The just-concluded third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) has injected new vitality into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
With eight major steps and 458 outcomes announced at the gathering, the initiative is charting the course for a better connected world featuring prosperity, harmony and sustainability.
In the past decade, China has signed more than 230 BRI cooperation agreements with over 150 countries and 30-plus international organizations. More than 3,000 cooperation projects have been initiated.
Experts and officials said the initiative has delivered tangible benefits, offering more opportunities and pushing for an open, inclusive and interconnected world for common development.
CONNECTIVITY BRINGS PROSPERITY
Since its inception, many observers have envisaged the initiative would improve people’s livelihood. Ten years on, the initiative has indeed promoted connectivity in BRI partners.
In some places once under colonial rule in Africa and South America, for example, transportation does not go through the continent, said Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain’s 48 Group Club.
China “has been doing a great deal to help both these continents open up internal transportation, and that will make a big difference to those countries’ productivity,” he said.
In Asia, one good example is the China-Laos Railway, a landmark project of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, which runs 1,035 km, including 422 km in Laos, from the city of Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, to Lao capital Vientiane.
“The has transformed Laos from a landlocked ASEAN member state to a land-linked country,” said Ong Tee Keat, president of the BRI Caucus for Asia Pacific.
As a famous Chinese saying goes, “If you want to be wealthy, build roads first.” Statistics show that two-way trade between China and ASEAN reached 975.3 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, more than double the 443.6 billion U.S. dollars recorded in 2013.
“The BRI remains committed to global connectivity and multilateralism in an era marked by de-globalization,” Chheang Vannarith, president of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, told Xinhua.
TIMELY AND ESSENTIAL
The initiative has helped improve people’s livelihood as the world is suffering from a slowing economy, rising interest rates, and higher inflation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every participant of the initiative, which was proposed by China 10 years ago, is a winner, Alaa Thabet, editor-in-chief of Egypt’s top daily Al-Ahram Newspaper, told Xinhua.
“The initiative has led to the construction of massive infrastructure projects across continents, including roads, railways, ports, and energy pipelines,” said Thabet.
“The BRI is a timely initiative. Chinese initiatives are essential for humanity. They address global threats and promote the (building of a) community with a shared future,” Egypt’s former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf told Xinhua.
Over the past decade, more than 3,000 cooperation projects have been initiated, with an estimated investment of nearly 1 trillion U.S. dollars, Sharaf added.
Based on the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, the initiative has the potential to make substantial contributions to a more reasonable and just global governance system and promote globalization, said Farhat Asif, president of the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies.
According to a World Bank report, increased trade via Belt and Road cooperation is expected to raise global real income by 0.7 to 2.9 percent, and BRI projects could help lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty.
GREEN AND SUSTAINABLE
The decade-old initiative has built up China’s reputation as a responsible global player that seeks to pursue green and sustainable globalization.
“On the ten-year anniversary we can declare the BRI an amazingly successful initiative,” said Erik Solheim, former under-secretary-general of the United Nations.
The initiative, he said, has contributed to very important green rail corridors in Kenya, Ethiopia, Laos and most recently Indonesia.
A white paper released ahead of the third BRF said the initiative embraces the global trend of green and low-carbon development, emphasizes respecting and protecting nature and following its laws, and respects the right of all parties to pursue sustainable and eco-friendly growth.
“As the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles, China is well-placed to help enable the adoption of low-carbon technologies at scale in emerging economies and developing nations through the BRI,” Damilola Ogunbiyi, special representative of the UN secretary-general for sustainable energy for all, told Xinhua.
In pursuing the “dual goals” to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, China has been improving the sustainability and efficiency of the BRI as an international public good, in line with the current trend of globalization.
According to one of the eight major steps announced by China last week in support of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, the country will continue to promote green development and step up support for the BRI International Green Development Coalition.
China will also implement the Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road, and provide 100,000 training opportunities for partner countries by 2030.
The initiative, as “a massive project” with “immense potential,” can help accelerate efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Ghada Waly, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told Xinhua.