The Belt and Road Symphony


BY Hou ruili


On March 12, a young German man, Kai Markus Xiong, set out on an ambitious journey to run along the ancient Silk Road across the Eurasian continent from Hamburg to Shanghai. The 12,000-km route is one of the longest amateur adventure runs in history. Markus said that he wants to express his love for Chinese culture through the event and show his support for the Belt and Road Initiative.


On March 27, New Zealand became the first Western developed country to sign a cooperation agreement with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. As State Councilor Yang Jiechi pointed out, the initiative was proposed by China but it’s not a one-man band. Rather, it will be a symphony performed by an orchestra composed of all participating countries and will benefit the whole world.


On March 17, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution urging further efforts to implement the Belt and Road Initiative. Ms. Shamshad Akhtar, under-secretary-general of the UN, said that the Belt and Road Initiative was an important and fundamental project. First, it involves multilateral cooperation with many parties in numerous fields. Second, the proposal promotes sustainable development and a seamless connection between different countries and regions along the routes to realize diversified development. Third, it is conducive to lowering trade barriers and slashing trade costs. Fourth, the initiative is taking environmental and social factors into account.


Since it was proposed, many countries have sought to promote synergy between their respective strategies and the initiative. From March 22 to 26, when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Australia, the two sides agreed to enhance synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Vision for Developing North Australia. So far links have been forged between the Belt and Road Initiative and such national or regional strategies as Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, Mongolia’s “Grassland Road” program, Kazakhstan’s “Bright Road” new economic policy, and Europe’s “Juncker Plan.” Many countries have expressed their interest in becoming a key link along the routes. For example, Poland wants to become a logistics center for the routes; Togo intends to be an anchor point for the initiative in West Africa; while Italy used to be the terminus of the ancient Silk Road and is now at the intersection of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road.


When Italian President Sergio Mattarella paid a state visit to China at the end of February, he said that efforts would be made to align the Belt and Road Initiative with Italy’s national development strategy to deepen China-Italy relations and expand cooperation in numerous fields, including culture and economy. He also pledged that Italy would help make the EU China’s best cooperation partner in the economic and trade sector.


The Belt and Road Initiative can bring benefits to all involved. The volume hinges on the reduction of cross-border transaction costs and import tariffs — a 30 percent decline in tariffs would generate economic gains of 1.8 percent growth in GDP for China, and around 5.3-16.9 percent GDP for other member countries. The initiative will provide opportunities to countries along the routes to create wealth. China has become the No.1 export market of its major trading partners along the routes, with the volume of its imports of certain products increasing 100-fold or even 1,000-fold.


According to an analysis by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), two thirds of countries along the routes will benefit from interconnectivity. The connectivity of infrastructure, such as gas and oil pipelines and power grids, will bring huge advantages to Central, South, and East Asia.


On March 27, President Xi Jinping held talks with President Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar. The Madagascan president said that he hoped to strengthen cooperation in such fields as energy, aviation, transportation, and port and airport construction. At the Transit Mongolia 2017 forum held on April 7, Batchuluun Tsogtgerel, deputy minister of the Mongolian Road and Transport Development Ministry, said that 167 China-Europe freight trains travelled through Mongolia in 2016 and that the figure was expected to reach 400 in 2017, climbing further to 1,000 over the next few years. Ahsan Iqbal, the Pakistani minister for planning, development and reform, pointed out that the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor brought opportunities to revive Pakistan’s economic and social development by solving such problems as the shortage of energy and poor transportation infrastructure.


Cooperation in culture and education is also thriving. On March 21, universities in China and Poland formed the Sino-Polish University Consortium under the Belt and Road Initiative. A total of 23 universities have since joined the group to enhance exchanges and cooperation. Italy recently established a Chinese cultural association, with an aim to promote exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and Italian universities, research institutions and enterprises.