Inclusiveness, sustainability are hallmarks of Belt and Road
16 Aug 2023


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping. The initiative is based on reviving the ancient Silk Road with new concepts, new mechanisms and new practices.


The BRI aims to realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development through aligning policies among the participating nations, creating hard and digital connectivity, pursuing unimpeded trade, coordinating financial structures and resources, and improving people-to-people bonds through cultural, social, educational, scientific and tourism exchanges.


It is also open and inclusive and welcomes all parties to join, including those that consider themselves China's rivals.


Policy coordination is an important guarantee and an essential precondition for joint actions. The BRI has been incorporated into important documents of international and regional organizations such as the United Nations, the G20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. More and more countries and international organizations have signed cooperation agreements under the framework of the initiative.


By June, the Chinese government had signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with 152 countries and 32 international organizations, making those outside of it a minority and demonstrating the initiative's appeal and popularity.


Connectivity of infrastructure and facilities is high on the Belt and Road agenda. Significant progress has been made in the construction of international economic cooperation corridors and passageways.


For example, the China-Laos Railway, running through the hills of northern Laos with 61 kilometers of bridges and 198 kilometers of tunnels, was completed in December 2021. Over the first four months of this year, the railway transported nearly 6.7 million metric tons of cargo, up 156 percent year-on-year.


The Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, which is about to start operating, will greatly ease congestion along one of the most densely populated travel corridors in the world.


Furthermore, through Sino-Greek cooperation, Piraeus Port has taken a leading position in terms of container throughput and has become the largest ferry port and the third-largest cruise port in Europe.


The BRI has helped liberalize and facilitate trade and investment, lowered the costs of trade and business, and released growth potential, enabling participating countries to engage in broader and deeper economic globalization.


Solid progress has been made in promoting unimpeded trade among the participating countries and regions. In 2022, China's trade in goods with countries included in the Belt and Road reached a record $2.07 trillion, up 15.4 percent year-on-year. The share of trade in goods with Belt and Road countries in China's total foreign trade has increased from about 25 percent in 2014 to 32.8 percent in 2022.


Signifying the importance of physical connectivity for global trade, in 2022 the number of train trips of the China-Europe freight express rail hit a new high of 16,000, a year-on-year increase of 9 percent, and delivered 1.6 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, or TEUs of cargo, up 10 percent year-on-year. This was despite what has probably been one of the most volatile years for Eurasian transportation. When the rail line was launched in 2011, it registered only 17 trips.


China's nonfinancial foreign direct investment in Belt and Road countries maintained a steady speed, while becoming greener and more innovation-oriented. In 2022, China invested $20.97 billion in Belt and Road countries, an increase of 3.3 percent from 2021.


Chinese companies and investors are now engaged in numerous green projects, particularly in green energies, such as solar and wind, across the globe. The share of green projects in China's energy engagement in BRI countries rose from 5.6 percent in 2013 to 26.1 percent in 2022.


Technology-related investment is becoming more prevalent, constituting its highest share of about 16 percent of China's total engagement in 2022. China has also invested in more than 80 overseas economic and technological cooperation zones in Belt and Road countries, generating employment opportunities, facilitating policy mobility and technology transfer, reducing trade barriers and friction, and promoting regional and global economic cooperation.


China has also been committed to helping ease the debt burden of developing countries and has become an important part of the international debt governance system. It has participated in the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, signing agreements or reaching consensus with 19 African countries on debt relief, and has suspended the most debt service payments among G20 members.


China has also been actively engaged in case-by-case debt treatment for Chad, Ethiopia and Zambia under the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatments. Progress is also being made in realizing the promise of channeling $10 billion from China's share of the International Monetary Fund's new allocation of special drawing rights to African countries.


In addition, China has called for multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors, the largest holders of the external debt of many developing countries, to make contributions in line with the principle of common actions and fair burden-sharing, while strengthening interactions with international creditors regarding the rules, norms and methods of debt relief.


Cooperation and exchanges have also been strengthened to promote capacity building and disaster relief as well as social and cultural ties, and to nurture friendly relations among countries. Over the past year, China has set up 1,000 capacity building projects and provided 20,000 training opportunities. It has also carried out 822 international emergency humanitarian aid projects worth 15.2 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) between 2018 and 2022.


Since 2020, China has joined the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and launched the most wide-ranging and intense emergency humanitarian assistance campaign since the founding of the People's Republic of China.


Over the past three years, the nation has provided billions of test kits as well as protective clothing, masks and other anti-pandemic supplies to 151 countries and 13 international organizations, and it has shipped a total of 5,246 tons of materials. It has also delivered 520 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 110 countries and four international organizations.


Humanity has been profoundly affected by the combined impacts of major changes in the global situation and the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing the turbulence and transformation, China and the Belt and Road countries should uphold high-standard, sustainable and people-centered cooperation.


While complying with universally accepted international norms and standards, they also should respect the national laws and regulatory frameworks of partner countries and encourage harmonization among various norms and standards.


Sustainability in all dimensions, and linking with the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, should be promoted in cooperation. Belt and Road projects should give priority to poverty alleviation, job creation and the broad-based improvement of people's lives in the countries involved. Tripartite cooperation with international financial and implementation partners can also support Belt and Road projects by providing better access to financial resources, risk sharing and knowledge sharing.


Source: China Daily