'Belt and Road' after China's new commitments

By George N. Tzogopoulos
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 15, 2017
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Win-Win Cooperation. [Zhai Haijun/China.org.cn]

Less than four years after the official launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is adding flesh and impetus to this policy. With the organization of a major Belt and Road International Forum in Beijing it gives an opportunity to high-level participants to discuss future steps. President Xi Jinping set the tone with his welcoming speech in this "gathering of great minds."

To start with, China is expected to invest more in countries along the BRI routes. Approximately $14.5 billion will be given to the Silk Road Fund complementing the initial $40 billion. Chinese banks as well as new financial instruments – namely the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the BRICS New Development Bank – are preparing to grant loans at favorable rates. And Chinese companies are encouraged to get even more involved in infrastructure projects.

"Openness" is another term deserving particular attention. President Xi referred to the need of a transparent process, sending a clear message against bribery and fraud opportunism.

If his pledge to fight corruption domestically also inspires the future realization of clean BRI programs internationally, the results could be impressive. That is because, as President Xi asserted, "ethical standards" will be the norm.

However, "openness" can also be linked to what Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said. In particular, China's determination to absorb $600 billion of foreign investment in the coming years demonstrates the country is prepared to welcome the establishment of consortia and joint ventures that will bring in fresh money from abroad.

This commitment should ease the concerns of Western companies complaining of limited opportunities. And it will contribute to inclusiveness both in China and along the new Silk Road geographical region.

Moreover, the so-called "win-win" perspectives for cooperation were stressed by President Xi. This means that it is not only China but other countries that will benefit from increasing connectivity. The latter have already enjoyed growth and prosperity through infrastructure works linked to several sectors. The Chinese president gave many examples drawn from Asia, Africa and Europe in his speech and promised a harmonious continuation to bring even better development and progress.

However, foreign countries collaborating with China are realizing another potential benefit. Beijing announced plans to import $8 trillion worth of goods. Hence, China's partners should grasp the chance to increase the quality of their products and seek to access a huge market.

There is no better way for a company to increase its profits than to employ an efficient export-oriented philosophy and find clients abroad. A few years ago China was principally interested in exporting. However, in changing its growth model, there's now more emphasis on imports.

As far as the main presupposition of success in the BRI zone is concerned, this is related to the continuous advancement of research and development. China's recent technological achievements – such as the maiden flight of the C-919 jetliner – demonstrate the country's priorities.

In his speech, President Xi again focused on the importance of innovation, for instance, on nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and digitalization. An additional characteristic example is the creation of smart-cities where sustainable development, green energy, e-government and e-health are basic pillars for better living conditions.

Last but not least, the geographical area of the maritime and land routes of the new Silk Road will combine different cultures and peoples from different backgrounds. The Chinese president acknowledged the significance of ancient civilizations as well as the need for the establishment of human networks respecting the past while looking towards the future.

People-to-people exchanges will lead to the mobilization of societies. Moreover, educational initiatives will contribute towards better mutual understanding. Xi was specific as he proposed partnerships between think tanks and universities. He also talked about his plan for China to become a training center for foreign scientists and managers, especially of younger age.

The president presented the BRI as "the project of the century." That could well be right. His insistence on peace, friendship, dialogue, respect and non-confrontation should pave the way towards stability and harmony in a region often traumatized by conflicts and terrorism. More cooperation and integration will be constructive, while "isolation results in backwardness," as he said.

And China never forgets its commitment to eliminate social problems. Xi could not share his vision about the world without reiterating his pledge to support developing countries, especially the ones in need of food. A leading international power never ignore the difficulties facing others.

George N. Tzogopoulos is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.


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