For a very long time, China has denied that its controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) reeks of hegemonic ambition.
But the Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister, Wei Fenghe, has spoken at a recent forum of China’s willingness to deepen military exchanges and cooperation with the Caribbean countries and Pacific island countries under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
It was the Fourth Forum for Senior Defence Officials from Caribbean and South Pacific Countries held in China.
Wei is quoted as saying that “cooperation will be promoted in such areas as anti-terrorism, peacekeeping and disaster relief to strengthen exchanges and cooperation under the framework of the BRI.”
According to the Chinese publication, Xinhua News Agency, Guyana Defense Force (GDF) Chief of Staff Brigadier Patrick West, was in attendance, and said that Guyana would like to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the Chinese military and jointly safeguard regional and world peace and stability.
“The Chinese military stands ready to deepen mutual trust and consolidate friendship with the militaries of the Caribbean countries and Pacific island countries,” Wei also said at the forum.
China also recently concluded the China-Africa Peace and Security Forum, organised by China’s Ministry of National Defence, held from July 15 to July 20 in Beijing, where it purported itself to be a stabilising force for political insecurity on the African continent.
The African Union (AU) on Monday hailed the forum as a positive impetus, in this regard.
Representatives of the Chinese military as well as nearly 100 representatives from 50 African countries and the African Union, including 15 defense ministers and chiefs of staff, were in attendance.
Costantinos Costantinos, who served as an economic advisor to the African Union (AU), is quoted by Xinhua as speaking about China’s action plan which “aspires to continue to promote high-level exchanges between Africa and China so as to deepen traditional friendship, enhance political mutual trust, strengthen strategic coordination and cement the political foundation of China-Africa relations.”
The expert said that the action plan, which the forum was held to promote, is intended to support the operationalisation of the African peace and security architecture.
“The Beijing action plan is vital as it reiterates that China will increase defence and security assistance to Africa and the two sides will enhance cooperation and experience sharing in social governance, public security, peacekeeping, cyber security, anti-piracy and counter-terrorism,” the expert said.
China’s overseas military base, in Djibouti, has been playing its part in joint training exercises with allies across the continent, arms sales and intelligence sharing.
The establishment of the base, China’s sole foreign military one, has raised tensions with the US, for its geostrategic placement at the Horn of Africa. America has accused China of using its BRI to seize influence.
One of Guyana’s biggest investments yet is the US$138M it has taken from China Export Import Bank, one of the country’s primary lenders, to fund renovation of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), a project that is marred in controversy.
Eight years after the works began, Guyana is yet to see a completion date, and there are worries about how soon Guyana will be able to pay back the loan. The Government of Guyana has also indicated that it will join the BRI.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2017 called BRI the “project of the century”. Over 100 nations have signed on or shown interest.
The country is accused of leveraging massive loans over small states to extend its military footprint. Kaieteur News has reported on many of these situations, where countries are plunged into debt, and some are forced to surrender state assets.
Many call it “debt-trap diplomacy”.
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