Transformative achievements mark Belt, Road's first decade
12 Jan 2024


HONG KONG — The Belt and Road Initiative, which marked its 10th year in 2023, has become a key international public good and added new growth drivers to the global economy at a time when the world is facing tremendous changes.


By building railways, highways, power plants and dams, the cooperation platform has helped local people in the Asia-Pacific region lead better lives. By enhancing cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, it has popularized the vision of a global community with a shared future.


Drawing a blueprint for the next decade in a recently released document, China has committed to encouraging all parties to strive toward equal cooperation and mutual benefit, propelling Belt and Road cooperation into a new phase characterized by high-quality development.


Fruitful progress


Data show that from 2013 to October 2023, the total imports and exports between China and BRI-participating economies surpassed $21 trillion, and China's direct investment in BRI partner economies topped $270 billion.


An example of the robust and unimpeded trade shown by BRI, the 1,035-km China-Laos Railway that began operations in December 2021 has generated more benefits since it launched cross-border passenger services in April.


Linking the Lao capital Vientiane with Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province, the railway has quickly become the preferred option for a growing number of international travelers.


"The BRI has played a critical role in building connectivity within ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and between China and ASEAN," said Thong Mengdavid, a research supervisor at the Asian Vision Institute, a Phnom Penh-based independent think tank.


In Bangladesh, the first train of the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project departed from a new station on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka on Oct 10, marking a dream coming true "to cross the Padma river by train," the country's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said.


The entire 172-km project, which will eventually lead to Jashore in the southwestern region of Bangladesh, is scheduled for completion in 2024.


It will serve as a vital channel that connects Dhaka and more than 20 districts in the southern area of Bangladesh and will also be an important part of the trans-Asian railway network to promote regional connectivity and economic development of Bangladesh.


In Cambodia, the China-funded Siem Reap Angkor International Airport in northwest Cambodia's Siem Reap province was officially inaugurated on Nov 16, carrying a hope to link Cambodia to the world, said Prime Minister Hun Manet, and will give a big boost to the tourism sector in Siem Reap with the local residents directly benefiting from it.


Global well-being


"The Belt and Road cooperation has created more jobs and provided more vocational training and educational opportunities for people in partner countries, and thus improved their livelihoods in the process of development," said Anna Malindog-Uy, vice-president of the Manila-based think tank Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute.


For Khairul Ikmal, a villager in Malangnengah, Purwakarta Regency of Indonesia, the Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway under the BRI cooperation changed his life as an assembly line worker in a shoe factory. He was recruited in 2019 and learned to become a welder after five months of training.


The 142-km railway has handled over 1 million passenger trips, brought smoother and more efficient journeys, and provided many other villagers with employment as well as incomes. Ikmal has fulfilled his long-held dream of owning a motorcycle thanks to his new job.


"Since the railway project is complete now, I plan to run a welding studio and use the technology I have learned over the past four years to make products such as guardrails and window guards," he said.


According to statistics provided by Kereta Cepat Indonesia China, a joint venture consortium between Indonesian and Chinese firms that constructs and runs the HSR, 45,000 Indonesian employees were trained on-site during the railway's construction. As the first overseas HSR project that fully uses Chinese railway systems, technology, and industrial components, the project has created about 51,000 jobs in Indonesia.


Landmark projects like these in the region also cover a wide range of areas beyond transport.


In the past decade, BRI cooperation has featured green and high-quality development and has brought socioeconomic benefits to regional economies, improving the lives of local people and infrastructure and offering opportunities for further growth in the green sector, experts said.


Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank, said China has not only helped Pakistan overcome a severe energy crisis, but also assisted in promoting green development.


In northwest Pakistan, the construction of the Suki Kinari hydropower project has been making significant progress. With a total installed capacity of 884 megawatts, it is expected to generate some 3.21 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually, replacing 1.28 million metric tons of coal and cutting 2.52 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.


Source: Xinhua