BEIJING (April 28): The Belt and road initiative (BRI) is not a "domination plan" by China, which has emerged as one of the world’s superpowers, to gain control of participating countries, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The prime minister said this as he acknowledged that he has a better understanding on the BRI now after he has attended the two-day Belt & Road Forum here, adding that Malaysia is now supportive of the initiative.
Dr Mahathir, the Malaysisan leader who has met the most Chinese leaders over the past three decades, was frank when he disclosed that his previous perception of the BRI was that it would just be another plan initiated by a superpower to control others economically, and that it was just a way to dominate the world under the name of free trade, for example.
“At the beginning, we thought that the BRI was for China to dominate in Asean and Asia because the BRI is the passageway for trade through the Straits of Malacca and South China Sea, and we had believed China wanted to gain control (of the sea and land route),” Dr Mahathir told Malaysian media today during a press conference to wrap up his five-day working visit to China’s capital city.
“This BRI is about cooperation among the participating countries, especially the developing nations, which have yet to have the proper infrastructure developments,” said the prime minister.
Dr Mahathir said he realised that all participants are treated equally at the roundtable dialogue held during the forum -- the second such forum held by China on the BRI. “Suggestions from small countries with a population of 300,000 were being considered and they are treated as the same level as the developed nations,” said Dr Mahathir.
“This initiative is not being dominated by China. The suggestions are not only from China, but also views from other countries. This will be a creation by all involved nations.
“With this, I have more understanding [on BRI] and this makes it easier for us to support [it],” he explained.
He expects that the BRI will enhance cross-border trades that will benefit participating countries.
According to Dr Mahathir, it is not only Asean countries but countries from elsewhere, including Latin America, Africa and Europe, who participated in the Forum. “It is an international gathering to discuss the plans for countries involved,” he said.