

Herrera also addresses the ongoing crisis of neoliberalism and its manifestation in an increasingly aggressive New Cold War on China. “All the conditions are in place for the system’s contradictions to become even more pronounced, especially as few reforms have been carried out since the 2008 crisis”. All progressive and peace-loving forces must unite in opposition to the US and its allies’ escalations. “The defence of peace is the priority”.

Q: Let’s begin with your books on China. Based on your research and observations during your visits to China, how do you interpret the Chinese miracle that everyone is discussing?

RH: Many commentators on the very high rate of growth in China’s gross domestic product (GDP), which has been observed for several decades now, use the term “miracle” to describe this phenomenon. I, for one, believe that this is no miracle, but rather the result of a development strategy that has been patiently conceived and effectively implemented by the country’s leaders and senior officials in successive governments, under the authority of the Communist Party.

We read and hear everywhere, in academic circles and the mainstream media, that the “take-off” of the Chinese economy is due solely to its “openness” to globalization. In my view, it’s necessary to add that such accelerated growth was made possible only by the efforts and achievements of the Maoist period. This opening up was firmly and continuously controlled by the Chinese authorities, and it is under this condition that it can be considered as having contributed to the country’s indisputable economic successes. It is because it has been subject to the constraints of satisfying internal objectives and domestic needs, and fully integrated within a coherent development strategy, that this opening up to globalization has been able to produce such positive long-term effects for China.

Let’s be clear: without the elaboration of such a development strategy, which is clearly the work of the Chinese Communist Party — let’s not forget that — and without the energy deployed by the Chinese people to implement it during the revolutionary process, the country’s insertion into the capitalist world system would inevitably have led to the destructuring of the national economy, or even its destruction altogether, as is happening in so many other countries in the South, or in the East. One fundamental point must be borne in mind: for more than a century before the victory of the Revolution in October 1949, “opening up” had meant above all submission, devastation, exploitation, humiliation, decadence and chaos for the Chinese people.

Q: How does China’s success differ from Western development models?

RH: The success of the Chinese government’s development strategy and the many benefits it has brought to the country’s people contrast sharply with the failure of neoliberal economic policy measures applied in Western countries, which have had catastrophic consequences for workers in the North, whether in economic, social, or even moral and cultural terms.

Let me give you a specific example. One explanation for the strength of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is that they are not managed in the same way as Western transnational corporations. The Western ones — listed on the stock exchange and oriented towards the logic of shareholder value which demands the maximization of dividends paid to their private owners, shareholder value and rapid returns on investment — operate by squeezing a chain of subcontractors, whether local or relocated abroad. Chinese state-owned groups don’t behave like this. If they were to behave in such a rapacious manner, they would be acting to the detriment of local small and medium-sized enterprises and, more broadly, of the entire national industrial fabric. But this is clearly not the case. 

Most of China’s large state-owned enterprises are (or have become) profitable again because their guiding compass is not the enrichment of private shareholders, but the priority given to productive investment and customer service. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter if their profits turn out to be lower than those of their Western competitors as long as they serve, at least in part, to stimulate the rest of the domestic economy, and go beyond a vision of immediate profitability when higher strategic, long-term or national interests so dictate.

Q: Can this model be defined in terms of the neo-classical or neo-Marxist model?

RH: First of all, I don’t think the Chinese see their development strategy as a “model.” Nor do they seek to impose or export it. They simply believe that certain lessons can be learned by the peoples of the world, but that it is up to them to define the objectives and means of their own development in their own specific historical, social and cultural conditions. This also differs markedly from the Western vision, which would like its “model” to be followed by every country in the world.

Neoclassical models have no application in China. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to add that neoclassical economics, which today constitutes the hegemonic or mainstream current in economics, basically serves no other purpose than to attempt to provide a theoretical and supposedly scientific justification for neoliberal political practices whose ideology is situated at the opposite end of the spectrum from measures for social justice and the development of public services. In reality, neoclassical economics is not a science, but science fiction or, as I put it in a recent book (“Confronting Mainstream Economics for Overcoming Capitalism,” Palgrave Macmillan), an ideology with scientific pretensions.

I am convinced, on the other hand, that Marxism has not yet been scientifically overtaken. Today, it has no serious competitor. It remains relevant, not least because we still live in a world where the capitalist system remains dominant on a global scale, even if its changes have been substantial, and need to be carefully accounted for. Despite the many attacks on Marxism since its foundation, and the repeated announcements of its death, it is enduring, resilient, “indestructible” dare I say, and the indispensable theoretical benchmark for anyone thinking about the ways and conditions of a better world. 

Despite the demise of the USSR and the Soviet bloc, within which it had all too often become dogmatized and sometimes turned against itself, Marxism remains indispensable today, an irreplaceable point of reference for those fighting for socialism. So it’s hardly surprising that it is still an important theoretical reference for China. 

Continue reading Class character of People’s China: interview with research economist

Narrative of ‘overcapacity’ is a complete failure: former UN under-secretary-general

Interviewed by the Global Times, Erik Solheim describes the West’s accusations of Chinese “overcapacity” in relation to solar energy and electric vehicles as “a complete failure”.

From the perspective of combatting climate change, China is doing crucial work and blazing a trail that others should follow: “We have all called for many more high-quality green products from everyone, from China, from Europe, from the US, from everyone. Why start blaming China for doing what is expected from everyone?”

Solheim further notes that, from an economic perspective, accusations of overcapacity make little sense, “because what creates the foundation for trade is overcapacity… My nation, Norway, for example, is a big exporter of salmon… We raise and produce much more salmon than we can eat ourselves. Then we sell some to others. And then, for instance, we can import electric cars from China… We should not fear overcapacity, but we should turn it into a mutual benefit where everyone benefits from Chinese leadership in electric cars as they benefit from our production of salmon.”

Ultimately, tariffs will slow down the green transformation “because China is now the indispensable country for everything green”, given that “60 percent of all green technologies in the world are in China” and “when it comes to solar energy, maybe the figure is even more than 90 percent.”

Solheim also describes some of China’s contribution to sustainable development in the Global South: “I was living in Kenya for quite a number of good years. In Kenya, China has constructed the Mombasa-Nairobi railroad, which goes through some very vulnerable ecological areas. But it is the cleanest and most well-functioning transport system in Kenya. It’s an absolute, wonderful, green contribution to Africa.”

Erik Solheim is former under-secretary-general of the United Nations and former executive director of the UN Environment Programme. He spoke at our event Building a multipolar world – Ten years of the Belt and Road Initiative in November 2023.

GT: During your recent visit to China, you posed a photo of your morning run. What was it like to go for a morning run in Beijing? 

Solheim: It was absolutely wonderful. The sun was bright, the sky was blue. You could breathe in the fresh air. It was a nice experience and highlighted a contrast to 10 years ago when the air pollution was thick and the sky was gray. It’s such enormous progress in such a short time. There is more to be done. But China has largely won the war against pollution.

GT: In the same tweet, you mentioned: “Why doesn’t the world start competing and stop complaining about China’s green leadership?” They are complaining about China’s “overcapacity.” Do you think China has an issue of “overcapacity”?

Solheim: I think the narrative of capacity is a complete failure for two reasons.

First, this is exactly what we all have wanted. This is even what the Joe Biden administration in the US has called for. We have all called for many more high-quality green products from everyone, from China, from Europe, from the US, from everyone. Why start blaming China for doing what is expected from everyone? A few years ago, the West was complaining that China’s production was emitting too much pollution. And now they’re complaining that China is making green products.

Second, this is complete nonsense from an economic perspective because what creates the foundation for trade is overcapacity. If the US had no overcapacity in its industries for the last 100 years, it would not have become a great nation. It became great because it had overcapacity – it could produce for global markets.

My nation, Norway, for example, is a big exporter of salmon. Why? Because we have overcapacity for salmon. We raise and produce much more salmon than we can eat ourselves. Then we sell some to others. And then, for instance, we can import electric cars from China. One of the most valuable companies in the world today is Apple, an American company. Why? Because they have an overcapacity in electric smartphones. Otherwise, they would have just been in the American market and they would have been a small company. We should not fear overcapacity, but we should turn it into a mutual benefit where everyone benefits from Chinese leadership in electric cars as they benefit from our production of salmon.

GT: Are there any green cooperation projects between China and other countries that have impressed you? What are the positive impacts of those projects?

Solheim: Absolutely. Two months ago, I was in Bangladesh, where China had constructed a bridge called the Padma Bridge. It is a wonderful rail and road bridge across the Padma River. That one bridge increased the GDP of Bangladesh by 1 percent because it connects the eastern and western parts of the land. That is a wonderful support for Bangladesh.

I was living in Kenya for quite a number of good years. In Kenya, China has constructed the Mombasa-Nairobi railroad, which goes through some very vulnerable ecological areas. But it is the cleanest and most well-functioning transport system in Kenya. It’s an absolute, wonderful, green contribution to Africa. 

GT: Some observers suggest that the US doesn’t want to live in a world where the world’s foremost energy provider is China, so they’re making huge efforts to catch up and, at the same time, attempt to slow China down with initiatives like this “overcapacity” rhetoric. What’s your take on this view?

Solheim: I think there are two aspects to this view.

First, the US is deeply concerned about having a peer competitor, such as China. For the past century, the US has been the dominant global power, or the only dominant power in the world, and it’s not used to sharing that position. However, it needs to get used to the reality that China’s economy will surpass that of the US, and China will play an increasingly important role in global affairs. Additionally, the US doesn’t only need to adapt to the rise of China, but also to the rise of other powers like India, Turkey, Indonesia, and Brazil. The era of US dominance is over, and it needs to adapt to the change.

On the other hand, President Biden wants jobs for his people. It’s natural for him to be more concerned about American jobs than the jobs in Liaoning or Guangdong.

But we should also explore how the green energy boom can benefit everyone and how Chinese companies can invest in and be welcomed in Europe and North America.

For instance, Tesla was invited to come to China. China invited Tesla to a large extent to create fair competition in the electric car market in China. It helped shape BYD, Hongqi, Geely, and all the other Chinese brands. Thus, the US should invite Chinese companies to invest in America, shaping the competition in the American market. Then maybe American companies would be more cost-competitive as well.

GT: We are now seeing the US government raising tariffs on Chinese EVs, advanced batteries, solar cells, and other goods. What impact will it have on the world if the US government continues to exclude Chinese new energy products?

Solheim: It will obviously slow down the green transformation because China is now the indispensable country for everything green. 60 percent of all green technologies in the world are in China. When it comes to solar energy, maybe the figure is even more than 90 percent. If we want to go solar without China, we can do it, but it will be much more costly. When it’s more costly, it will be slower. And all historical experiences show that if you create closed-down markets and separate markets from different parts of the world, we will all be poorer, including the Americans.

GT: Do you think Europe will follow the latest policies of the US? From your understanding, how does Europe view China’s green manufacturing capacity – is it more inclined toward cooperation or vigilance?

Solheim: That’s obviously a similar discussion in Europe. I don’t think Europe will automatically follow the US, but there is a concern with jobs in Europe. China can help in that discussion in two ways.

First, making very clear that China is ready to invest in other markets where Chinese companies are, and to create jobs in Europe.

Let me give one example. Very recently, I visited Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) in Ningde, Fujian Province, the world’s largest battery maker for electric vehicles. A Tesla normally comes with a CATL battery. But the guys at CATL repeatedly told me that one of the reasons why they have grown so big was the support from BMW in the early days. BMW was a very demanding customer, it helped with technology and was a partner in the rise of CATL. That’s exactly what we want to see – companies working together across borders. And now when Chinese companies tend to have the highest quality and the best technology, they should work with companies in India, Africa, Latin America, and also Europe to share their knowledge and experience so that we can all benefit from the green transformation.

Roosevelt Skerrit: China-Dominica relations have become a model of south-south cooperation

Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, visited China from March 23-29. During his visit he gave an interview to Wang Guan for the CGTN series Leaders Talk. 

Skerrit, who has visited China 12 times in the 20 years since the two countries established diplomatic relations shortly after he became Prime Minister, describes the country as a true and reliable friend in difficult times.

His meeting with President Xi Jinping had been the highlight of his current visit. They had reached a consensus on bilateral and multilateral issues, especially the need to take stronger measures to tackle the threats posed by climate change and to build stronger resilience in this regard. 

Skerrit acclaims the Chinese leader’s work for global peace and prosperity, in a way that will allow every country to prosper. China’s example in this regard should be emulated by the developed countries.

The Dominican Prime Minister agreed with President Xi’s observation that China-Dominica relations have become a model of south-south cooperation. He noted that although Dominica is a very small country, Xi always treats him as an equal. 

Dominica fully supports the one China principle, which it regards as a tenet of international law, and will support and play its part in the peaceful reunification of China. 

Expanding on China’s friendship in difficult times, Skerrit said that whenever Dominica faces difficulties, China comes to its aid without even having to be asked. As a small Caribbean island country, Dominica is highly susceptible to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Erika in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017, which destroyed or damaged some 90% of buildings on the island, and climate change is truly an existential threat for small island states in particular, whether in the Caribbean or the South Pacific. Dominica is seeking to harness its own resources, such as geothermal and hydro, with the aim to achieve 100% renewable energy usage by 2030.

China had played a major role in reconstruction following the hurricanes, for example, completing the reconstruction of the West Coast Road, which links the capital Roseau with the second city of Portsmouth, in 2020, despite the challenges posed by COVID. Other key aid projects of China are the Dominica-China Friendship Hospital along with the building of six schools. The Friendship Hospital is described by Skerrit as the most modern one to be found in the Caribbean and he singles out its cardiology unit as a key example of a facility that ensures that Dominicans can now receive specialist treatment without needing to travel abroad.

In agricultural technology, China is helping Dominica to contribute to regional food security through the development of seedlings that are more resilient to pests and to the vagaries of the climate.

As for his impressions of the changes in China that he has been able to witness in 12 visits over two decades, Skerrit simply describes them as magical, citing in particular achievements in technology, infrastructure, education and the promotion of common prosperity.

Skerrit also commends China’s promotion of dialogue in dealing with international issues as well as its rejection of unilateral sanctions, especially the United States’ unfair and unjust sanctions on Cuba. He rejects the misconceptions harboured by the United States and some European powers regarding China’s engagement with the countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This engagement is focused on economic development and social advancement and China’s support and cooperation come with no conditions. Loans extended to the Caribbean and Latin America by China have the lowest interest rates, sometimes being fixed at zero.

The full interview with Prime Minister Skerrit is embedded below.

Arnold August: slanders about Tibet/Xizang are designed to discredit Chinese socialism

The following interview with Montreal-based author, journalist and lecturer Arnold August describes Arnold’s 2023 visit to Southwest China’s Xizang Autonomous Region (Tibet) and Qinghai.

Arnold discusses his visit to a boarding school in the Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai, where he toured the school, met with teachers and pupils, and asked a wide range of questions. Referencing the assorted lurid claims about how China is using boarding schools in order to “sinicise” Tibet, Arnold notes that the reality is quite different; indeed major efforts are made to preserve and promote Tibetan culture and language.

But why would Western forces want to spread slanders about boarding schools?

In brief, it is to discredit Chinese socialism. People in the West are increasingly looking for an alternative to capitalism. China does not present itself as a model. But China’s earth-shattering modernization and its cultural progress – in the broad sense of a civilized, peaceful, collective society, as opposed to the American individualistic jungle – is increasingly attractive. Hence the inevitable spoiler: “What about the boarding schools in Tibet?”

Arnold further notes that absolute poverty was eliminated in Xizang in 2019, observing: “While this is an amazing achievement in the rest of China, given the harsh social-economic Tibetan conditions, it is nothing short of a miracle.” He describes the situation prevailing before the emancipation of serfs in Tibet in 1959, when 95 percent of the population were slaves and serfs, had no land of their own and were considered the property of the serf owners.

The interview was first published in Global Times.

Over the past decades, Southwest China’s Xizang Autonomous Region has experienced a period of unprecedented development. This year marks the 65th anniversary of Serfs’ Emancipation Day, a day to commemorate the emancipation of more than one million serfs in Xizang in 1959. Xizang, once plagued by poverty and backwardness, is now embarking on a new journey of modernization. This huge change astonished Canadian author and journalist Arnold August (August), who visited Xizang and neighboring Qinghai Province last year.

He shared with Global Times (GT) reporter Xia Wenxin his experiences during his field trip to this region as well as his thoughts on its development.

GT: You visited Xizang and Qinghai in the second half of last year. Can you share with us what you saw in these regions? What aspect of their development impressed you the most?

 Our visit to a boarding school in Gonghe county in the largely Tibetan-speaking Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province

 provided us with an eyewitness account to counter the allegations to which you refer. There are so many positive and enlightening features of this school that people in Western countries should know about.

Based on transparent and open-ended questions and answers during the tour of the classrooms (education is free), the dormitories (modern and well-equipped), the sports fields, the cafeteria (great health manual), the state-of-the-art multimedia rooms and classrooms, the exercise facilities for both the teachers and students, and much more, the veil of “mystery” surrounding boarding schools was completely torn apart.

 I asked our hosts about the dormitories. The very term “boarding school” in North America rightly conjures up images of colonial genocide against indigenous peoples. But the answer was: “Normally, students sleep in the dormitories during the week. It’s convenient for their studies, in terms of time, and if they have any questions, they can just go and ask their teachers. Most students go home for the weekend. However, if they want to stay in school on the weekends, it’s okay – they can stay if they want to.”In response to the sub-question about why Western forces want to create these lies about boarding schools, in brief, it is to discredit Chinese socialism. People in the West are increasingly looking for an alternative to capitalism. China does not present itself as a model. But China’s earth-shattering modernization and its cultural progress – in the broad sense of a civilized, peaceful, collective society, as opposed to the American individualistic jungle – is increasingly attractive. Hence the inevitable spoiler: “What about the boarding schools in Tibet?”

 We counter what we call “whataboutism” by turning the tables on the skeptics, by asking “what about” the universally recognized facts of the Canadian and American states’ responsibility in the actual genocide of the first peoples in the boarding schools? And side by side, we present the facts about China, based on firsthand evidence by visitors and analysts.

GT: There is a view that Xizang is a microcosm of China’s achievements in construction and development and an all-encompassing window into Chinese modernization. Do you agree with this? How does the development of Xizang reflect the characteristics of Chinese modernization?

 Yes, this view is supported by our visits to several such sites as examples of Chinese achievements. But let’s focus on one, the National Innovation Base, which is a long bus ride from Lhasa. It was built by the local government in 2017. Its basic purpose is to give post-university young people the opportunity to build their own businesses or, in the words of the hosts there, to build their own dreams. They are provided with free office space for a period of three years. Water, electricity and housing fees are covered by the government. They told us that “the young people just need to bring their computers and start working here. Everyone has access to the site’s online platform to sell their products.”

This center is not only an example of China’s achievements in construction and development and a comprehensive window on Chinese modernization, but it is also an example of socialism with Chinese characteristics. In short, this innovative path seeks to avoid the extremes of full public ownership of the means of production and a planned economy. How does it do this? It does this by redefining the relationship between state ownership and individual effort with the goal, as our hosts told us, of “realizing dreams.” Thus, while all the conditions for individual success are created, the individual is also socialized. It is thus an example of the balance between state and market, a sine qua non for further Chinese modernization.

Continue reading Arnold August: slanders about Tibet/Xizang are designed to discredit Chinese socialism

China and Global Development: podcast interview with Carlos Martinez

In the video embedded below, Carlos Martinez, co-editor of Friends of Socialist China, speaks to Jason Smith on the latter’s “The Bridge” podcast about a range of topics concerning China.

The two discuss the rationale for the formation of Friends of Socialist China; China’s achievements in poverty alleviation, environmental protection, and the fight against Covid-19; the nature of China’s political system; the slanders in the Western media about human rights in Xinjiang; the Belt and Road Initiative; China’s role promoting development in the Global South; the accusations around “debt trap diplomacy”; and the prospects for improving relations between China and the West.

The Bridge podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

Serbian President completely rejects suggestions of Chinese ‘debt trap diplomacy’

In this episode of the CGTN series Leaders Talk, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić speaks to Wang Guan about the special friendship that links the two countries. Chinese people often refer to Serbia as their “iron clad brother”.

Vučić recalls that China has been the most supportive country to Serbia in difficult times, mentioning, in particular, the fight against Covid-19. Other countries talked about solidarity yet hoarded vaccines, incubators, and other medical equipment. But China came to the aid of Serbia and of countries around the world. In 2020, President Vučić touched the hearts of many people in China when he went to the airport to personally receive the medical relief supplies from China and kissed first the Serbian and then the Chinese flag.

He also recalled how his intercession with President Xi Jinping during the Chinese leader’s state visit in 2016 had saved the country’s Smederevo steel mill and also spoke about the 2022 inauguration of the Belgrade to Novi Sad (Serbia’s second largest city) link of the Serbia-Hungary high-speed railway.

Vučić completely rejects suggestions of Chinese ‘debt trap diplomacy’. He was presented with such allegations in Brussels but countered that Serbia had taken many loans from China, but the country’s public debt to GDP ratio was some 51-52% whereas the average in the Eurozone is 92% and, in some cases, it is over 100%.

Additionally, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that Serbia signed with China last October will bring many benefits to his country, both in facilitating exports and making imports cheaper.

Recalling the NATO bombing of the then Yugoslavia 25 years ago, which also claimed the lives of Chinese citizens, the Serbian President notes that NATO’s actions were illegal and criminal – there was no resolution or authorisation from the United Nations Security Council. Territorial integrity is important to both China and Serbia and his position on Taiwan is very straightforward: Taiwan is China. It is up to China when and how it achieves reunification. Whatever China does in this regard will be supported by Serbia.

Reflecting on President Xi Jinping, Vučić says that you can see the depth of his thoughts, and his love for his country, from the simple but profound way in which he deploys Chinese proverbs in his writings.

The full video of President Vučić’s interview is embedded below.

Angolan President: We know what colonisation is and the Chinese are not colonising Africa but cooperating with us

Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço paid a state visit to China from March 14-17 at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. 

Whilst in China he gave an exclusive interview to He Yanke for the CGTN series Leaders Talk. 

He Yanke noted that Lourenço has visited China on numerous occasions since 2000, including as the Secretary General of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), as the Special Envoy of his predecessor, and this is his third visit as head of state. 

Summing up his impressions from all these visits, Lourenço remarked that what impressed him most was that China was continually making progress and bringing surprises to the world. 

Noting that last year saw the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Angola, he described the relationship as exemplary. During very difficult times for his country, for example the period of post-war reconstruction, China had lent a helping hand. And the same was true, not only for his country but for the world, when humanity was suddenly faced with the Covid pandemic. 

Asked for his views on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he recalled that China has provided Angola with strong financial support for infrastructure construction, including for roads, ports, airports, and hydropower plants, all of which are necessary for development. In his last few days in China, he had talked with 24 major companies, who had shown willingness to take risks and invest in his country.

Noting that China was building what will be Africa’s largest hydropower plant in Angola, and also training local personnel for the project, that will not only meet his country’s needs but also produce surplus electricity to be supplied to neighbouring southern African countries, Lourenço  was asked, given that Chinese companies are providing tens of thousands of jobs in Angola, how he would respond to the accusations levelled against China’s role in Africa from some quarters.

His answer was emphatic. Not just the Portuguese colonialists, he said, but the Europeans in general, including the British and French, had been in Africa for centuries. They had never engaged in the kind of infrastructure construction that we are seeing now. They are not just critics but slanderers acting out of malice. The facts are clear: China has not invaded any African country. The Chinese in Africa are not there for colonisation. We know what colonisation is and the Chinese are not colonising Africa but cooperating with us. China did not come to us fully armed but with funds and technology and a willingness to work with us.

The results are plain to see. In 2002 (when Angola’s long-running civil war finally ended), our country was in ruins. Thanks to the help from China, we now have land-based infrastructure connecting provinces and cities which didn’t exist before. 

The construction of roads, bridges, ports and railways was all done with the help of China. If these critics want to be part of the process, then they must act and do better than China. But we don’t believe they can.

Asked about President Xi Jinping’s three global initiatives, on development, security and civilisation, President Lourenço described the Chinese leader as a visionary and insightful statesman. Without peace and security, there can be no development – this is true both from the Angolan experience and also on a world scale.

The full interview with President Lourenço is embedded below.

Wang Yi: China will remain a staunch force for peace, stability and progress

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave a press conference on March 7 in the margins of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC). 

In his opening remarks, Wang noted that: “In this changing and turbulent international environment, China will remain a staunch force for peace, stability and progress of the world… China will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress, and will advocate vigorously peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit. It will pursue its development along with its efforts for peace and development of the world, and at the same time, it will make greater contributions to world peace and development through its own development.”

Following his introductory comments, he spent some 90 minutes answering 20 questions, concerning numerous international issues, from both the Chinese and foreign media.

Responding to a question from Rossiya Segodnya, Wang Yi said:

“The China-Russia relationship moves ahead along the trend of the times toward multipolarity and greater democracy in international relations and is thus very important for maintaining global strategic stability, enabling positive interactions among major countries, and promoting cooperation among emerging major countries.

“This year marks the 75th anniversary of China-Russia diplomatic relations. The two sides will also jointly launch the China-Russia Years of Culture. The relationship faces new opportunities. China is ready to work with Russia to foster new driving forces for cooperation and steadily enhance the foundation of friendship between the two peoples.”

Bloomberg raised a question regarding relations between China and the United States, following last year’s meeting between the two heads of state in San Francisco, and Wang stated:

“There has been some improvement in China-US relations since the summit in San Francisco. This meets the interests and wishes of people of both countries and the world. But it has to be pointed out that US misperception toward China continues and US promises are not truly fulfilled. The US has been devising various tactics to suppress China and kept lengthening its unilateral sanctions list, reaching bewildering levels of unfathomable absurdity. If the US says one thing and does another, where is its credibility as a major country? If it gets jittery whenever it hears the word ‘China,’ where is its confidence as a major country?… The challenge for the US comes from itself, not from China. If the US is obsessed with suppressing China, it will eventually harm itself… This year marks the 45th anniversary of China-US diplomatic relations. President Xi Jinping pointed out that the hope of the China-US relationship lies in the people, its foundation is in grassroots connections, its future depends on the youth, and its vitality comes from subnational exchanges.”

A question from the Xinhua News Agency gave Wang Yi the opportunity to set out China’s views on the related questions of multipolarity and globalisation:

“China believes in an equal and orderly multipolar world and a universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalisation. An equal multipolar world means equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal rules for every nation. Certain or a few powers should not monopolise international affairs. Countries should not be categorised according to their strength. Those with the bigger fist should not have the final say.”

And invoking an already infamous remark uttered by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at this February’s Munich Security Conference, he pointedly added:

“And it is definitely unacceptable that certain countries must be at the table while some others can only be on the menu.”

Responding to a question from the Nile News Egyptian Network, Wang Yi made a strong statement in support of the just cause of the Palestinian people on behalf of the Chinese government:

“The current Palestinian-Israeli conflict has caused 100,000 civilian casualties, and countless innocent people remain buried under the rubble. There is no distinction between noble and humble lives, and life should not be labelled by race or religion. The failure to end this humanitarian disaster today in the 21st century is a tragedy for humanity and a disgrace for civilisation. Nothing justifies the protraction of the conflict, or the killing of the civilian population. The international community must act promptly to promote an immediate ceasefire as its overriding priority and ensure humanitarian assistance as its pressing moral obligation. People in Gaza have the right to life in this world, and women and children deserve the care from their families…

“The calamity in Gaza is another wake-up call for the world that the long occupation of the Palestinian territories is a fact that should not be ignored anymore, and that the long-cherished aspiration of the Palestinians for an independent state should not be evaded anymore. More importantly, the historical injustice to the Palestinians must not be allowed to continue uncorrected from generation to generation…

“China firmly supports the Palestinian people’s just cause of regaining their legitimate national rights, and is always committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine at an early date. We support Palestine’s full membership in the UN and urge a certain UN Security Council member not to lay obstacles to that end.”

The Foreign Minister also reiterated China’s call for a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis:

Continue reading Wang Yi: China will remain a staunch force for peace, stability and progress

President Xi’s three key global initiatives on development, security and civilisation

On the eve of China’s annual twin parliamentary sessions, China Dally published the below interview with our co-editor Keith Bennett, focusing on President Xi’s three key global initiatives on development, security and civilisation.

According to Keith, they constitute a “step-by-step process, [whereby] China is setting out its view of the world – not only the view of the world as it is, but a view of the world as it should be, and what kind of world humanity should be aspiring to.”

He notes that the Global Development Initiative, first proposed by President Xi at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021, has received a warm welcome from the majority of countries in the Global South, as its philosophies and policies are in the interests of the majority of the people in every country. 

“This reflects the fact that development is still the most pressing need for the majority of humanity… But what are the things that people need to realise development? Peace and security.”

The following article was first published by China Daily.

China’s three major global initiatives on development, security, and civilization have been welcomed by the majority of the world, and the West needs to gain a better understanding of them, said Keith Bennett, an analyst of international relations.

“In a step-by-step process, China is setting out its view of the world — not only the view of the world as it is, but a view of the world as it should be, and what kind of world humanity should be aspiring to,” said Bennett, co-editor of the online platform Friends of Socialist China, as he discussed the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative and Global Civilization Initiative.

He added that the two sessions, the annual gatherings of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, provide an important window for the West to learn about China’s domestic policy and its global vision.

NPC deputies and CPPCC members come to the sessions representing all walks of life, and the government report is a result of many deliberations and wide-ranging consultations.

“A lot of people in the West say that China is unpredictable. But actually, China puts forward its policies and its philosophy and its proposals very clearly,” said Bennett, who studied Chinese history and politics at the University of London in the late 1970s and has visited China more than 200 times.

“I think whether people support China, or they don’t support China, they actually should understand China first,” said Bennett, who is also a long-time member of the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, which was founded in 1965 to promote understanding and friendship between the British and Chinese people.

Bennett said the three initiatives outline China’s experience and wisdom that can be used to deal with current world problems, such as how to achieve growth for developing countries and how to resolve conflicts in the Middle East.

Since President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021, the initiative has received a warm welcome by the majority of countries in the Global South, as its philosophies and policies are “in the interests of the majority of the people in every country”, Bennett said.

According to China’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Vienna, more than 100 countries and international organizations have voiced support for the GDI, and over 70 countries had joined the Group of Friends of the GDI by the end of last year.

“This reflects the fact that development is still the most pressing need for the majority of humanity,” Bennett said.

“But what are the things that people need to realize development? Peace and security.”

In that regard, the Global Security Initiative was put forward by Xi at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference in April 2022, stressing the importance of upholding a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and adhering to non-interference in internal affairs.

Last year, the reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia under a China-brokered deal was a remarkable achievement of the initiative, Bennett said, adding that he has observed how China has been assisting in reconciliations in various regions.

“All three initiatives are linked as a whole. It’s like you put one on top of the other to make the house,” he said, adding that the Global Civilization Initiative, which was introduced by Xi during the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting in March last year has been indispensable in realizing those achievements.

“In the Western capitalist countries, Samuel Huntington’s ideas of a ‘clash of civilizations’ find a strong resonance… but at base, it is a racist conception which constructs a hierarchy of civilizations, elevating that of the West and placing them in an adversarial and antagonistic relationship to one another,” he wrote in another recent commentary.

“In stark contrast, the Global Civilization Initiative makes clear that the history of humanity, spanning thousands of years, has seen a variety of civilizations come into being, develop and thrive, and this has in return promoted the overall development of human society,” Bennett said.

Prime Minister Manuel Marrero: Cuba has much to learn from the Chinese experience

In this episode of the CGTN interview series Leaders Talk, Zou Yun speaks with Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, who was primarily in China to attend the sixth China International Import Expo, which was held in Shanghai between November 5-10, 2023. It was his first China visit since his assumption of office and he also visited Beijing and Zhejiang province. Marrero previously served as Cuba’s Minister of Tourism for 16 years.

Marrero welcomed the open and inclusive spirit of the expo, the only one of its kind in the world, providing both the developed countries and those of the Global South with opportunities to promote their products and services. Cuba had particularly displayed its rum, coffee and seafood this time. 

He also acclaimed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), describing it as the pinnacle of China’s global initiatives. President Xi Jinping’s considerations, the Cuban Prime Minister observed, go well beyond China. They are for prosperity and development worldwide. 

Thanks to China, and the Communist Party of China, many forgotten and exploited countries now have opportunities to acquire technology and development experiences. 

He was particularly moved by his meeting with President Xi Jinping. Cuba and China, Marrero said, share years of a traditional friendship and they face many similar situations. Cuba has much to learn from the Chinese experience, aligning it to their national realities, particularly, for example in terms of attracting foreign investment despite the US blockade. 

Speaking of the impact of the 60 plus years US blockade of the socialist island, he notes Raúl Castro’s constant reminder that those responsible are the US government, not the US people, towards whom the Cuban people always maintain a positive and friendly standpoint. 

The full video of the interview is embedded below.

Vladimir Putin: US exceptionalism is an extension of the colonial mindset

In this edition of the CGTN series Leaders Talk, Wang Guan travels to Moscow to interview Vladimir Putin, shortly before the Russian President left for Beijing to attend the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. 

President Putin notes that, in building their relations, Russia and China have “always tried to reach a compromise, even on complicated issues inherited from the old days. Our relations have always been driven by goodwill. It helped us solve the border delimitation issues that had remained outstanding for 40 years.”

Wang Guan gives his impression of the thriving economic relations between the two countries, saying that on this visit to Moscow, he “saw that the streets and stores, including online trading platforms, were increasingly filled with Chinese brands. At the same time, Russian gas is supplied to the homes of Chinese consumers and Russian meat and dairy products, for example, are becoming more and more common in Chinese stores.”

President Putin agrees that his country and China are well on the way to meeting their joint target for two-way trade to reach 200 billion US dollars by 2024.

Turning to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Russian leader commented that: “Yes, we see that some people consider it an attempt by the People’s Republic of China to put someone under its thumb, but we see otherwise, we just see desire for cooperation. Our own ideas on the development of the Eurasian Economic Union, for example, on the construction of a Greater Eurasia, fully coincide with the Chinese ideas proposed within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Thanks to the BRI, the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) have already secured $24 billion dollars’ worth of investments, Putin says, and continues:

“It seems to me that the main advantage of the concept of cooperation proposed by the Chinese side is that nobody imposes anything on anybody in the framework of this work. Everything is done within the framework of finding not only acceptable solutions, but such projects and such ways of achieving a common goal that are acceptable to all. This is what makes China today, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, unique in building relations with others: no one imposes anything on anyone; no one forces anything on anyone, but only gives them opportunity. And, as I said, if there are difficulties, compromises are sought and always found. In my view, this is what distinguishes the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by the Chinese President from many others that countries with a heavy colonial legacy are trying to implement in the world.”

Reflecting his well-known interest, President Putin refers several times to sports, especially the martial arts and ice hockey, and to his hope to increase cooperation with China in this field, and, citing the importance of sports in his own life, states:

“Everyone knows and it’s not a secret that I come from a simple working-class family, and in the past, I had a lot of time to spend in the yard. I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t taken an interest in sports. It doesn’t really matter what kind of sports I did, it’s important that I paid a lot of attention to it.”

Following up on what he said recently at the annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, President Putin excoriated the Western verbiage about a “rules-based order”:

“Have you ever seen those rules? No, you haven’t, because no one has agreed on them with anyone. So how can one talk about order based on rules that no one has ever seen? In terms of common sense, it’s nonsense. But it is beneficial to those who promote this approach. Because if no one has seen the rules, it only means that those who talk about them are making them up themselves from time to time to their own advantage. That is the colonial approach.

“Because colonial countries have always believed that they are first-rated people. After all, they have always talked about bringing enlightenment to their colonies, that they are civilized people who bring the benefits of civilization to other nations, whom they consider second-rate people. No surprise today’s political elite, say, in the United States, talks about its exceptionalism. This is the extension of this colonial mindset, meaning that when they consider themselves exceptional in the United States, it means that other people, all the people in fact, are just some second-rate people. How else could one understand it? Those are mere vestiges of colonial thinking, nothing else.

“Our approach is quite different. We proceed from the fact that all people are equal, all people have the same rights; the rights and freedoms of one country and one nation end where the rights and freedoms of another person, of an entire state, appear. This is the way in which a multipolar world should be evolving gradually. This is exactly what we are striving for, and this is the basis of our interaction with China on the international stage.”

He also speaks about the BRICS cooperation mechanism and its recent expansion from five to 11 members, saying that “all those who have joined BRICS support the idea and concept of forming a multipolar world. No one wants to play second fiddle to some sovereign, everyone wants equal rights. And when they join BRICS, they see that we can achieve this goal by joining efforts within the framework of expansion and strengthening of such a format.”

President Putin also discusses the conflict in Ukraine and the Chinese proposal for a political solution:

“We are thankful to our Chinese friends for trying to think about ways to end this crisis. However, I would like to remind you that hostilities in Ukraine did not start with our special military operation, but way before – in 2014, when the Western countries, after having volunteered as guarantors of the agreements between President Yanukovich and the opposition, forgot about those guarantees in a matter of days and – worse still – supported a coup d’état. United States Administration officials even acknowledged spending big money on it…

“Therefore, the start of the special military operation was not the start of a war, but an attempt to end it.”

Referring to the negotiations held in the Turkish city of Istanbul, shortly after the start of the special military operation, Putin notes that agreement was almost reached, however, “as soon as we pulled our troops back from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, the Ukrainian side committed all the arrangements to flames.” Therefore:

“Of course, we know the proposals of our Chinese friends. We highly value those proposals. I think they are absolutely realistic and could lay the foundation for peace arrangements. But, unfortunately, the opposing side does not want to enter into any negotiations. In fact, the President of Ukraine has even issued a decree prohibiting everyone – including himself – to conduct any negotiations with us. How can we conduct negotiations if they are not willing to and even issued a regulation prohibiting such negotiations?”

Asked if there is any possibility to make progress based on the Chinese standpoint of building shared, common, and indivisible security, Putin says:

“Yes, we have always said that, too… In this context, it is extremely important for us that Ukraine stays outside any blocs. We were told as far back as 1991 – by the then US Administration – that NATO would not expand further east. Since then, there have been five waves of NATO expansion, and every time we expressed our concerns. Every time we were told: yes, we promised you not to expand NATO eastwards, but those were verbal promises – is there any paper with our signature on it? No paper? Good-bye.

“You see, it is very difficult to engage in a dialogue with people like that. I have already cited the example of the Iranian nuclear programme. The negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme were very, very lengthy. An agreement was reached, a compromise found, and documents signed. Then came a new Administration and threw everything in the trash, as if those arrangements never existed. How can we agree on anything if every new Administration starts from scratch – begin each time from the centre of the playing field?”

The CGTN interview with President Putin is embedded below. We also reproduce the full text of the interview as published by the Russian President’s website. The quotations above are taken from the latter version.

Continue reading Vladimir Putin: US exceptionalism is an extension of the colonial mindset

The West’s accusations against the Belt and Road are a form of projection and deflection

In the run-up to the Third Belt and Road Forum, which took place in Beijing on 17-18 October, the Beijing Daily subsidiary Capital News – in collaboration with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies (RDCY) – carried out an interview with Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, addressing various questions related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), particularly the reasons for the BRI’s success and the absurd nature of the West’s assorted accusations against it – that it constitutes a “debt trap”, or that it is part of a Chinese hegemonic project.

The interview also covers the US-led New Cold War on China, and the West’s attempts to consolidate an anti-China alliance; the significance of the Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilisation Initiative; the difference between China and the West’s responses to the Ukraine crisis; the significance of BRICS; and the possibilities for getting Britain-China relations back on track.

We published an excerpt and short video clip from the interview several weeks ago. The full transcript has now been published on the Beijing Daily website, and is reproduced below.

Capital News: As of June this year, China has signed over 200 cooperation agreements on jointly building the BRI with 152 countries and 32 international organization. Why are more and more countries and regions getting on board with the BRI?

Carlos Martinez: The BRI is playing a hugely significant role in global development. Its historical importance lies in providing primarily the countries of the Global South with the opportunity to modernize and break free from the chains of underdevelopment. These are the same chains that were originally imposed during the colonial era, affecting regions such as Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the Pacific.

In many instances, these chains have persisted beyond the colonial era, extending into what are now considered northern neo-colonial areas or the imperialist era. The relationship between the US, Canada, Europe, and the Global South, particularly developing countries, remains fundamentally predatory. Here, the Global South often provides cheap labor, land, and natural resources, driving a relentless pursuit of profit in the advanced capitalist nations.

China’s approach with the BRI stands in stark contrast to that. It represents a profoundly important shift, characterized by the construction of an extensive network of roads, railways, bridges, factories, ports, telecommunications, green energy infrastructure, and more. These projects leverage China’s exceptional expertise in high-quality construction, honed through decades of infrastructure development within China itself.

This initiative is now opening up some of the world’s most challenging terrains for the construction of roads and railways. For the countries involved, what they are seeking and indeed gaining from the BRI on a historically unprecedented scale is nothing short of development, modernization, and industrialization.

And that means transforming people’s lives. It means creating jobs. It means lifting people out of poverty. It means breaking dependence on the West. Many of the times, when these countries have needed assistance, when they needed help, when they needed loans, they had to go to the IMF or they had to go to the Western lending institutions. And where they got any assistance, it’s been in the form of conditional loans.

You want to loan, that means you have to privatize your water supply, you have to privatize your education system, you have to liberalize your economy. You have to open up your domestic market to western multinationals and so on. Conversely, the BRI, and I would say China’s investment policy in general, works in a fundamentally different way. There are no loan conditions, no traps and none of the punishing, punitive measures often associated with vital infrastructure projects. Recently, CGTN carried an interesting interview with Senegalese president Macky Sall. He underscored precisely this point, emphasizing that China’s financial support in Africa is based on requests made by African nations, with the priorities being set by Africa itself. Furthermore, China’s loans typically come with roughly half the interest rate of Western loans. The repayment period is as much longer, and the terms are far more flexible.

And the results of this type of dynamic is that now Ethiopia has the first metro train in Africa. Lao has a high-speed railway, and it’s now possible to travel from Jakarta to Bandung in 30 minutes, rather than 3 hours. It’s this topic dynamic. That means that Africa has been able to join the renewable energy revolution. So, China is bringing development where the West for so many centuries brought under-development and exploitation. And for China, of course, it’s benefiting economically. These are win-win relationships. But I think more importantly, China’s got the opportunity to share its expertise, its resources, its experiences, which contributes to human progress. Overall, I think it’s part of China’s vision of a community with a shared future for humanity.

Capital News:What do you think are the challenges that the BRI is currently facing on the international stage? And what are the underlying reasons for these challenges?

Carlos Martinez: The BRI has already demonstrated significant successes, especially in the developing regions of Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.

Now, it’s making inroads into Latin America and the Caribbean. I believe this positive momentum will persist. Notably, Syria, Nicaragua, Argentina, Cuba, and Zambia have recently joined the BRI. If one pays close attention, many other nations are deepening their involvement with this initiative.

However, the complexity arises from the fact that the United States, which holds the top spot in nominal GDP and wields immense influence, especially in the Western world, harbors discontent with the BRI. The U.S. strategy is essentially rooted in extending its 20th-century dominance into the 21st century, a vision encapsulated in what they term the “Project for a New American Century.” This objective is at odds with the BRI’s transformative direction.

The BRI is pivotal in enabling the Global South to reduce its reliance on the West. It’s paving the way for a shift towards a multipolar and post-imperialist world order. In this emerging landscape, the U.S. will continue to be significant, but it won’t retain its status as the sole superpower or the policeman of the world. It must adapt to this evolving reality of a democratic, multipolar, and multilateral world. It’s evident that the U.S. leadership is grappling with this paradigm shift.

Continue reading The West’s accusations against the Belt and Road are a form of projection and deflection

Prachanda: China’s successes building socialism provide great encouragement to the peoples of the world

In this episode of the CGTN series Leaders Talk, recorded on September 25, two days after the opening of the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Li Tongtong interviews Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Prime Minister of Nepal, known as Prachanda.

Noting that Prachanda is now serving his third term as Prime Minister, Li notes that the first of his many visits to China was to attend the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics during his first term. Now, 15 years later, he is in China for the opening of the Asian Games, having moved up his speaking slot at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York to be present. Nepal set a record with more than 250 of its athletes competing in the games this time and Prachanda observes that the 2008 Olympics showcased China’s progress to the world. And now the Asian Games show that China has taken another leap forward. 

Prachanda says that he has met President Xi Jinping five times and finds him a very sincere and visionary leader. Topics he had discussed with him this time included the common interests of the two countries, how to better facilitate China’s support and help to Nepal, for example in aviation, railway, road and transmission line connectivity, as well as climate change, poverty reduction and friendly relations between the two peoples.

The Nepalese Prime Minister, who is also the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), says that the glorious history of the Communist Party of China (CPC), since its founding in 1921, has seen it amass a wealth of experience. As a result, it has achieved a great success in building a new model of socialism, namely socialism with Chinese characteristics. This has provided great encouragement to and made a positive impact on communist parties and people who want development and social justice around the world. They all want to learn from China’s experience.

The friendship between Nepal and China, Prachanda observes, has deep roots and one example of their special relations is that Nepal is the only country to have diplomatic representation in Xizang (Tibet), which Prachanda went on to visit as the last stop of his visit. Its consulate in Lhasa is one of five Nepali consulates in China, more than it has in any other country. 

Whilst the number of people engaged in agricultural production in Nepal is gradually decreasing, Prachanda explains that his country is still primarily an agricultural one. So China’s experience and assistance in the agricultural field is very meaningful and important for Nepal. He always aim to study agricultural matters each time he visits China and this time he is focusing on how Nepal can enhance its agricultural production through the adoption of modern technologies.

Turning Nepal from a landlocked to a land-linked country is another key priority and in this respect Chinese experts are now engaged in active feasibility studies for the construction of a China/Nepal railway. Prachanda dismisses allegations of a ‘debt trap’ or the idea that a rail link could somehow pose a a security threat to other countries as baseless.

Irrespective of international, regional or domestic changes, he insists, his country’s position on relations with China will not change or be allowed to change. Nepal has always pursued a foreign policy of independence and non-alignment. It is resolute in defending its national sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. Nepal has never wavered or capitulated under pressure and it never will.

Guided by the United Nations Charter and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, Nepal firmly believes that all countries are equal, that no country should be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of others, and that all countries have the right to decide on their own affairs.

Asked finally about his use of the name Prachanda, he said he adopted it when he was leading the revolutionary struggle. But he also used it during the peace process. He is more recognised by this name than by his original name and he will continue to use it as it symbolises both revolution and peace.

The full interview is embedded below.

Clare Daly: ‘derisking’ from China would be suicidal for European industry

In this episode of the CGTN program Dialogue, Xu Qinduo interviews Clare Daly, the outspoken, anti-imperialist member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Ireland on the EU’s attitude towards the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, as well as on China.

Clare notes that the recent resolution on Gaza adopted by the European parliament, which she and her colleague Mick Wallace voted against, did not address the root causes of the conflict or the crimes, including ethnic cleansing and genocide, perpetrated by the Israeli apartheid state. The EU and the United States, she notes, are complicit in Israeli genocide and that makes them equally culpable in international law.

On Ukraine, she is not presently hopeful of prospects for peace. Rather she fears that working class Ukrainian men will continue to be killed in the interests of western arms companies who seek to perpetuate the conflict. 

Asked about the moves to expand NATO to Asia, possibly starting with the establishment of an office in Tokyo, Clare responds that she has said before that the last bite of a dying snake is the most dangerous. US hegemony is in decline and there is no going back on this. But in its lashing out in desperation it is very dangerous. In this regard, she cites President Biden’s recent demand for US$100 bn for not only Israel and Ukraine but Taiwan as well. She feels that the US managed to provoke Russia and now seeks to do the same to China over Taiwan. However, she believes that Chinese diplomacy is more measured and the country will not walk into a similar trap.

Asked what impressed her most on her recent visit to China, she says there is not enough time to recount all the amazing things she saw. China, she notes, has built whole cities, but in Dublin it has not been possible to build even one metro station in 30 years. Ireland does not have a single high-speed train and neither does the US. Unfortunately, the EU has been following the US in seeking to restrict relations with China under the guise of ‘derisking’ and similar terms. Such a policy, she notes, if followed through, would be suicidal for European industry. In the face of these provocations, Clare advises China to continue with its diplomatic overtures and says she can think of nothing that China should be doing differently.

Within this situation, Clare asserts that Ireland has a special role to play. The EU is largely made up of former colonising powers or former socialist countries. Ireland, however, was colonised. It knows what it is like to be oppressed. Therefore, Ireland can be a voice for neutrality, non-alignment, multilateral cooperation and international solidarity.

The full interview with Clare Daly MEP is embedded below.

The West’s accusations against the Belt and Road are a form of projection and deflection

In the run-up to the Third Belt and Road Forum, which took place in Beijing on 17-18 October, the Beijing Daily subsidiary Capital News carried out an interview with Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, addressing various questions related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), particularly the reasons for the BRI’s success and the absurd nature of the West’s assorted accusations against it – that it constitutes a “debt trap”, or that it is part of a Chinese hegemonic project.

What follows is a short video clip from the interview, along with a full transcript.

Capital News: According to information from the China Belt and Road Network, as of June 2023, China has signed more than 200 cooperation documents on the Belt and Road Initiative with 152 countries and 32 international organizations. In other words, more than two-thirds of the countries in the world have reached consensus with China on the joint construction of the Belt and Road. Why are more and more countries and regions willing to join the joint construction of the Belt and Road initiative?

Carlos Martinez: The Belt and Road Initiative plays a huge role in global development, and its historical significance lies in providing countries in the Global South with the opportunity to modernize and shake off the shackles of their colonial history.

In essence, the relationship between the United States and the West and the Global South is still predatory: using the cheap labor, land and natural resources provided by the Global South, developed capitalist countries can realize their thirst for profits. The Belt and Road Initiative stands in sharp contrast. By building an extensive infrastructure network, it has greatly improved people’s lives. By creating more jobs, it gives countries of the developing world the opportunity to escape poverty and break their dependence on the West.

Under the BRI framework, Ethiopia has Africa’s first urban light rail, and Indonesia’s Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail has shortened the travel time from Jakarta to Bandung from three hours to around 40 minutes. What China brings to its partner countries is professional knowledge, resources and experience, as well as development and win-win situations. The joint construction of the Belt and Road is part of China’s vision of building a community with a shared future for humanity.

The Belt and Road Initiative has achieved remarkable results in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and is now bearing fruit in Latin America and the Caribbean. Countries such as Syria, Nicaragua, Argentina, Cuba, and Zambia have recently joined the Belt and Road Initiative, and many countries in other regions are also taking the initiative to understand and connect. This positive momentum will continue.

Continue reading The West’s accusations against the Belt and Road are a form of projection and deflection

John Bellamy Foster on Ecological Marxism

In this extensive interview, John Bellamy Foster, the editor of the long-established and prestigious US-based socialist journal Monthly Review and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Oregon, discusses ecological Marxism, on which topic Bellamy Foster is an acknowledged global expert, with Jia Keqing, a research fellow at the Academy of Marxism of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Bellamy Foster begins by noting that the term ecological Marxism is widely used in China, but elsewhere the term ecosocialism is more widely used. Ecosocialism, he notes, has a complex history, with a number of its proponents in the 1980s and early 90s coming out of the Marxist and New Left traditions but being highly critical of Karl Marx and the classical Marxist tradition as a whole. “This also involved, in some cases, attempts to wed Marx with other figures, such as Thomas Malthus (falsely viewed as an environmental figure) or Karl Polanyi, who provided a more social-democratic political economy… Much of this was coloured by reactions at the time to the demise of the Soviet Union and attempts to distance ecosocialism from core Marxist traditions.”

However, from the late 1990s, such views began to be challenged by other ecosocialists rooted primarily in the unearthing of Marx’s own ecological critique. Marx, Bellamy Foster notes, “was strongly critical of the Cartesian mechanistic separation of human beings and animals and defended Darwinian evolution, emphasising the human coevolutionary relation to the natural world. He also emphasised the close affinity in terms of intelligence of nonhuman animal species and human beings, and he criticised the brutality toward nonhuman animals that arose within capitalist production… He also indicated that we relate to nature not simply through our production but also sensuously, and through our conceptions of beauty, that is, aesthetically… One of the most brilliant insights of Xi Jinping, in line with both traditional Chinese civilisation and Marxism, was to recognise that the concept of ecological civilisation was not quite enough, and that it needed to be supplemented by a notion of ‘beautiful China’. That is, our aesthetic relation to nature, and thus the intrinsic value of nature, was seen as so important that it needed to be emphasised separately.”

Discussing the relationship between ecological issues and the class struggle, Bellamy Foster traces things back to Friedrich Engels’s 1845 work, The Condition of the Working Class in England: “Engels did not start his analysis with the exploitation of factory workers and conditions in the workplace, though that occupies part of the book, but rather with the capitalist city, housing conditions, air and water pollution, the spread of disease and illnesses of all kinds, and the much higher mortality rate of the working class. In this sense, his work was ecological as much or more than it was economic.

“The struggles of the working class in the early nineteenth century were a product of their whole living conditions, not just factory conditions, even if it was their ability to stop production that was the basis of their class power… For Marx and Engels, working-class struggles were not restricted to strikes and battles by workers within their work sites but were also evident in the entire realm of working-class material existence. Historical materialism has too often been reduced to what we might call historical economism, leaving out wider realms of life.”

Bellamy Foster also incorporates the contradiction between the Global North and the Global South, as well as the complex relationship between working people in the Global North and the Global South, into his analysis, stating:

“If there is a shortage of food or water available to the population in the Global South today, is this due primarily to economic or ecological factors? The fact is that such problems are more and more intertwined given the structural crisis of capital and combined economic and ecological crisis and catastrophe…

“The economic proletariat has often been constrained by the logic of trade unions and the struggle for wages and benefits. The environmental proletariat, which is simply a way of referring to the proletariat in terms of the full complexity of its material existence, is concerned with work relations but also the full range of material life conditions. Such a unified standpoint is necessarily more revolutionary and more capable of grappling with the problems of the age…

“In terms of the question of the more revolutionary character of workers in the Global South, there cannot be the slightest doubt. It is the workers in the periphery of the capitalist system who are faced with the sharp edge of imperialism… Not all of these revolutions have succeeded, of course… Nevertheless, it is the proletariat/peasantry in the Global South that has continually led the way, and where one consequently sees the most radical environmental-proletarian struggles today.”

Bellamy Foster is clear that the historic responsibility for the looming threat of climate catastrophe rests with the imperialist countries and not with China or other countries of the Global South and draws on the work of Jason Hickel, who “demonstrated in an important study in Lancet Planetary Health in September 2020, [that] if we subtract the actual emissions of countries from their fair share, we can then determine which countries have, in their historical emissions, generated excess or surplus emissions. What Hickel was able to determine based on 2014 data was that 40 percent of all excess carbon dioxide emissions in the world added to the atmosphere were attributable to the United States, and 92 percent to the rich nations of the Global North. Meanwhile, China and India both had zero excess emissions. The excess emissions of the countries of the Global North represent an enormous ecological debt in the form of a climate debt to the Global South.”

Jia and Bellamy Foster discuss the ideas advanced by James O’Connor, founding editor of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, regarding capitalist and socialist approaches to development and the ecological crisis. Bellamy Foster notes that: “Socialism arises out of capitalism and thus is inherently infected by many of its contradictions. The world-economy as a whole is capitalist, which means that socialist countries have to navigate their way through all sorts of external contradictions imposed on them, not least of all imperialist pressures. Nevertheless, what differs between countries who are socialist (or postrevolutionary) and capitalist are the social relations of production, which open up all sorts of new opportunities. China, for example, though beset with ecological problems, has been able to develop modes of ecological management and planning that would be unthinkable in the Global North/West.”

Asked what China should emphasise to tackle the ecological crisis and build an ecological civilisation, he responds: “China’s approach to building an ecological civilisation is radically different from anything that exists in the West/Global North. Xi has made it clear that the goal is to alter the whole ‘developmental model and way of life’… This is achieving startling results.”

Tackling the question of the share of coal-fired plants in China’s energy consumption, which has so far dropped from 70% to around 56%, he continues:

“A big factor in China’s continuing reliance on coal has to do with energy security, not simply economics. Coal is the only fossil fuel that China has in abundance. With the United States launching a New Cold War on China during the Donald Trump administration, which has been carried forward and intensified under the Joe Biden administration, energy security has become a bigger issue for China. As Xi put it in a speech in October 2021, China ‘must hold the energy food bowl in its own hands.’ In this respect, Beijing is very conscious of the whole history of imperialism and how Western powers had imposed sanctions on it during the century of Western ‘gunboat’ interventions enforcing unequal treaties, something that only ended with the Chinese Revolution.”

Bellamy Foster does not accept the view that China’s emphasis on ecological civilisation has little to do with ecological Marxism, but is mainly rooted in traditional Chinese culture, “Yet, I also argued that the notion of ecological civilisation was developed in China as part of an ecological Marxism with Chinese characteristics, drawing on China’s own vernacular revolutionary tradition and thus on traditional Chinese culture… My way of thinking about this was very much influenced by the work of the great Marxist scientist and leading Western Sinologist Joseph Needham, the principal author of the massive multivolume Science and Civilisation in China.”

Finally, Bellamy Foster firmly locates his arguments in the context of the New Cold War primarily initiated by the United States against China:

“The United States is currently threatening the People’s Republic of China over Taiwan, which is internationally recognised—by the United States as well—as part of China, but with a different system, in accord with the One China Principle… In the context of declining US economic hegemony, Washington is insisting on a unipolar world, promoting military blocs aimed at China and Russia, and rejecting the actual multipolar development of the world at large, through the development of the BRICS… The US dollar’s role as the international reserve currency is being weaponised to sanction both Russia and China, along with all other nations that have challenged US dominance… The world is therefore on the edge of a Third World War, threatening the very existence of humankind. China’s response has been to launch in 2022 its Global Security Initiative, which constitutes the most comprehensive set of commitments for overall world security, including the security interests of all nations, that has ever been introduced.”

This interview, which is well worth reading in full, was first published in English in the September 2023 edition of Monthly Review. Conducted in English, the interview was also translated into Chinese and published in World Socialism Studies (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) in April 2023.

Jia Keqing: John Bellamy Foster, thank you for taking time for this interview. You are a leading theorist of contemporary ecological Marxism. In recent years, you have published a large number of works on Marxism, especially ecological Marxism. Could you give us an overview of the current state of ecological Marxism research worldwide? For example, what are the representative scholars and representative journals?

John Bellamy Foster: In China, the term ecological Marxism is widely used, but in most discussions outside of Asia the term ecosocialism is more common. I use both terms, along with Marxian ecology. At present ecosocialism is how the actual on-the-ground movement is referred to in the West. Still, the term ecological Marxism is useful at times since not all ecosocialist currents are clearly Marxist. Indeed, some self-styled ecosocialists adopt a more social-democratic approach. Ecosocialism thus has a complex history.

In the 1980s and early ’90s, many of the most prominent ecosocialists, figures like Ted Benton, André Gorz, James O’Connor, and Joel Kovel, came out of the Marxist and New Left traditions but were highly critical of Karl Marx and the classical Marxist tradition as a whole for being what was termed Promethean (standing for an extreme industrialist and extreme productivist position) and for being anti-ecological. The main thrust was thus an eclectic combination of traditional Marxist positions on labor and class with a Green theory that was primarily ethical in nature. This also involved, in some cases, attempts to wed Marx with other figures, such as Thomas Malthus (falsely viewed as an environmental figure) or Karl Polanyi, who provided a more social-democratic political economy, sometimes characterized as more environmental than Marx’s analysis. For Benton, Marx had failed (in contrast to Malthus) to recognize environmental limits. For O’Connor and Joan Martínez-Alier, Marx had rejected ecological economics as presented by the Ukrainian Marxist Sergei Podolinsky—though later research proved this to be incorrect. In the case of Kovel, Marx’s main failure was to deny the intrinsic value of nature. Much of this was colored by reactions at the time to the demise of the Soviet Union and attempts to distance ecosocialism from core Marxist traditions.

Beginning in the late 1990s, these views were challenged by other ecosocialists who developed a tradition of Marxian ecology rooted primarily in the unearthing of Marx’s own ecological critique. At the center of this was Marx’s conceptualization of ecological crisis known as the theory of metabolic rift and the relationship of this to his economic value theory. Paul Burkett and I played a leading role in this reconstruction of classical Marxian ecology in Marx and Frederick Engels—Burkett in his Marx and Nature, me in Marx’s Ecology. Over the last two decades not only has our knowledge of Marx’s ecology expanded enormously, but this has been extended into a critique of contemporary capitalist ecological destruction in the work of such figures as Kohei Saito, Fred Magdoff, Andreas Malm, Brett Clark, Richard York, Ian Angus, Hannah Holleman, Del Weston, Eamonn Slater, Stefano Longo, Rebecca Clausen, Brian Napoletano, Nicolas Graham, Camilla Royle, Mauricio Betancourt, Martin Empson, Jason Hickel, Chris Williams, and a host of others. Ariel Salleh has come up with an analysis of metabolic value that integrates metabolic rift analysis with ecofeminist theory. Jason W. Moore developed a world-ecology approach that grew out of metabolic rift analysis, but eventually gravitated to posthumanism. Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro has written on socialist states and the environment.

Continue reading John Bellamy Foster on Ecological Marxism

The historian rewriting China’s understanding of the world

Qian Chengdan is one of China’s best-known but more elusive historians. In 2006, he was a key consultant for a major CCTV television series which analysed the rise and fall of nine world-historical empires. It was widely and correctly identified at the time as illustrating socialist China’s determination that its peaceful rise would never lead to the previous historical outcomes of colonialism, imperialism and hegemony.

Following this high-profile project, Professor Qian preferred to concentrate on his own niche interests, including publishing monographs on English history and translating The Cambridge Introduction to the History of Art.

However, he is now once again in the spotlight having led a team of scholars in a three-year project, resulting in An Outline of World History, which was published in June by Peking University Press. The publishers have described the work as “the first attempt by Chinese scholars to create a new system of knowledge for world history, and to use that system to write a history of the world.”

The book draws heavily on the work of Karl Marx, but, according to an article and abbreviated interview by Wu Haiyun carried by the popular Sixth Tone website, it has “taken pains to distance the work from that of earlier Soviet scholars, whom he believes were overly dogmatic and overlooked key aspects of Marx’s ideas.”

In the interview, Professor Qian says that:

“The Soviet system boils down to two elements: the ‘five modes’ and class struggle. The importance of class struggle to Marxism is well known, but many Chinese also learn about the five modes of production, which refer to the progression of human society from primitive communism to slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and ultimately a future communist society.

“The problem with the Soviet system was its absolutism. It rejected the idea of cultural diversity and posited that all regions and countries worldwide underwent the same process. This does not align with historical reality.”

His interviewer responded: “What you described as the two key points of the Soviet system are fundamental concepts that every Chinese person learns from an early age. Isn’t that standard Marxism? How exactly does your approach differ from the Soviet one?”

This drew the following response:

“In his book The German Ideology, Karl Marx provided a clear description of the formation of world history. He wrote, ‘the more the original isolation of the separate nationalities is destroyed by the developed mode of production and intercourse and the division of labour between various nations naturally brought forth by these, the more history becomes world history.’

“This is Marx’s own understanding of the formation of world history. Regrettably, his words were largely ignored by Soviet historians…This implies that human society is not only characterised by the progression from lower to higher stages but also by the transition from fragmentation to unity. From this perspective, we can see the superiority of Marx’s theory of world history… We aim to restore history to its authentic form, preserving its most genuine characteristics. In my view, Marx’s theory of ‘world history’ comes closest to grasping the essence of history. Sadly, his theory has long been overlooked.”

One of the things that is not explored in the interview is that Professor Qian’s rejection of simplistic and dogmatic interpretations of historical materialism, something by no means confined to many Soviet Marxists, but also to be found, for example, in many schools and adherents of Western Marxism, is essential to correctly understanding and appreciating the fact that a number of countries have embarked on the road of socialism without first going through the phase of capitalist development.

Concluding on a note of well-placed optimism, Professor Qian notes that:

“From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the Western world, bolstered by capital and war, essentially gained control over the entire globe, leaving almost no room for the survival of non-Western civilisations. This was a comprehensive ‘horizontal’ shift. However, from that point onward, history has begun to reverse course, and the world today is markedly different from a century ago. Various regions are pursuing their unique development paths, and differences are becoming increasingly pronounced and apparent.”

We reprint the article and interview from Sixth Tone below.

Qian Chengdan might be the Platonic ideal of an ivory tower academic. The director of both Peking University’s Center for World History Research and its Institute of Area Studies, Qian occupies a prestigious perch at one of China’s top universities, but unlike many of his peers, he seems to have little interest in fame or attention: He rarely participates in public forums or sits for interviews, and he avoids all social media — even WeChat.

On the rare occasion Qian does descend from the ivory tower, however, he almost always leaves a mark. In 2006, Qian served as a key consultant on the acclaimed CCTV-produced documentary series “The Rise of the Great Powers,” which told the story of nine world-historical empires, from Portugal and Spain to Japan and the United States. It was one of the first extended introductions to world history aired on Chinese television — and a significant departure from past programming focused on China’s own history.

After the series aired, Qian quietly returned to academic life, eventually publishing a number of well-received monographs on world and English history while pursuing his passion project: translating “The Cambridge Introduction to the History of Art” in its entirety.

Continue reading The historian rewriting China’s understanding of the world

Hakainde Hichilema: China’s modernisation is a crucial reference point for Zambia

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema paid a state visit to China from September 10-16, where, following talks with his counterpart Xi Jinping, the two countries upgraded their bilateral relationship to that of a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

In this episode of the CGTN series Leaders Talk, President Hichilema recaps with Li Tongtong his six day journey through four provinces. 

He started his visit in Shenzhen, China’s first special economic zone, visiting such cutting edge companies as the telecoms giant Huawei and the electric vehicle pioneer BYD. An enthusiast for China’s modernisation path, he next went to the Jinggangshan mountainous region in Jiangxi province, which was Chairman Mao’s first revolutionary base area in the fight he led to liberate China and the Chinese people. Hichilema opined that Mao had displayed great vision in selecting this region and he saw his own visit as a key part of completing his understanding of the jigsaw of China’s development.

In a similar vein, he also visited a fishing village and other local areas in Fujian province where Xi Jinping had worked and led at the grassroots level, especially in the areas of poverty alleviation and green development. He sees the leapfrog progression to digital development as a crucial reference point for Zambia’s own development path. Zambia needs to drive industrialisation, so that it does not simply extract its natural resources but also processes them to add value.

Zambia joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2018 and tangible benefits so far include the stabilising of the energy sector, to eliminate the frequent power cuts known as ‘load shedding’, and the revival of the Tazara Railway, originally built by China in the 1970s to help free landlocked Zambia from the economic strangulation of its southern neighbours, then under European colonialist and white racist rule. The programme includes some moving footage from those years as a highlight of the long and consistent friendship between the two countries and peoples. Winning independence from British colonialism on October 24, 1964, Zambia established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China just five days later, becoming the first country in southern Africa to do so.

The full interview with President Hichilema is embedded below.

Bashar al-Assad: China has gone from being the world’s factory to being the world’s innovation powerhouse

In this edition of the CGTN series Leaders Talk, Zou Yun interviews Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was visiting China for the first time in 19 years. His 21-26 September visit began in Hangzhou, where he and his wife Mrs. Asma al-Assad were among the international leaders to attend the opening of the 19th Asian Games. Talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping saw the two countries establish a strategic partnership and their agenda focused in particular on the Syrian people’s efforts to rebuild their country after years of war and its full return to the regional and international stage.

In the interview, President Assad was clearly touched by the warm and spontaneous welcome given by Chinese spectators to the Syrian athletes as they entered the stadium as well as by the subsequent comments by Chinese netizens on social media. Comparing the China of today with the one he saw on his previous visit in 2004, he said it had gone from being the world’s factory to being the world’s innovation powerhouse. But what was even more important than the changes was that the patriotic qualities of the Chinese people had not changed.

Reflecting on his talks with President Xi, the Syrian leader noted that China rejects hegemony and always stands with Syria politically. He felt that there was much that could be learned from the Chinese experience of modernisation as China’s own situation was once similar to that of many other third world countries. Syria and other countries, he continued, had once tried to learn from the western experience, but these attempts had proved to be unsuccessful and even counterproductive.

Turning to the current situation in Syria, Assad noted that the war is not over. The physical destruction could be addressed, as Syria had done many times in its long history, but the destruction of national culture and civilisation by western neoliberalism led by the United States, along with the related issue of extremism, was more dangerous. If Syria is rebuilt, he continued, his country will have a bright future. It had previously enjoyed high growth and low debt, was an exporter of wheat and other foodstuffs and had been developing various industries.

He praised the recent reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which was facilitated by China, as a huge achievement and a wonderful surprise. Syria had suffered for years from the estrangement between these two neighbouring countries. According to the Syrian President, the world is now in a period of transition from the centuries of colonialism, which had begun with the “discovery” of the Americas, and which has been characterised by slaughter and exploitation. It is this transition that underlines the significance of the various international initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping.

The full interview with President Bashar al-Assad is embedded below.