Belt and Road Initiative not China’s plan to dominate

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by China is a joint development plan with participating countries and not a strategy to dominate, said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said he now has a clearer perspective of the development plan, and supports it as it will benefit the country.

“We feel that the BRI is not a domination plan by China, which would end up being controlled by China.

“Instead, it is a policy developed by all the countries and not only focused on China,” he said.

He said this to reporters at a Malaysian media conference at the end of his five-day visit to China to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) which ended on Saturday.

The international forum was attended by 37 world leaders and 5,000 representatives from 150 countries.

The PM also said he initially thought that the BRI was China’s attempt to dominate South-East Asia as the trade passage for the project includes the South China Sea and the Straits of Melaka.

However, during the forum, Dr Mahathir said he saw that the initiative was a cooperative effort to develop participating countries via infrastructure development and funding from banks.

“Previously, there were other development plans by developed countries to create a world without borders and free trade, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“They (the developed countries) made the proposals and asked us to accept them.

“This is not like that, the forum attendees are from small countries

and they are sitting with China which has a 1.4 billion population. They sit together, at the same level, and talk about how to develop infrastructure projects,” he said.

He said the forum was attended by senior leaders from all around the world, including Spain, Italy and Britain, which had sent the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond.

The PM said the views of the other countries were taken into account in the infrastructure initiative and this was evident in the joint communique issued after the leaders’ roundtable meeting in Yangi Lake on Saturday.

“I believe that this was a very successful trip,” he said.

During his visit, Dr Mahathir also met with China President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Asked whether Malaysia would be receiving more investments related to the BRI after the forum, he said he hopes that it would happen, but added that the country should make it easier for investments to come in from China and other countries.

Meanwhile, Chinese investors have expressed their wish for a one-stop centre (OSC) to be set up to make it easier for investment-related matters, which the PM has requested to be expedited.

This is because investment related transactions may be rather complex, involving trips to 20 different places just for approvals, he said, adding that the officer to be in charge of the OSC should also be given the authority to make decisions.

“I am confident that if we do this (set up the OSC), the investments will be pouring in,” he said.

Dr Mahathir and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali returned to Malaysia yesterday. — Bernama