By Wang Shanshan
The Belt and Road Initiative has been growing and thriving despite the doubts and suspicions hanging over it ever since its birth. As we mark the fifth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, doubts from some sections of the Western media seem to be getting louder.
The most recent evidence the doubters in the Western media have cited to justify their concerns about the Belt and Road Initiative is the decision by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to cancel three cooperative projects with China, namely the East Coast Rail Link and two pipeline projects worth a combined 20 billion U.S. dollars. Quite a number of reports have drawn the conclusion that this is a major setback for the Belt and Road Initiative.
But this conclusion is the result of hasty reasoning, if not deliberate misinterpretation. Dr. Mahathir chose China for his first official visit outside the ASEAN member states since taking office, and making the announcement in Beijing was a demonstration of the mutual trust and understanding between the two countries on how Belt and Road projects should be managed.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen (2nd R Front), Austrian Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs Margarete Schrambock (4th R, Front), Chinese Ambassador to Austria Li Xiaosi (1st R, Front) and other guests inspect a new China-Europe freight train from Chengdu to Vienna at the Vienna South Freight Center in Vienna, Austria, on April 27, 2018. With the new train, Austria is included into the network of China-Europe freight train service under the Belt and Road Initiative. [Photo: Xinhua]
There was nothing unilateral or behind-the-back tricks in the cancellation of the projects. After meeting China’s President and Premier, Dr. Mahathir said “It is not about the Chinese”. He said that Malaysia welcomes, supports, and will continue to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative, and he welcomes China’s enterprises to invest in Malaysia. As China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said, it’s unavoidable for problems and differences of opinion to emerge when two countries cooperate. When differences have arisen over specific infrastructure projects, both sides have shown that they are willing to resolve them through communication and consultation, which is reflected in the consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries. Rather than being a cause for concern or criticism, the collaborative management of the projects in Malaysia is a fine example of why the Belt and Road Initiative has gained widespread recognition and support.