Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times
With its push for 5.5G networks, Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies has once again shown how it stays at the forefront of the global telecommunications industry. At the 14th Global Mobile Broadband Forum in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Huawei announced on Wednesday the launch of the industry’s first 5.5G products and solutions, which would offer a tenfold increase in speed over existing networks.
Yet, this may pose another difficult test for Europe, subject to considerable US influence, as to whether to embrace the advanced technology or be left behind amid political calls for reducing so-called dependence on China.
This is not the first time Europe has faced such a test. As European politicians play up “de-risking” from China, some projects and industries that used to be considered as symbols of China-Europe cooperation are facing increasing regulatory scrutiny and blocking, especially when it comes to infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Some Western media outlets have taken advantage of the opportunity to smear the BRI.
The latest example of this was a Wednesday VOA report, entitled “Ten Years Old, China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Is Losing Allure in Europe,” which claimed that while China’s BRI investment has helped with the construction of new roads, railways and port facilities in Europe, there is concern about debt payments in some European countries and also “a growing trend of blocking Beijing’s acquisition of key strategic assets amid a Western push to reduce dependence on China.”
There have always been some forces attempting to disrupt or derail the development of the BRI in European countries with ideological values and reasons. However, neither Europe’s political bias nor dismissive stories in the Western media can blur the real economic benefits BRI projects have brought to Europe.
Despite the impact of the stigmatization of the BRI by the US and its spread of the “China threat” theory, there is one thing European politicians cannot deny – under the BRI framework, Chinese investment in European countries, particularly in southern and eastern Europe, has generated “win-win” results.
Politics aside, there is no reason for Europe to deny Chinese involvement in its infrastructure projects, especially when the region has a great demand for infrastructure construction. China’s infrastructure projects are known for their good quality, advanced technology and low costs. Moreover, in the construction of infrastructure projects in Europe, Chinese companies participated in bidding and played fairly.
China’s BRI has driven huge infrastructure investment into Europe, with new railways providing better connectivity and upgraded ports bolstering trade. Take the China-Europe Railway Express as an example. The flagship project under the BRI has deepened connectivity and boosted common development in Eurasia over the past decade. As of July 2023, more than 75,000 China-Europe freight trains had operated, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The Greek port of Piraeus is another example. China’s infrastructure investment has changed the port into one of the most important transshipment hubs in the Mediterranean. The port of Piraeus is now the 24th largest container port globally, the fourth-largest in Europe and the largest in the eastern Mediterranean. The port’s development has been a great boost to the Greek economy.
The fact that even projects that have significantly boosted regional economic cooperation were met with skepticism and criticism in the beginning by European politicians is a vivid example of how politicized European attitudes toward the BRI have been. In such a political climate, Europe’s fears over China’s involvement in infrastructure projects are being exaggerated and policymakers don’t see infrastructure cooperation in terms of economic and trade interests at all.
Experience has shown that the BRI brings development opportunities in Europe. If Europe only focuses on geopolitics and continues to link BRI projects to political issues by distorting the purpose of the projects, the region will miss out on common development dividends.
(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)