Source: Global Times Published: 2019-4-19
Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver a keynote address at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which will be held from April 25 to 27 in Beijing.
Leaders from 37 countries and more than 5,000 guests from over 150 countries and 90 international organizations will attend the forum, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference on Friday.
Wang said the enthusiasm shows that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has gained the trust and support of the international community.
Total trade between China and countries along the routes of the initiative surpassed $6 trillion from 2013-18. The 82 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones have created more than 300,000 jobs for locals, said Wang, noting that the initiative has brought full development opportunities and benefited locals.
The international influence of the BRI has continued to rise since it was proposed in 2013. Since 2018, over 60 countries, including Italy, New Zealand, Austria, Kazakhstan and South Africa, have joined the initiative, according to its website.
The initiative has played an important role in implementing China's promise to deepen reforms and open up even more to the world, Bakhtiyor Saidov, Uzbekistan's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, wrote in an article sent to the Global Times.
Wang Yiwei, Jean Monnet Chair Professor at the Renmin University of China, said that BRI has grown from a regional economic cooperation mechanism to a global product that features inclusiveness, diversity and an equal chance for all participants.
Compared to other international mechanisms, the BRI is not about a game between small and big powers, analysts said. It's not about developed countries plus emerging economies, but fair and inclusive cooperation that benefits all, they said.
At the press conference, Wang stressed that the partnership under the initiative is not about geopolitical gaming, but promoting cooperation and boosting multilateralism and free trade.
BRI has been successful in revitalizing trade and global trade interconnection. It is redefining the global economic and trade order which guarantees fair trade and shared economic prosperity, said Alawi Shaaban Swabury, founder and CEO of ESSB KG, a Berlin-based company that provides consultation services to investors in Asia, Europe and Africa.
The B&R has shown the world that China is really open to trade and shares its prosperity with the rest of the world, he told the Global Times.
"Most Western media are not fair to the initiative and efforts should be promoted to depict the real picture of the initiative in Europe," said Swabury. He noted that though several European countries remain skeptical about the initiative, some are changing their minds after Italy officially joined the initiative.
Despite allegations that the initiative is dividing Europe and causing a debt trap in developing countries, the BRI is gaining enthusiasm.
"In Africa, every country wants to be part of the initiative and the people are experiencing economic growth and poverty alleviation as a result of interregional trade that was made easy through infrastructure connectivity under the BRI," said Swabury.
The number of African participants in the initiative has reached 37, bringing new historic development opportunities to both China and Africa, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Saidov said the development strategy of Uzbekistan has many points of intersection with the BRI, and both sides can engage in closer cooperation in sectors such as land transportation and engineering.
Industrial and investment cooperation, energy, agriculture, tourism and others are also potential areas. Their implementation will contribute to the diversification of foreign trade routes and expand the scope of Uzbekistan's exports, he noted.
Many countries and regions have actively dovetailed the BRI with their own development programs, such as the EU's Junker Investment Plan, the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, Mongolia's Prairie Road and Kazakhstan's Nurly Zhol (Bright Path), Xinhua reported.
"There is no proof that Chinese infrastructure projects necessarily result in a debt trap, and in most of the cases in Latin America, this is not the case," Enrique Dussel, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told the Global Times.
BRI is a unique opportunity for most countries to deepen and extend relations with China based on their interests and priorities, Dussel said.
Dussel noted that the initiative is a "unique historical option and relevant to most Latin American and Caribbean countries."
"Latin American countries and China should improve their learning process to minimize contradictions, failures and misunderstandings. This should be one of the goals of BRI in the future," said Dussel.
With increasing collaboration on ports, railways, highways, electricity, aviation and communications, infrastructure development along the Belt and Road has been upgraded, with better-than-expected results.
Ports are better connected than other transportation facilities between China and other nations along the Belt and Road. China leads in maritime connectivity, with shipping routes connecting its ports to more than 200 nations and 600 major ports.
As to rail connections, the total number of trips made by China-Europe freight trains exceeded 12,000 in 2018, with annual shipments valued at $16 billion, compared to only 17 trips and less than $600 million in 2011.
In 2017, tourists made around 60 million trips between China and other Belt and Road countries, with the number of tourists to and from China increasing 2.6 times and 2.3 times since 2012, respectively, making it a new source of growth for global tourism.
The initiative is a vigorous public product which promotes a new form of global governance that upholds multilateralism and globalization, and features equality and diversity, Wang Yiwei said.
During the past five years, the initiative also attracted greater engagement from the private sector, said Wang. Meanwhile, more efforts are being made to ensure that projects under the initiative are regulated and of good quality, he said.
Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.