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Italian PM Conte Outflanks EU in Parliament Speech on China Policy

In the foreign policy debate in the Chamber of Deputies Tuesday morning, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte judoed all critics of the upcoming agreement between Italy and China on the Belt and Road by describing the upcoming MOU as so pro-European that it complies with EU guidelines and principles and values as “nobody has so far done in Europe.”

Conte said that the EU “will be strengthened by the Italian approach.” The MOU is not a treaty but a “programmatic agreement outlining targets in the framework of the BRI, which is a large project of international connectivity that Italy has expressed interest for, already back in 2016.” Italy’s interest “is legitimate” and responds to its “national interests.” Italy wants to increase its export in a “market of giant dimensions,” increase investments in infrastructures and “enjoy the natural economic advantages of the New Silk Road.”

The negotiations for the MOU have lasted many months and the text is “fully in line with the EU strategy.” Furthermore: “Nobody in the EU has done as much as we have” to advance EU policy vis-à-vis China. The MOU promotes European principles of mutual advantages, reciprocity, intellectual property, level playing field, etc. “Our approach to the BRI is the most far-sighted and effective ever adopted in the EU.”

In his reply, after a debate in which the opposition distinguished itself in hysteria, infantilism and incompetence, Conte reiterated the “finalities” of the MOU with China:  “First, balance trade relations. Our exports to China are far behind exports of our partners in the EU. Second, the BRI is a big project of infrastructure connectivity which offers opportunities to our companies. We have leading companies in know-how and technology which will be able to participate. Third, the BRI is of such a significance as to redefine major trade routes and we don’t want to miss any chance to be part of them. Fourth, protecting our strategic infrastructure is a primary, non-negotiable objective.”


Feasibility Study for Panama High-Speed Railway Released

President Juan Carlos Varela presided over a ceremony Friday for the release of China Railway Design Corporation’s feasibility study on the Panama City-David high-speed railway line agreed upon as part of Panama’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. The study found that building the proposed 391.3 km railway from the capital to David, a city near the Costa Rican border, is economically and, as the President emphasized, socially viable—and that it is feasible to extend it into Central America.

hsr-panama

The railroad will provide “unprecedented integration of the country, and will empower the country’s logistical platform,” Varela said at the ceremony. The study took into consideration its future extension into Costa Rica, which would “facilitate trade of products between our [Central American] countries, which face great challenges in the area of logistics,” he stressed.

“Such a railway has been the dream of Panamanian leaders for 100 years, and therefore I hope that future leaders will take it up and make it a reality, always thinking of Panama first,” Varela added.

Panama will elect a new President on May 5, and Varela had previously announced that it will be up to his successor to undertake the project. By ensuring the feasibility study was released with proper promotion now, Varela is placing Panama’s participation in the Belt and Road, with the great potential it represents for transforming the country’s poorer regions, at the center of that campaign. (He cannot run again because of term limits.)

The CRDC, assisted by Panamanian government agencies, universities and private consulting companies, estimates that it will take six years to complete the railway, at a cost of $4.1 billion, involving 6,000 employees, direct and indirect, to build it, and 2,900 to operate and maintain it once built.


Helga Zepp-LaRouche and Jacques Cheminade Interviewed on China’s CCTV-13

Interviews with Helga Zepp-LaRouche and Jacques Cheminade appeared on a newscast by CCTV-13 reporting on U.S. reactions to the just-concluded National People’s Congress. CCTV journalist Wang Guang reported on the reaction of U.S. think tanks to the ideas presented during the Two Sessions with regard to U.S.-China trade and the Belt and Road Initiative.

The broadcast then shifted to an interview done with Helga at the Morristown Schiller Institute conference. Zepp-LaRouche said:

“I personally think it is the most important strategic initiative, because it is a concept with which you can overcome geopolitics. Geopolitics has been the cause of two wars in the 20th Century, and the idea that you can not have blocs of countries or nations against nations, but that you have what Xi Jinping always calls the ‘community of the shared future of humanity,’ that you put the one humanity first, is a strategic concept which allows you to overcome the divisions which existed in previous centuries.”

This was followed by Cheminade, who said,

“The Chinese way is to a world integration through common development, what President Xi Jinping calls a ‘win-win’ system. So that is a future. The Chinese want a world development. They don’t want to impose their model, but they don’t want the other models to impose upon them.”

Helga’s clip was also aired on CCTV Plus, an English-language CCTV site, on a program entitled “Foreign Experts Applaud Development Concepts.”


Webcast—Neocons Move to Box Trump In, While Italy Points Toward the New Paradigm

The ongoing battle between two paradigms was center stage in Italy this week, as the conference cosponsored by Movisol and the Lombard Region, demonstrated the potential for the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) to break the power of the London-run geopoliticians in Europe. Helga Zepp LaRouche’s report on the conference, at which she spoke, and was joined by Michele Geracci, an Undersecretary of the Italian Finance Ministry and head of the government’s China Task Force, highlighted the significance of the upcoming trip of Xi Jinping to Italy, and the signing on an MOU for Italy to join the BRI. If Italy and fifteen other EU member nations can participate, for mutual benefit, with the BRI, what of France and Germany? Why are the EU bureaucrats and the London neo-liberals so distressed by this development?

Contrast this potential to the hysteria coming from EU bureaucrats, from NATO officials such as Gen. Scaparroti, and from U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, which is part of a neocon contingent trying to rein Trump in. Helga presents a clear picture of how the neocons are moving, aiming at sabotaging the trade talks with China, denuclearization of North Korea, and pushing for regime change in Venezuela, to force Trump to move away from his campaign promises.

She appealed to viewers to use the mobilization to exonerate Lyndon LaRouche as a means of bringing down the war party, which is continuing its efforts to destroy the potential of the Trump presidency.


[VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT] Movisol Conference on BRI in Milan

The conference “Italy on the New Silk Road” organized by Movisol (LaRouche’s movement in Italy) and the Lombardy Region (state legislature) in Milan Wednesday, was a success, with Undersecretary Michele Geraci (of the Task Force China in the Italian government) opening it and emphasizing the importance of the MOU which Italy will sign with President Xi Jinping on March 22 in Rome, of the benefits for Italy of this cooperation with China, including for the development of the Italian Mezzogiorno.

Undersecretary of the Task Force China in the Italian government, Michele Geraci and EIR's Claudio Celani.

Undersecretary of the Task Force China in the Italian government, Michele Geraci and EIR’s Claudio Celani.

Geraci was followed by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, who explained the more profound meaning of this important development for the rest of the world, the realization of the New Paradigm for which Lyndon LaRouche and the Schiller Institute have been working for the last 30 years. See a full text of Helga’s remarks below.

There was a short message from Sen. Tony Iwobi, the first Nigerian parliamentarian elected for the Lega, about the historical significance on the Transaqua project, which was then described in detail by Engineer Bocchetto of Bonifica, which is working on the feasibility study with China.

Geraci, Celani, Zepp-LaRouche and Movisol leader, Liliana Gorini.

Geraci, Celani, Zepp-LaRouche and Movisol leader, Liliana Gorini.

Liliana Gorini, chairwoman of Movisol, concluded the conference by thanking the Lombardy Region, which had helped to organize it, and dedicating it to Lyndon LaRouche, who is known in Italy not only as the “visionary” of the New Silk Road, as former Economics Minister Giulio Tremonti defined him Tuesday in Corriere della Sera, but also as the main promoter of Glass-Steagall and LaRouche’s Four Laws, and reminding people how many parliamentarians who had heard him speak at the Italian Finance Committee at the Parliament in Rome in 1998, admitted years later that he was completely right.


TRANSCRIPT OF HELGA ZEPP-LAROUCHE’S REMARKS

ZEPP-LAROUCHE: It is in one sense quite amusing to see what high waves the possibility of Italy signing the MOU with China is causing right now.  Because, when Xi Jinping announced the New Silk Road in 2013 and then proceeded to make treaties in the meantime, I think it’s with 112 countries, an enormous growth developed, six major industrial corridors, the Belt and Road Initiative became very quickly the largest infrastructure project in history, ever.  And the strange thing was that for about four years, in the mainstream media in the United States and Europe, there was practically no reporting about this.

And then, all of a sudden, in an obviously coordinated way, the major think tanks of Europe and the United States started a series of attacks, studies, that China is causing countries to fall into a debt trap, that it’s just an effort to replace the United States as the dominant force in the world, to become Chinese imperialists, that the Belt and Road projects are not viable, that China is an authoritarian system and Xi Jinping is a dictator.  So all of a sudden, you had a barrage of attacks on this concept.

The funny thing is, if you would ask and listen to the leaders of the countries cooperating with the Belt and Road, like the Africans, the Asian countries, the Latin American countries, they would be full of praise and say that with the Chinese cooperation, they have for the first time, the opportunity to overcome the underdevelopment and poverty they had suffered as a result of Western colonialism, and 70 years of IMF conditionalities, which prevented them from having exactly that kind of development.  And they were full of praise, calling China a friend — so you get a completely opposite view.

I have come to the conclusion that everything in the Western mainstream media are saying about China is fake news, and just a lie.  And it comes from the fact that many people in the West simply have lost the ability to imagine that any country, let alone China, could promote something which is, indeed, for the common good of all of humanity. When Xi Jinping talks about the “shared community of the common future of mankind,” or the “community of destiny,” he means it!  And isn’t it obvious that in the time of thermonuclear weapons, in international space travel, of conquering all the problems of the world, that we have to think about the one humanity first, before we talk about national interests? As a matter of fact, the concept of a win-win cooperation for the Belt and Road Initiative, it has all the economic aspects which are beneficial to all the countries that have participated.

But it is much more than that:  Because from the standpoint of the evolution of mankind, if you take a step back, and don’t take a look at the conflict between Marseille and Trieste, which I understand is obviously very important for the Italians, but if you look at the larger point of view, isn’t it natural that infrastructure development would eventually open up all continents and connect them?

So now, all of a sudden, you have this eruption of anti-China propaganda, but it comes from the fact that we are now at a  point where something is happening, which has already happened 16 times in history, namely, that the up-to-now dominant power is being surpassed by the up-to-now second largest power. And in history this has led 12 times to war, between those two competing power, and 4 times it was just that the second power surpassed the dominant power without war.  China has emphasized many times, they don’t want, obviously, to follow the 12 examples where this conflict would lead to war, but they also don’t want to simply replace the United States in the role of the leader of an unipolar world, but that they want to build a completely new system of international relations based on sovereignty, on respect for the different social system, on non-interference, and actually proposing a completely new system of international relations.

So, the big question strategically is you have the conflict between the United States and Russia, which is obvious, because of the cancellation of the ABM Treaty, then the Russian reaction to that, and now the cancellation of the INF Treaty — so there are many who think that we are actually close, in worse strategic crisis than during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, because of the relations between the United States and Russia. But if you talk to some strategic insiders on both sides of the Atlantic, they easily admit that the much more dangerous conflict is actually the one between the United States and China:  Will the United States accept the rise of Asia, and the Belt and Road Initiative is just the obvious expression of that?  Or, is what was said by the RAND Corporation a couple of months ago, that it’s better to have the war with China now, than in 10 years, because the casualties will be less?

Well, obviously, this is something we have to change, and I think that the best way to change it is, indeed, to bring in this reality of a new paradigm of thinking altogether:  We have to leave geopolitics.  We have to leave the idea that there can be a legitimate interest of one country, or a group of country, against another bloc of countries, because this was what led twice to world war in the 20th century.  As a matter of fact, I think the potential to overcome this conflict is absolutely there.  I know in Europe, many people are fainting when you mention the name of President Donald Trump, but President Trump is not seeking confrontation with Russia — as a matter of fact, he wants to have an improved relation with Russia, which he proved in the summit with Putin in Helsinki.  And despite the present trade tension, President Trump always talks about President Xi Jinping as his very good friend, and China being a great country and that he wants to actually have a good relationship between the United States and China.

So the attacks on Italy, coming from the White House — the [i]Financial Times[/i] mentioned this Garrett Marquis — is not representing the same view as Trump.  It comes from a faction of the neo-con which are unfortunately also in the Trump Administration, but the factional situation in the United States is very divided.  You have the Democrats and the neo-cons trying to get Trump out of office with Russiagate, but on the other side, I think President Trump has proven a tremendous sustainability against the efforts to drive him out of office, and his supporters are absolutely backing him, and the chances that there will be a second Trump Administration are actually very, very high.

Now one of the accusations against China and the Belt and Road Initiative is that it would divide Europe.  I think everybody knows Europe is divided already, without China:  You have the North-South conflict because of the EU austerity policy, which impoverished, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, gave no development to the East European countries, so they are now happy to cooperate with the Belt and Road initiative, because the EU did not provide these things.  Now, the second area of division is obviously the migrant issue, where you have the division between East and West — the East European countries do not want to have any part of the proposed quota system of the EU.

Now, what Italy is actually doing in this context is really a role model, because the kind of cooperation between Italian firms and Chinese firms in the development of Africa is actually the only human way to address the refugee question.

So you have right now 13 countries which have already signed the MOU with China; you have, now with Italy, the first G7 country (which is really overrated, because the G7 is no longer that important as compared to the G20, for example).  And you have many ports — Mr. Geraci said, if actually all the ports of Europe which are already wanting to be a hub between not only the New Silk Road over the land route, but also hubs to the Maritime Silk Road, Portugal and Spain becoming the hub for all the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries around the world.  So there is a completely changed attitude developing very quickly.

Now, also even in Germany and France, the two countries which are now trying to put the brakes on the most, apart from the EU Commission, there are many cities which are absolutely recognizing their self-interest to cooperate with the Belt and Road Initiative.  You have three states in Germany — Schleswig-Holstein, Bavaria, and Brandenburg — which all the time have huge delegations back and forth; you have many cities whose mayors are complete fans of cooperation with China, and it is an increasing dynamic, which is growing more rapidly than you would think.

So, if you would ask my prognosis, I think the perspective of unifying Europe, not necessarily under the EU bureaucracy, but in the conception of de Gaulle, more like a “Europe of the Fatherlands” uniting with China, with Russia, with the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasian Economic Union [EAEU], and European countries, to cooperate fully in this new paradigm is absolutely there.

Well, I think that that is also the only way how Europe can impact the strategic situation:  Because if you had a united Europe of the Fatherlands cooperating with the Belt and Road Initiative, including Germany and France, that would be the best way to get the United States to also give up their opposition — which I said, is not Trump himself, but these other forces — and get the United States to join the new paradigm.  And I think this is the [i]only[/i] hope we have to avoid a catastrophe where we would end in World War III with nuclear weapons, meaning the extinction of civilization. So in that sense, what Italy is doing right now, is of the greatest historical importance, because Italy, with what you are doing, with the MOU but also with the joint ventures with China in Africa, can become the role model for all the other European countries.

But the New Silk Road is not just an economic concept. Obviously, infrastructure, investment, all of this is extremely important, as the backbone, but it has a much more, and not so well-known cultural/moral dimension, which I think is best expressed in the fact that the Chinese thinking is actually based on the Confucian theory, namely, that you absolutely must have harmony among all the nations, developing all in a harmonious way.  And when some think tanks say that there is now a competition of systems between the Western liberal model and the state-guided model of the Chinese state economy, well, what they really mean is, China has developed its whole policy based on a Confucian orientation, which means that the state is also in charge of the moral improvement of its population through the aesthetical education.  As a matter of fact, Xi Jinping has said repeatedly, that he puts the highest emphasis on the aesthetical education, because the result of this is the “beauty of the mind” and the “beauty of the soul.”

So the problem is, the reason why some people in the West regard that as a competition, is because Western neo-liberal and liberal philosophy has moved away from that conception:  We are no longer humanists.  We are no longer thinking as during the Italian Renaissance or the German Classical period, but we have replaced that with a liberal thinking of “everything is allowed,” every degenerate form of culture is allowed, everything goes — I don’t want to elaborate that, but if you look at the violence, the pornography in the entertainment, we don’t have to worry.  We will lose that competition of the systems, simply because we are not taking care of our future generations, but allowing them to completely morally decay.

And that is why I think that we have to understand that the only way how Europe can persist in the coming future is not through military power — what Mr. Macron is proposing is ridiculous — but we will preserve our European culture [i]only[/i] if we return to the greatest tradition of our own history, meaning reviving the spirit and the ideas and principles of the Italian Renaissance, of the Ecole Polytechnique of France, of the German Classical music, literature, and poetry.  Only if we rise again to our best traditions can we persist in the coming world.

So I think that the cultural dimension of the New Silk Road is as important, if not more important, than the question of economics.

I would be happy to take any questions.  Thank you.


Second Belt and Road Forum To Be Held in Beijing in Late April

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave a press conference on March 9, in which he presented China’s plans for the upcoming second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, or BRF. He said that it was China’s most important diplomatic activity of the year, and that President Xi Jinping will deliver the keynote address.

According to Xinhua, Wang said the event,

“will have more foreign heads of state and government than the previous forum [two years ago] and thousands of delegates from over a hundred countries are expected to attend. It will include a series of events, such as leaders’ round table, high-level meeting, thematic forum, CEO conference, under the theme of Belt and Road cooperation shaping a brighter shared future.”

Wang also stated that,

“China will build consensus with parties on high-quality cooperation following the principle of consultation, cooperation and shared benefits; champion an open, transparent and inclusive approach to Belt and Road cooperation, and strive for green and sustainable development. Meanwhile, China and the participating countries will seek a greater complementarity between the BRI and their development strategies.”

He concluded: “We have reasons to hope and believe the second BRF will be a greater success,” than the first one.


Italy’s Conte to Sign MOU on Belt and Road During Xi Jinping’s Visit

The Italian government has just announced it’s intention to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to join the Belt and Road Initiative with China when President Xi Jinping visits Italy on March 22-23.  Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, speaking at an event in Genoa March 8th declared,

“The Silk Road, is a major project of infrastructural connectivity which offers a large availability by  China to promote a trade exchange and not only that. I believe that, with all necessary caution, this can be an opportunity, a chance for our country. It is an opportunity for our country system and for Europe in general.”

Conte also said he promised to attend to the second Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation in Beijing at the end of April. As for their U.S. ally,

“we have explained that this is for us a choice of economic and trade relationships. The fact that we are comfortably in the Atlantic Alliance and in the European system does not prevent us from making economic and trade choices that allow us to have more opportunities.”

This wonderful news of international cooperation in major infrastructure projects, as well as joint projects in Africa, was greeted with absolute horror by the Financial Times, the voice of the City of London, and by Garrett Marquis, a member of the US National Security Council under John Bolton. The FT rants that China is building a “Trojan Horse” in Eastern and Central Europe to divide and undermine the EU, ordering Italy to cease and desist. The FT quotes Marquis that he and his neocon associates believe the BRI to be “made in China, for China,” and that it will not bring any “sustained economic benefit to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the attack on Italy’s plan to join the Belt and Road by Garrett Marquis, a long-time ally of National Security Adviser John Bolton (who brought him onto the National Security Council). An unsigned editorial in Global Times, titled: “White House’s Criticism of Italy’s Plan To Join BRI Ridiculous,” reports that Lu Kang, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a routine press conference today, said: “Italy, as a major country and economy in the world, is clear about its interests. It could make its own policies and decisions.” Global Times added:

“The BRI is an important international public good that China contributes to global cooperation for common development. China and more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements, which witnessed more than $6 trillion in cumulative trade between China and participating countries, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the 55th Munich Security Conference in February, the Xinhua News Agency reported.”

The FT goes on to allege that,

“Italy’s support for China’s BRI initiative would undercut U.S. pressure on China over trade and would undermine Brussels’ efforts to overcome divisions within the EU over the best approach to deal with Chinese investments. Italy is a founding member of the EU.”

In an interview with the Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Italian Undersecretary to the Economic Development Ministry rejects criticism raised by the City of London’s Financial Times and defends Italy’s sovereign choice to join the Belt and Road. “Sincerely, I am a bit surprised. I do not understand what it is, that is controversial,” Geraci said. “I confirm what I said in an interview with this newspaper last Feb. 21st. I said the same thing to the Financial Times: We work every day down to the last detail.

“It will be a framework agreement: Just the indication of some strategic sectors in which joint investments are promoted and orders by Italian firms are accelerated. We work on infrastructure, transport and highways, trade, industry, green economy. It will be up to private companies to choose whether to participate or not. If they do it, they will have guarantees in terms of protection from disputes and questions about rules.”

As for the U.S. position, Geraci stated:

“I wonder where such a big concern comes from. We will protect our know-how thanks to a ‘golden power’ rule we have in Italy, which is among the strictest in Europe. And we just fulfill demands from our companies to create for them more room in the most promising markets, such as China. Anyway, we have supplied the United States, as per normal exchanges we have with our main diplomatic partners, all insurances on the issue.”

On the concern about Italy being the first G7 country to sign a New Silk Road protocol, Geraci replied:

“So what? Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Greece have done it and I do not consider them second-class countries in Europe. Those who think differently do not have a real European view. And the G7 club may be a somewhat outdated concept: It no longer represents the real world economic powers, since it does not include either China or India.”

Italy is not “selling out” its ports, as some have claimed, he countered:

“We do not sell, at most we give concessions to create greenfield  investments, which means starting from zero. You cannot sell out things that were not there in the first place.”


Webcast—Italy joins with China in battle for the New Paradigm, Geopoliticians Flip!

This week’s webcast with Helga Zepp-LaRouche and Harley Schlanger focuses on three developments, first, Italy’s indication that it will join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (a big deal, it’s a G7 country),  the “New Green Deal” proposal being pushed by the so-called Progressives in the United States, and finally, they discuss the campaign for the late Lyndon LaRouche’s exoneration, and its implications on the current witch hunt against President Trump.

 

 


Poles Enter Intense Cooperation with Huawei

As China’s CGTN TV network reports, at the Mobile World Congress 2019, held in Barcelona, Spain last week, Poland’s infrastructure network service provider Hawe Telekom and China’s Huawei announced in-depth cooperation in the development of competence of the Polish company in the field of 5G technology. The announcement is important, as other European countries hesitate to, or even hostile about working with Huawei, because of the allegations that the company spied for the Chinese state.

Hawe and Huawei stated in Barcelona that Poland has a strategic location for the Silk Road of Information as it contains a segment of the shortest route from Frankfurt to China via Russia. Hawe networks will play a vital part in the fiber connection along the Silk Road.

Hawe has more than 6,000 km worth of optical fibers deployed across Poland and has expanded to key switching nodes in Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, and Finland. 


The Belt and Road Comes to a Neighborhood Near You

Here follow brief summaries of some of the discussions known to have taken place around the world just in the last two-three days on how to develop the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to benefit each participant:

Myanmar: State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi chaired the first meeting of her government’s steering committee to coordinate implementation of the agreement signed last September between China and Myanmar for a “China-Myanmar Economic Corridor” stretching 1,700 km between the two countries from Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, to Myanmar’s major economic centers, as part of the BRI. Since that time, the two countries have been discussing what projects should be prioritized along that route. Aung San Suu Kyi cautioned the meeting that the government has “to make sure that the selected projects are in conformity with national plans, policies and domestic procedures,” but, she emphasized, “being a country located at a strategic position for the BRI, Myanmar needs to participate in the initiative.”  The 25-member steering committee, which includes cabinet ministers, heads of regions, and other officials, will attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing this April, according to The Irrawaddy media group.

Malaysia: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed announced that he will lead his nation’s delegation to that April Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng likewise emphasized at the Malaysia-China Business Council’s Chinese New Year luncheon that “the good relations between Malaysia and China will be continued and strengthened,” adding that Malaysia will continue to support the BRI.

New Zealand’s Minister of Economic Development David Parker will attend the April Belt and Road Forum, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced, and Parker plans to take a trade mission with him when he goes. Ardern said conversations were ongoing with China about joint infrastructure projects. This decision brushes aside earlier criticisms of the BRI, which had been voiced by Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

Lebanon’s role in the BRI was discussed when China’s Ambassador to Lebanon Wang Kejian met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Feb. 18, after the formation of his new government after winning a strong vote of confidence. China is willing to work together with Lebanon to consolidate political mutual trust and strengthen policy coordination within the framework of the BRI, Ambassador Wang told the Prime Minister, Xinhua reported. Hariri thanked China for its assistance to Lebanon in the political, economic, military and humanitarian fields, and said he looks forward to “more achievements in our cooperation with China on many levels.”

Iran’s role in the BRI was discussed when Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing today. “The initiative is of special significance to both Iran and China,” Zarif told Wang, Xinhua reported. That discussion came within their broader discussion of the difficult situation Iran faces today. Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported that Wang told Zarif that Beijing values Iran’s role in regional affairs and looks forward to a seeing that role expand further. He counselled that in the middle of a region and world undergoing major changes, Iran and China can maintain strategic strength, with the understanding that both China and Iran are countries with thousands of years of civilization and tradition. Notably, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman will also visit Beijing for high-level meetings within a few days.

Spain’s public TV2 (RTVE) broadcast a 52-minute program on prime- time Sunday night (Feb. 17) on “The Iron Dragon”: the Yiwu-Madrid rail route of the New Silk Road. Notably, French and Swiss public TV networks were involved in producing the program, which told the story of Yiwu-Madrid through the eyes of 60 people who work on the railway in the eight countries through which it crosses, ranging from machinists to cargo inspectors, international trade experts, and businessmen.


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