Although the international community acknowledges the Belt and Road Initiative has been yielding tangible results, some say there is widespread corruption in Belt and Road projects, claiming Chinese-funded enterprises are the main exporters of corruption.
Such remarks, since they are not based on facts, reveal the ill intentions of the gainsayers.
President Xi Jinping, speaking at the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2017, emphasized that international cooperation to fight corruption must be strengthened to make the Belt and Road a road to clean governance. His statement was a solemn promise on behalf of the Chinese government to the world that China remains committed to combating corruption in Belt and Road projects. Also, much progress has been made in deepening overall cooperation to fight corruption since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013.
Consensus reached on fighting corruption
A consensus on fighting corruption has been forged among Belt and Road countries and promoted in the development of the initiative. In-depth discussions were held on how to strengthen cooperation to fight corruption at a seminar to promote international cooperation against corruption, co-organized by the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the World Bank in September 2017.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with China Law Society, held the Forum on the Belt and Road Legal Cooperation in July 2018, where the co-chairs' statement sought to establish clean governance in Belt and Road projects. China and some other countries, international organizations, academia and business communities launched the Beijing Initiative for the Clean Silk Road in April, calling upon all parties to jointly build a clean Belt and Road. Which shows fighting corruption and promoting clean governance have now become the consensus among Belt and Road countries.
The legal basis for global cooperation to combat corruption has been consolidated. China has signed 55 extradition treaties and 64 judicial assistance agreements with 77 countries, including the Belt and Road countries, to strengthen international cooperation to fight corruption, repatriate fugitives and recover misappropriated assets. Also, cooperation to combat corruption has been incorporated in many Belt and Road cooperation documents that China has signed with multiple countries and international organizations.
China, Laos set example for clean governance
Besides, new channels to enhance international cooperation against corruption are being explored. The anti-corruption organizations of China and Laos have decided to jointly supervise the construction of China-Laos Railway and establish a mechanism to uphold integrity, which can be seen as a model for clean governance.
Facts show that instead of exporting corruption, as a couple of US think tanks claim, China has constantly promoted clean governance and integrity. As such, the accusation that Chinese-invested enterprises are exporting corruption in Belt and Road projects is baseless.
No doubt, Chinese-invested enterprises are the major driving force behind the Belt and Road Initiative. They have undertaken a number of important cooperative programs, among which centrally administrated State-owned enterprises alone are involved in more than 3,100 programs. However, given that the Belt and Road projects are mainly infrastructure-related and involve massive funds, the risks of Chinese enterprises' getting mired in corruption are real, which could make it difficult to build a clean and honest administration.
Real efforts to reduce risks of corruption
To resolve this problem, the government has been taking measures to ensure the administration of Chinese enterprises engaged in overseas projects remains clean.
First, China has remarkably improved its business environment and made efforts to build a new type of relationship between governments and businesses. In fact, China has moved up in the global ranking, from 78th last year to 46th this year, in terms of business environment according to a recent World Bank report.
Second, legal construction has been strengthened with the introduction of a series of laws and regulations by the central government and relevant ministries to regulate domestic enterprises' dealings with their overseas counterparts and to develop programs that comply with rules.
Third, China has been promoting training programs to ensure enterprises comply with rules. The CCDI implemented the compliance training programs for Chinese enterprises in Belt and Road countries with the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission and the World Bank in January last year. And it will launch the first research program on legal cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative to hold compliance training programs with the World Bank, and conduct workshops on how to fight corruption in Belt and Road countries.
Chinese firms realize importance of honesty
And fourth, the penalties for enterprises giving or receiving bribes in Belt and Road projects have been increased. At the same time, Chinese enterprises are becoming increasingly aware about the importance of self-discipline and are trying to build a compliance management system to foster the culture of honesty and integrity.
Chinese-invested enterprises, as active practitioners of transparency, have complied with local laws and rules and brought tangible gains to various parties, which not only shows the strong attraction and influence of the Belt and Road Initiative but also highlights China's improved image in the international community.
However, a few Chinese-invested enterprises and their staff have trespassed the red line and engaged in corrupt practices, taking the path to self-destruction. While the actions of such enterprises and their staff are condemnable, there is no justification in painting all the Chinese enterprises involved in the Belt and Road projects with the same brush.
As such, the think tanks and scholars in other countries that over-generalize the issue and accuse the Belt and Road Initiative of spreading corruption do so out of ill will.
The fact is, the initiative is a road to clean governance.
The author is secretary-general of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Research Center, and a research fellow at China Institute of International Studies. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.