Schiller Institute Seminar in Sweden Cuts Through Disinformation on the Belt and Road Initiative

“The Significance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative for World Economic Development” was the theme of a seminar hosted in Stockholm on May 30 by the Schiller Institute, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Sweden, and China Eastern Airlines, with the support of the Embassy of China and the China Cultural Center and in cooperation with the China-Sweden Business Council.

From the diplomatic community, the event was addressed by the Chinese Ambassador to Sweden, His Excellency Gui Congyuo, the Ambassador of Pakistan His Excellency Ahmad Hussain Dayo and the Chargé d’Affaires of South Africa in Sweden Duncan Moopelo Sebefelo. It drew scores of highly motivated participants, including many diplomats and representatives of Swedish industries and businesses and government institutions. The diplomatic presence underscored that the New Silk Road or Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is not just about China and Europe, but is international in scope.

HE Gui Congyuo opened the proceedings, speaking about the significance of the BRI for global economic development, emphasizing that it unites nations around a common goal of eradicating poverty and creating prosperous societies all over the world. He was followed by Stephen Brawer of the Schiller Institute in Sweden who gave a presentation on “The Strategic Significance of the BRI: Overcoming Geopolitics,” which included a strong attack on “the modern form of the British Empire.” He contrasted the aim of connectivity and integrated development promoted by China to the traditional doctrine of geopolitics, as associated with Halford Mackinder’s “heartland” theory.

HE Ahmad Hussain Dayo welcomed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which China is building in Pakistan from the Chinese border to the Indian Ocean port of Gwadar, which will bring immediate and long term benefits to his nation but also open up the landlocked neighbor countries in Central Asia and provide a shortcut into China for the Maritime Silk Road. The South African Chargé d´Affairs took the occasion, as a representative of a member country of the BRICS, to present a global perspective, and also brought up the historical colonial past.

Hussein Askary of the Schiller Institute opened up the second panel with a speech on “The Potentially Transformative Impact of the Belt and Road on Sweden, Europe and Third Parties.” He presented the work of the Schiller Institute since the early 1990s in promoting the New Silk Road, as well as the incredible achievements China has made at home and it’s willingness to share that with developing countries, focusing specifically on Africa. He was followed by managers of various companies from China and Sweden, including Tracy Suo, Deputy General Manager of Bank of China Stockholm Branch.

During the discussion period, Ulf Sandmark, a leader of the Swedish Schiller Institute, brought up a successful example of Swedish-Chinese industrial cooperation, namely that of Volvo Cars, which could be extended to the BRI projects in Africa.

This seminar helped to set the record straight on the BRI, presented in the think tank sector and the media as a devious means used by China to become a new hegemon in the world.