The Second Belt and Road Forum of International Cooperation was held in Beijing in late April. Thousands of representatives from more than 100 countries around the world discussed new strategies for achieving high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and shared cooperation experience.
The BRI represents an authentic attempt by the world’s second largest economy to practise a new kind of diplomacy based on inclusiveness, equal opportunity, and respect for the diversity of cultures and political systems. The EU should take China’s offer seriously – and act soon, said Michael Schaefer, former German ambassador to China, who published an article in the Berlin Political Journal in January 2016.
So far, 126 countries including 26 European countries have signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with China. Meanwhile, the initiative and its core concepts have been incorporated into the documents of important international organizations such as the UN, the G20, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The BRI has become an important way to promote regional peace and development, as well as an important platform for achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
During the past years, countries along the Belt and Road have aligned their respective economic development strategies with the initiative, and jointly formulated regional cooperation plans, which not only resulted in a number of large-scale infrastructure projects, but also promoted bilateral and multilateral trade. Through deepening connectivity by financial cooperation, educational cooperation, and non-governmental exchanges, the Belt and Road has become a way of cultural and thought exchange.
The Chinese government encourages Chinese companies to invest in countries along the routes by reducing tariffs and protecting investment. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, in January and February this year, Chinese companies made new investments in 48 countries along the routes, totaling US $2.3 billion, up seven percent year-on-year. In addition, loans from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund also provide capital. According to Alexander Lomanov, chief researcher of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at Russia Academy of Sciences, the investment activities of enterprises in various countries to implement the Belt and Road are based on business rules, which is beneficial to the win-win cooperation between investors and the countries under investment.
From infrastructure construction to economic and trade exchanges, from financial interflow to people-to-people exchanges, the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration has been widely recognized by the international community.
At the end of 2018, with the closure of the last stone coal mine in Germany’s Ruhr region, Duisburg ushered in the transformation and development brought about by the initiative. The Sino-German trade brought by 40 trains between Duisburg and a dozen Chinese cities has not only provided thousands of jobs, but also extended bilateral exchanges from the economy to more fields. The international forum on the New Silk Road and Sino-European cooperation held by the University of Duisburg-Essen has convened four sessions. There were only about 20 participants in the first forum. Last year over 100 famous Chinese and foreign scholars, and representatives from many European countries came to participate.
Nowadays, countries along the routes are having growing cooperation in the areas of people’s livelihood and culture, bringing tangible benefits to local people.
Lu Ban High-Speed Railway Institute, which was unveiled on April 3, is set up at Banphai Industrial and Community Education College in Ban Phai District, Khon Kaen Province, Thailand, with support from Wuhan Railway Vocational College of Technology. The institute helps to cultivate Thai technicians of high-speed railways, and provides educational programs under which Thai students would study in Thailand for a year and go to China for another year or two years of study. In Sihanoukville Port, Cambodia, Chinese companies not only built industrial parks, but also established vocational colleges. Working in the park after graduation has become the dream of many local students.
Building a green Belt and Road is not only a consensus, but is also put into practice. The second phase of the Belo Monte ultra-high voltage power project in Brazil, which is solely constructed by State Grid Brazil Holding SA, a unit of State Grid Corp of China, is expected to start commercial operations by this June. During the construction, high attention was paid to protection of local aboriginal settlements and the Amazon rainforest area. And some facilities were built in such a way as to reduce the impact on trees.
The BRI will serve as an example that many different civilizations can work together on the premise of mutual respect.