Beijing: Growing world criticism of China's controversial debt-trap program, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), appears to be stinging the communist leadership. For the first time, the government is on the defensive and is offering an explanation that "it is a road of sunshine for everyone to move forward hand in hand, not a private path of one party".

Co-construction reflects the open and inclusive mind, the wisdom to move forward hand in hand, and the responsibility to seek common development, an obviously dictated report appeared in the People's Daily, dated September 8, 2022, titled "A 'symphony' (Harmony) in which all parties participate". It has a decker headline, too: "Decoding the strong vitality of the 'Belt and Road Initiative'".

The report gives several examples of Chinese "generosity" and helping hand to developing countries: "In Indonesia, in order to build the 142-kilometer-long Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, more than 10,000 local workers and a large number of local engineers and technicians participated in opening tunnels and laying steel rails; in the United Arab Emirates, Chinese companies and local companies formed joint ventures In the process of construction of the largest suspension bridge in Africa, the Maputo Sea-Crossing Bridge in Mozambique, the construction of the "main artery" of the country's east-west transportation--the UAE Railway's Phase II project; Companies from Portugal, South Africa, Zimbabwe and other countries have participated in the project design and construction... Over the past nine years, the "Belt and Road" has always been a "symphony" of all parties involved."

Defending BRI, the paper says the joint construction of the "Belt and Road" conforms to the historical trend of economic globalization, and has been open and inclusive since the initiative was proposed. China has always advocated the "use of innovative cooperation models" to promote the construction of the "Belt and Road".

It seeks to suggest that one of the most distinctive features is "co-construction", that is, all interested countries can join in, participate, cooperate and benefit together. "It is not only an equal participant and builder, but also a common bearer of responsibilities and risks. It is precisely because of this openness and inclusiveness that the joint construction of the "Belt and Road" is increasingly seen as a new engine leading economic globalization."

The paper brings in a quote of President Xi Jinping at this point to buttress its argument.

In May 2017, President Xi Jinping reportedly pointed out at the opening ceremony of the "Belt and Road" International Cooperation Summit: "The construction of the 'Belt and Road' is rooted in the historical soil of the Silk Road, focusing on Asia, Europe and Africa, and is open to all friends at the same time. Whether they come from Asia, Europe, Africa or the Americas, they are all partners of international cooperation in the construction of the Belt and Road. It proves that the "Belt and Road" is a sunshine road for everyone to move forward hand in hand, not a private path of one party."

The Chinese government comes up with a remarkable phrase, 'co-construction', to suggest that the BRI contract is not one-sided, that is, not forced by China, but a mutual agreement between China and the member country to join hands to take up developmental works. They seem to suggest it is all innocent.

"Co-construction reflects an open and inclusive mind. The joint construction of the "Belt and Road" aims to build a community of shared destiny and a community of interests. China's promotion of the "Belt and Road" construction will not repeat the old routine of geopolitical games, but will create a new model of win-win cooperation; instead of forming small groups that destabilize, it will build a big family of harmonious coexistence. At a time when some countries are practising unilateralism and protectionism and trying to create a "small circle" that separates economic ties, the openness and inclusiveness embodied in the joint construction of the "Belt and Road" is invaluable."

The paper introduces quotes from non-Chinese as if to suggest the BRI program has the support from all quarters. Gettu, former UN Under-Secretary-General, is quoted as saying: "China does not limit the scope of countries, does not engage in closed mechanisms, does not sing one-man shows, and does not engage in single-mindedness. This is the reason for the continuous expansion of the 'Belt and Road' circle of friends."

The paper sees BRI as the answer to the "urgent need for global cooperation and global response". To jointly build the "Belt and Road" and break the global development deficit requires all parties to work together to draw a meticulous and delicate "fine strokes", it says.

Significantly, it plays down western criticism that the BRI is in reality the projection of China's expanding military, political and economic power for world dominance. The paper says: "China's establishment of the Silk Road Fund and advocacy of the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is also to encourage more countries and entities to participate in the joint construction of the "Belt and Road", and to respond to global development challenges with the wisdom of 'joint construction'."