Dirco's deputy director-general responsible for Asia and the Middle East, Ambassador Anil Sooklal, speaks at a high-level seminar on Beijing's global development strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, in Pretoria. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo / ANA

Pretoria - An incorrect perception has been created about the durability of Chinese products, services and infrastructure as the competition for markets intensifies, the department of international relations and cooperation's deputy director-general responsible for Asia and the Middle East, Ambassador Anil Sooklal, said on Thursday.

"Do you think China doesn't build quality infrastructure? I'm sure the majority of you here have been to China. At one time when we were children, you had a lot of products made in Hong Kong, and we related that to cheap products. Now, it would be a total mistake to regard infrastructure build by China as being sub-quality," Sooklal said as he addressed a high-level seminar on the Beijing's global development strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, in Pretoria, which coincided with the launch of new books and the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation which kicked off in Beijing on Thursday.

"China itself is an example of quality infrastructure. Those of you that have gone to China and experienced some of the best trains in the world, the highspeed trains are a Chinese indigenous development. Your new technologies, as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is being incubated and coming onto the world stage ... is coming out of China.”

Sooklal said the current perception against Chinese products is linked to a detraction campaign.

“I think it is part of the detraction, to say to us, stick with the traditional partners and stick with their technology and these new, emerging powers and their new technologies are still wanting and need attention. It is about the market that you [China] are targeting. It’s about markets, it’s about commerce and it is about  politics. It’s about influence,” said Sooklal. 

The department of international relations (Dirco) on Thursday partnered with the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria at the seminar which was also addressed by China's top envoy in South Africa, Ambassador Lin Songtian, and other academics.

Lin said critics of Beijing's global development strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, particularly in the United States and other western countries, feel threatened by the success of China President Xi Jinping's idea.

"Certain people in the United States and other Western countries are very fearful that the Belt and Road Initiative will achieve success, they are fearful that China and the world will realise interconnected and common development. So they never ceased to hype up the fallacies of the so-called 'neocolonialism, geopolitical tool, and debt crisis, debt trap and taking over the strategic asset' against China. 

"Their evil attempt is simple, to deter the BRI cooperation," Lin addressed the event.

"It is known to us all that the Belt and Road Initiative is an initiative for international economic cooperation proposed by President Xi Jinping. Its core is to give priority to infrastructure building so as to enhance the connectivity of all countries in various areas, unlock new growth drivers for the world economy and build a new platform for international economic cooperation."

Lin said the remarks from the critics of the Belt and Road Initiative "do not hold water, either theoretically and practically".

The BRI is a Chinese investment initiative which was launched in 2013 and aims to invest in infrastructure and development and also to build new trade routes over the land and sea, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

On Thursday, Lin said that to date, a total of 126 countries and 29 international organisations had signed 174 BRI cooperation documents with China. 

"The initiative and its concepts have been incorporated into the outcome documents of the United Nations and the G20. Now greater synergy has been achieved between BRI and such regional development plans and cooperation initiatives as the master plan on ASEAN Connectivity, the African Union Agenda 2063, the Eurasian Economic Union and the EU strategy on connecting Europe and Asia, which has enabled the bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation to complement and reinforce each other," said Lin.

From Thursday until Saturday, the second BRI Forum for International Cooperation, themed "Belt and Road Cooperation, shaping a shared brighter future", is being hosted in Beijing. 

"This is the highest level of international cooperation platform under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and a landmark and grand international gathering. Nearly 5 000 foreign guests from more than 150 countries and over 90 international organisations are present at the forum," said Lin.

The Chinese Embassy in Pretoria said numerous world leaders, including President Xi Jinping, who will chair the summit, heads of state and governments from 37 countries including Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Portugal, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Mozambique, the United Nations secretary-general and the International Monetary Fund managing director are attending the summit.

African News Agency (ANA)