Interview realized by Mr. GUO CONG, Journalist at China Radio International (CRI)
CRI: This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). What do you think is the biggest change that the initiative has brought to the world?
Dr. Taling: The BRI is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by
the Chinese government in 2013, under the leadership of president Xi Jinping. The main goals were to invest in more than 150 countries and build transcontinental infrastructures to speed up development and connectivity between China and the world. As of January 2023, 151 countries were listed as having signed up to the BRI, with more than 40 countries located in Africa. This means that the signatory countries have found value and consistency in the BRI; otherwise, they simply wouldn’t have signed it. The AIIB and the SILK ROAD FUND as dedicated financial institutions to the BRI, have brought alternative and balance to the world’s less developed countries which infrastructure development financing were heavily dependent of western institutions such as the Word Bank and the IMF. Therefore, the alternative and balance brought by the BRI to developing countries in achieving the national development goals is for me the biggest change that the initiative has brought to the world.
CRI: The joint construction of the Belt and Road has produced a lot of cooperation results. What changes have taken place in your country’s ordinary people’s perception of China because of the BRI?
Dr. Taling: Talking of ordinary people in my country Cameroon, I primarily see the youths under 35 years old that actually represents around 70% of the country’s population. Adequate education, entrepreneurship, technical skills learning and employment are the most needed tools for them to secure a better future. In the framework of BRI, many scholarships have been given to Cameroonian students and youths to further up their studies and professional training in China. Medical assistance from China to Cameroon have been consistent in times of Covid-19. Finally, some keys infrastructures such as roads, hydroelectric dams, etc. built in the BRI cooperation framework, are contributing to change the livelihood of millions of compatriots at home. These tangible results of our cooperation in the BRI framework have contributed to enhance the perception of China in the eyes of the youths in my country.
CRI: What do you think of the “debt trap” brought to Africa by the BRI, constantly hyped by western media?
Dr. Taling: The BRI forms a central component of president Xi’s “Major Country Diplomacy” strategy, which calls for China to assume a greater leadership role for global affairs in accordance with its rising power and status. The so call “debt trap” diplomacy of the BRI hyped by western media is simply and purely an act of sabotage. An attempt to downgrade the most comprehensive, inclusive and global infrastructural initiative mankind have ever witnessed. Western media are just not accustomed with such a large-scale win-win situation without western countries taking the share of the lion. New paradigms may take some time for human habits to get used to. So, nothing abnormal for me vis-a-vis of western media attitude.
As far as Africa is concerned, our cooperation with China is fruitful and productive. Most importantly, we are keeping constant dialogue as partners to make things even better for the future.
CRI: The BRI is expected to become the hot topic of the two sessions of China this year. What other topics do you pay attention to personally?
Dr. Taling: As an African elite in China, my attention is focused on topics that put forward the core interests of African people vis-à-vis of China. They are still a lot to do, to improve the status quo of the people-to-people relation, country-to-country cooperation between China and Africa. More attention and resources need to be delivered to the FOCAC platform to expand the country-to-country cooperation. As for the people-to-people relation, more policies’ reforms are needed to improve the status quo of African people and businesses in China. Our trade balance still weights in favor of China, therefore more efforts need to be devoted by policy-makers to open the Chinese market to African products and services.
*Dr. TALING TENE RODRIGUE from CAMEROON
Deputy Director of the Center for Francophone Studies
Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University.