Forging Ahead Steadily While Aiming High


BY Hou ruili


The Belt and Road Initiative has progressed steadily over the four years since Chinese President Xi Jinping first introduced the concept. Under the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, and the notion of equality and openness, a cooperation mechanism embracing different countries and regions and linking different civilizations has taken shape. By promoting policy coordination, facilitating connectivity of infrastructure, encouraging unimpeded trade, enhancing financial integration, and strengthening people-to-people bonds, the Belt and Road Initiative connects countries and other shareholders along the routes. Joint efforts have thus steadily advanced China’s great plan to revitalize the global economy.


China has established dialogue mechanisms at different levels geared to policy coordination with Belt and Road countries. They include the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the International Coordinating Mechanism of the New Eurasian Continental Bridge Project, and the Eurasian Economic Forum, all of which aim to reach broad consensus with countries along the routes and facilitate the implementation of programs under the Belt and Road Initiative.


Given that the infrastructure in many Belt and Road countries remains underdeveloped, construction in this respect takes priority throughout the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. April 21 saw the launch of the Xiamen-Moscow freight train service, the 46th line based on the New Eurasian Land Bridge and Siberian Land Bridge. Those services respectively start from 24 cities in both China and Europe, reaching 11 European countries. China has also established 356 international highway routes for both passengers and goods, and maritime transportation services cover all countries along the Belt and Road. Every week, some 4,200 direct flights connect China with 43 Belt and Road countries, and railway border procedures have been streamlined, promoting transport cooperation between Chinese and European railways.


The China-Pakistan, China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia, China-Indochina Peninsula, and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridors, and the New Eurasian Land Bridge have enabled over 60 developing countries along the routes to connect directly with China and Europe.


Investment and trade cooperation is a focus of the Belt and Road Initiative. In light of the sluggish demands of the international market, by actively expanding two-way investment with countries along the routes China promotes cooperation in industrial capacity and equipment manufacturing. Through setting up economic and trade cooperation zones and cross-border economic cooperation zones, China aims to help countries along the routes propel their industrialization drive and upgrade industries, as well as boosting bilateral trading ties, so generating almost US $1.1 billion in tax revenue and 180,000 local jobs in countries along the routes.


Financial integration guarantees the smooth implementation of the initiative. As many countries and regions along the routes are relatively weak financially, there are massive demands for investment and financing to promote infrastructure construction. The Silk Road Fund, established in 2014, has since focused on over 100 programs in Russia, Central Asia, the BCIM economic corridor, and Southeast Asia. Ten Chinese commercial banks have opened 56 branches in nearly 30 countries and regions along the routes, and their business covers almost all key areas under the Belt and Road Initiative, such as electric power, transportation, gas, oil, mineral resources, telecommunications, machinery, agriculture, and industrial park construction.


People-to-people bonds are at the foundation of the initiative’s implementation. Over the past three years, China has launched extensive cooperation, in such sectors as culture, education, tourism, healthcare, technology development, and among young people, political parties, and everyday people, with countries and regions along the Belt and Road, so laying a solid public opinion foundation for implementation of the initiative.


The U.K. was the first Western country to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), so displaying the U.K.’s confidence in the Belt and Road Initiative. The U.K. is also among the first three countries to establish a high-level people-to-people exchange mechanism with China. The fifth meeting of the China-U.K. High-level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism will convene in the U.K. later this year. China also anticipates more cultural exchange activities with relevant countries in tandem with implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative.


According to Ministry of Education data, 210,000 overseas students came to China to study for bachelor degrees in 2016, a year-on-year increase of 13.62 percent. In the past, most foreign students have come to China to study Chinese language, but today the top four majors here are Western medicine, engineering, economics, and business management.


The achievements of the Belt and Road Initiative will benefit people all over the world. In Pakistan, Chinese enterprises are participating in renovations to Gwadar Port, and have constructed infrastructure such as an employee training center, a modern hospital, and a seawater desalination plant. A local senior citizen called Mohamed has shown his support by donating a piece of land on which to build an elementary school, even though the price of land has risen 15-fold. Meanwhile, since Chinese enterprises took over the Piraeus Port in Greece, they have not only eliminated deficits and achieved surpluses, but also done their utmost to employ local workers. Chinese employers provide local employees with Greek meals and even share their private cars with them. Consequently, whenever Chinese enterprises advertise local job vacancies they can count on receiving a deluge of applications and resumes.