Compte rendu d'uen table ronde lors du China Development Forum 2021
Paw Tracker newsletter (Week of Mar 22), 29 mars 2021
At the China Development Forum 2021 held from March 20-22, China’s policy heavyweights, including Vice Premier Han Zheng and NDRC Director He Lifeng, elaborated on China’s new development vision in front of international business leaders (through video connection mostly). BMW’s board chair Oliver Zipse was the co-chair of this year’s Forum.
One roundtable session was specifically about third-country cooperation mechanisms under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). One of the key challenges of (or rather criticism about) the BRI is its perceived exclusiveness. According to US think tank CSIS, at one point, 89% of companies involved in Chinese-funded projects overseas were Chinese. The reality makes it hard to present the BRI as anything other than a self-interest driven, tightly controlled initiative of economic and geopolitical expansion.
Men Honghua, dean of Tongji University’s School of International Relations and Politics, told participants of the roundtable that a “rethinking of the self-interest centered approach” is underway in China, and a new vision of “shared interest” and multilateralism has taken root. Third-country cooperation, with Chinese companies collaborating with developed country partners in a third country, is an important vehicle to realize that vision.
More specifically, Fang Qiuchen, head of China International Contractors Association (CHINCA), highlighted the advantages of third-country cooperation: developed country companies are good at project design and engineering standards; developed country financial institutions have advanced financial systems and competitive financial costs, which make them desirable partners of joint financing with Chinese financial institutions aiming to enlarge the scale of syndicate loans, strengthen risk management and follow international financing standards. He mentioned that many Belt and Road countries apply developed country standards, which makes third country cooperation with European or American companies a good way of entering those markets.
Prof. Li Xiaoyun of China Agriculture University added that third-country cooperation allows China’s relative competitiveness in labor cost and practical technologies to supplement the high tech and high standard of developed country companies. But he also pointed out that geopolitical complexities, differences in political and business culture and gaps in technical standards create challenges for such cooperation.
Martina Merz, CEO of German engineering giant ThyssenKrupp, spoke at the roundtable and used the company’s collaboration with Metallurgical Corporation of China in Saudi Arabia’s Yamama cement project as an example of a successful third-country cooperation. She complimented the Chinese company’s experienced workforce, cost control abilities, efficiency and financing capabilities.