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BRI powering development across the world

Source:China Daily 2023-10-18


Editor's note: The year of 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Ten experts share their views with China Daily on how the initiative promotes economic development and improves people's livelihoods.

Initiative has become a game changer globally

The Belt and Road Initiative has become a game changer on many levels globally. It has provided a model for transboundary economic cooperation. Its emphasis on the common goals of development of nations, transcending political, cultural and ideological differences, is a unique feature of the initiative. And the fact that it respects the sovereignty and dignity of the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative is an important addition to international relations and global governance.

More important, the Belt and Road Initiative has put the "win-win" concept on the world cognitive map at a time when zero-sum games and the-winner-takes-it-all have become the norm for some major Western economies.

China has presented a world view which believes that "your prosperity is my prosperity", and if your neighbor's house is burning, you cannot be sure of the safety of your own house.

In terms of development financing and goals, the initiative presents an effective and coordinated way of achieving them based on long-term results rather than immediate monetary gains. Also, China believes in helping other countries realize development by building and improving large-scale infrastructure instead of providing them with "aid" which runs off into the sand, perpetuating poverty.

In terms of economic-scientific thinking, the emphasis on clearing the "three bottlenecks of development" in Africa — by filling the financing gap, helping build or improve the needed infrastructure, and addressing the shortage of skilled labour — is key to eradicating poverty and ushering in development.

Hussein Askary is vice-chairman of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden.

BRI vital to international cooperation, development

The year of 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, which is aimed at improving infrastructure connectivity and serves as a catalyst for economic development and shared prosperity for all by championing multilateralism and global unity.

The initiative stands as a transformative platform in the realm of international cooperation, representing a decade of concerted efforts to achieve win-win cooperation across various domains. The ambitious project, which facilitates policy exchanges and road connectivity, promotes trade and creates jobs.

President Xi Jinping's unwavering commitment to global development and peace deserves commendation, especially because China has been playing a pivotal role in assisting countries in their pursuit of a shared future through Belt and Road projects.

One exemplary manifestation of the Belt and Road Initiative's impact is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Over the past decade, the CPEC has transformed from a concept to a tangible reality, reshaping Pakistan's development landscape. It has not only deepened economic cooperation but also bolstered cultural ties between China and Pakistan. With its focus on development and its inclusive nature, it has helped improve the energy and transportation sectors of Pakistan and other Belt and Road countries.

Indeed, the CPEC signifies a momentous vision, cementing an unbreakable bond between China and Pakistan in their collective pursuit of a human community with a shared future.

China's sincere pursuit of global development goals are exemplary and offer valuable lessons to the world. The international community should look to China as a model of effective collaboration and sustainable development.

Khalid Taimur Akram is executive director of the Pakistan Research Center for a Community with Shared Future in Islamabad.

Connectivity, synergy and opportunities

As connectivity has become a defining feature of a modern economy, it is evident that connectivity needs impetus, planning and proper implementation. The Belt and Road Initiative helps make those connectivity goals a reality.

Evidence abound on the successful endeavors of countries that were wise enough to see the potential beforehand and pragmatic enough to lay the grounds for a cooperation that would benefit all sides involved.

Central and Eastern Europe have seen several such tangible results, including in the Budapest-Belgrade high-speed railway, the Pelješac Bridge in Croatia, the Port of Piraeus in Greece, and hundreds of kilometers of highways throughout the Balkans built with Chinese funding and expertise.

In addition to the short-term impact of infrastructure investment, there are also medium- and long-term effects in strengthening the basis for future economic growth, including making labor more efficient and productive, which for Southern and Eastern Europe means narrowing the gap with wealthier Western Europe.

The world has become a different place since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, but the initiative has to evolve to enable countries to capitalize on its strengths and identify its untapped potential. With China's rapid growth and chaotic conditions worldwide, it is of vital importance that the world must understand China's role. The initiative offers a proper lens to see China's approach to global development and its efforts to build a human community with a shared future for mankind.

Marsela Musabelliu is the executive director of the Albanian Institute for Globalization Studies.

BRI filling infrastructure and funds gaps

In the 10 years since it was proposed, the Belt and Road Initiative has become an important global public good, generating tangible benefits for countries including increased investment, job creation and improved livelihoods. The initiative has progressed from a vision to reality, yielding tangible results for Belt and Road countries and their peoples.

Infrastructure development is essential for economic development, and there is a huge need of funds in developing countries to narrow the investment gap. But the lack of proper infrastructure has held up the development of many countries. Better connectivity and deeper economic cooperation are needed to facilitate the development of many countries.

Fortunately, the initiative has been filling the funds and infrastructure gaps in many countries, thus boosting regional and global trade. That's why more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations have already signed the Belt and Road cooperation documents with China.

Sri Lanka, too, has launched a series of development projects under the Belt and Road framework, leading to a huge improvement in its infrastructure. The Belt and Road Initiative is also promoting Sri Lanka's economic growth, creating jobs and improving people's livelihoods.

China is a great friend of Sri Lanka and has always supported the country in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China has also provided much-needed emergency humanitarian aid for Sri Lanka in times of crisis.

Besides, China has agreed to strengthen cooperation with local and foreign companies, and contribute more to Sri Lanka's economic recovery. But some countries have been countering China and the Belt and Road Initiative while proposing many alternative initiatives some of which fail to even take off.

Whether some countries like it or not, the Belt and Road Initiative has been driving infrastructure development globally, and improving connectivity and trade.

Maya Majueran is director of the Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka, an independent and pioneering Sri Lanka-based think tank.

Initiative changes the world for the better

It's impossible to overstate just how much the Belt and Road Initiative has changed the world in the decade since it was proposed. In many countries, too many so-called leaders say nice words that people want to hear, but few deliver on the (false) promises they make to lure the people, mostly for votes. Sadly, when the world is facing horrendous problems, such as climate change, global public health, poverty and war, some countries have chosen confrontation over cooperation, ostensibly to perpetuate their hegemony.

President Xi put forward the idea of building a "human community with a shared future" in a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on March 23, 2013. To turn words into action, later the same year, during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, President Xi proposed a very significant global initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative.

Oscar Wilde once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Former US president Donald Trump proposed the now-forgotten "Blue Dot Network", which unsuccessfully tried to counter the Belt and Road Initiative in sectors such as the digital economy, cybersecurity, energy and infrastructure development. Incumbent US President Joe Biden and the G7 have proposed the "Build Back Better World" initiative which one never hears about nowadays, proving that it was only a pathetic attempt to counter China's initiative by trying to ape it. Similarly, the European Union has its "Global Gateway Project" which seems to be a highway to nowhere.

On Jan 17 in 2017, on a state visit to Switzerland, President Xi repeated his call for building a community with a shared future for mankind at the United Nations office in Geneva. Three days later, after his inauguration as US president, Trump said: "From this day forward, it's going to be 'America first'. " Sadly, it still is. With so many existential threats facing humankind, why can't we work together?

Diversified energy market beneficial for all

Qatar is the world's top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter. However, the competition for LNG has intensified since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, because countries, especially major powers, need huge volumes of LNG from other sources to make up for the shortage created in reduced Russian LNG supply. China is one of the powers that is keen to diversify its sources of energy.

For this reason, China is keen to strengthen relations with countries in the Middle East, Qatar in particular. In fact, on June 20 this year, Qatar and China signed a 27-year agreement under which Qatar will supply China with 4 million tons of LNG annually. This follows a similar 27-year agreement that Qatar Energy and China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation signed in November 2022. With this deal, Qatar replaced Australia as China's largest LNG supplier.

Qatar is aware that China, as a reliable long-term importer of energy, is growing as a consistent consumer of Gulf countries' energy. This is mirrored in the trade relations between Qatar and China — China has been Qatar's top trading partner since 2021. China-Qatar trade last year reached about $25 billion, of which Qatari exports to China were worth $20 billion. I believe China, with its huge market, will become the preferred destination for many Middle East countries' energy exports.

Kheir Diabat is a professor in the Foreign Affairs Department of Qatar University.

BRI, RCEP to help Cambodia realize its development goals

Over the past decade, more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations have joined the Belt and Road Initiative, which has achieved remarkable success since its launch in 2013.

The initiative provides a non-discriminatory and inclusive platform for cooperation, and has helped further increase ASEAN-China trade. China is now the largest trade partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with the China-ASEAN trade volume reaching 2.59 trillion yuan ($356.15 billion) in the first five months of 2023.

Cambodia is one of the staunchest supporters of the Belt and Road Initiative, because it has reaped tremendous benefits from Belt and Road infrastructure projects, including the construction of the Siem Reap International Airport and the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, the country's first expressway, which was completed in October last year.

By the end of 2017, more than 2,000 kilometers of roads, seven long bridges and a new container terminal at Phnom Penh Autonomous Port had been built with support from China. At present, Cambodia's second expressway, the 135-km-long expressway to Bavet City, is being built by China Bridge and Road Corp. for a cost of $1.35 billion.

The initiative provides an excellent opportunity for Cambodia and China to raise their relations to a new level, not least because the two countries' economies complement each other, and their political relations are strong and stable.

The Belt and Road Initiative, along with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement, will help Cambodia achieve its development goals.

Kin Phea is director-general of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, Royal Academy of Cambodia.

Initiative strengthens China-Chile ties

There are many "firsts" in China-Chile relations. Chile was the first South American country to establish diplomatic relations and the first to sign a free trade agreement with China, as well as the first to recognize China as a market economy. It was also in Chile, in January 2018, that all the member states of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, CELAC, issued with China a joint statement underlining the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Of the five pillars of the memorandum of understanding signed by Chile and China on the Belt and Road Initiative, Chile has already reaped rich dividends from bilateral trade. With China being the largest trading partner of Chile, the two sides have made important advances in investment, and in July 2021, the Chilean Financial Market Commission approved the opening of a representative office of the Export-Import Bank of China.

Two years earlier, China Construction Bank and Bank of China opened their offices in Chile. Tianqi Lithium has the highest stakes among all Chinese companies in Chile's mining sector. In 2018, Tianqi acquired 24 percent of SQM for $4.1 billion, a key entity in lithium production, and Chile put into service the largest fleet of electric buses, including double-decker buses, a major change in the country's urban transportation system, outside of China.

And while former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet attended the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in 2017, previous Chilean president Sebastian Piñera, participated in the second Belt and Road forum in 2019 — a practice incumbent President Gabriel Boric will continue at the third forum to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Furthermore, at the third seminar on Chile's "Future Foreign Policy Cycle" in July 2021, China and its global economic integration project were among the main topics of discussion. Today, with an eye to 2030 — to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals — Chile and China find in the Belt and Road Initiative a plethora of possibilities for boosting cooperation and contributing to global economic recovery and improving global governance.

Fernando Reyes Matta is a former ambassador of Chile to China, and the director of the Center for Latin-American Studies on China, Universidad Andrés Bello, Chile.

Transport powering China-Africa cooperation

Since 2016, the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Nigeria Limited has completed five railway projects in Nigeria. The last one, Lagos Metro Blue Railway Line, was inaugurated in Lagos on Sept 4.

The 12-km-long Lagos Metro is the second subway in operation. It comprises the first phase of the 37-km-long railway in Nigeria.

The others are the 157-km-long Lagos-Ibadan railway which has an additional 7-km-long arm, the 42-km-long Abuja metro railway, the 186-km-long Abuja-Kaduna railway, and the 368-km-long Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri railway. These projects have contributed immensely to the revival of the moribund railway system in Nigeria.

In 2019, immediately after the pandemic broke out, the Nigerian Ministry of Transportation said the China-built railways had contributed greatly to improving transportation and making traveling less stressful.

While covering the major Belt and Road projects and interviewing many people, I found that most of the passengers had never traveled by train in Nigeria before. Almost all the passengers said the coaches were comfortable and railway services efficient.

Since 2019, the CCECC has completed and handed over many projects to the Nigerian authorities for operation. And while the international airports in Abuja have been renovated or upgraded, new terminals have been built in Kano, Port Harcourt and Lagos. These four projects are masterpieces in architecture.

In December last year, as a seal of approval for its quality work and for completing all projects on time, the CCECC was awarded the contract to build the 37-km-long Lagos Fourth Mainland Bridge at a cost of $2.5 billion, with much of the funding coming from the Export-Import Bank of China.

In January, another Chinese company, China Harbor Engineering Company, completed the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos — the largest seaport in West Africa. All this shows the Belt and Road Initiative has made significant contributions to Nigeria's economic development.

Ikenna Emewu is editor-in-chief of Africa China Economy Magazine, Lagos Nigeria.

BRI creates global ripples on the development front

The Belt and Road Initiative promoted cooperation and development worldwide. Among the five major priorities of the initiative, infrastructure connectivity and people-to-people relations were the most successful in the past decade, even though policy coordination, unimpeded trade and financial integration fared well too.

Infrastructure discourse topped the Belt and Road agenda since massive infrastructure-related projects were completed in China and abroad linking almost two-thirds of the world population from Africa to Asia and elsewhere, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Despite some false narratives on China's "hidden agenda" and "debt trap", the initiative has brought millions of people together through new projects along the ancient Silk Road, helping narrow the yawning gaps among countries for lack of communication and connectivity.

The Belt and Road Initiative should offer two significant things in its second decade. The first is China's experience in eradicating poverty, and the second is its successful intervention in project development to the benefit of a large section of society.

However, different communities have different experiences about such interventions. So the initiative should develop a model for this. It should also build a permanent headquarters so that scholars, practitioners and beneficiaries, and representatives of states and organizations can assemble on a platform to delve into global issues.

Also, the Belt and Road Initiative brings more scholars from the Global South on board for research and development. Such activities will ensure sustainability and inclusiveness of the Belt and Road projects, while triggering further debates on the existing modalities of research, target groups and academic discourses in order to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

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