(Along Belt & Road) Spotlight: Three years on, China’s Belt and Road Initiative to embrace greater achievements

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by Xinhua Writer Liu Chang

XI’AN, China,  (Xinhua) — Three years ago, Beijing unveiled its Belt and Road Initiative to deepen China’s own reforms and opening-up, and better connect itself with the rest of the world in terms of policy coordination, trade, transportation, energy and information facilities.

Beijing wants to see that the bounty of development arising from the landmark initiative can be shared among all who are part of the program.

Over the past three years, significant and broad achievement has been made, which proved the initiative’s effectiveness and demonstrated its nature that favors common development.

RICH RESULTS

According to a report issued by China’s Renmin University at a two-day international seminar that opened on Monday in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi’an, more than 100 countries and international bodies are currently involved in the initiative, while over 30 countries along the new Silk Road have signed cooperation agreements with Beijing. China is also working with more than 20 nations on industrial capacity projects.

Among all other things, the most strategic accomplishments have been the successful development policy coordination between China and the countries along the belt and road.

The report said China has already begun the coordination of its signature initiative with the development strategies of many countries involved in the program, including Kazakhstan’s the Bright Road and Russia‘s Eurasian Economic Union.

In boosting facility connectivity, China is working with countries and regions in coordinating infrastructure standards, connecting transportation and energy infrastructure, and boosting information connectivity, said the report.

In trade, the past three years have seen China’s consistent efforts to join belt and road countries to promote trade and investment activities by negotiating bilateral agreements to remove trade and investment barriers and create a healthy business environment.

By the end of June, China has signed bilateral investment treaties with 104 countries along the belt and road, while its investment in these countries have totaled 51.1 billion U.S. dollars, said the report.

To ensure adequate financial support for the initiative, China, said the report, has been vigorously pushing forward financial cooperation with countries joining the initiative, as well as RMB trade settlement, currency swap, and other financial services.

The Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), founded at the end of 2015, considers projects related to the initiative as one of its top priorities.

The bank’s 509-million-dollar investment in its first four projects, which was approved in late June, and focuses on power, transportation, urban development and other areas, has all gone to countries along the belt and road.

Meanwhile, Beijing has also attached great importance to enhancing cooperation in education, health care, as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, an effort to win public support for the implementation of the initiative.

WELL RECEIVED AROUND THE WORLD

Ever since China launched the initiative, it has received positive responses worldwide as Beijing has vowed to promote the program based on mutual benefit and the spirit of inclusiveness as well as sustainable development.

Engstrom Anna, analyst for economics, policy and governance at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, told Xinhua that the initiative certainly is getting a lot of attraction worldwide, adding that everyone is “quite excited” about China’s idea.

“We are seeing a lot of cooperation from China in Thailand, Serbia, and Hungry,” she said, adding that the most substantial achievement for the initiative is that China has actually bolstered its mutual trust with other countries, which she believes is the foundation for their future cooperation.

Jonathan E. Hillman, fellow and director of the Reconnecting Asia Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes the initiative is “hugely ambitious.”

He said many in the West are encouraged by the economic potential, because if it works well, it does benefit all the participants, including the West.

Charles Dkechukwu Onunaiju, director of the center for China studies in Nigeria, said the initiative one of China’s most important contribution to human kind in the 21st century, and it presents great opportunity to connect the entire African continent, and the Africans take it very seriously.

CHALLENGES & BRIGHT FUTURE

Still, giant as the Belt and Road Initiative is, there is no doubt that it will have to face and fend off risks and difficult challenges along the way forward.

Engstrom Anna believes political risk has to be considered. As many of China’s overseas projects under the initiative need many years to finish, they could run into troubles under such a scenario as the change of government in the countries Chinese investors work with.

In Hillman’s view, if the initiative to achieve greater success in the future, it needs to set clear priorities, like what kind of projects would be chosen.

“It’s like that if you have so many goals, it’s hard to implement that. You need to focus on what matters most,” he said.

Despite the potential challenges, the initiative is going to have a bright future, for the potential demand is enormous and the benefits are also great for all sides.

According to the AIIB, the belt and road region has about 750 billion dollars for infrastructure a year through 2020.

A recent Bloomberg report said that if these infrastructure investments were to be fully realized, then that would mean 580 million tons in annual cement demands.

The report also said that meeting all of Asia’s demand for railways, pipelines and power stations and other projects may generate 272 million tons of demands for steel.

The huge demand in cement and steel bears tremendous opportunities for China to advance industrial capacity cooperation. Those who choose to work with China, especially countries and regions in the less developed world, can use this chance to close up their infrastructure gap to prepare for future economic takeoff.

Moreover, the program could also boost shipping and cargo demands as planned infrastructure investments improve ports that dot the silk route.

Editor: huaxia