19 May 2017
The Belt and Road Initiative: Seeking Deeper and Broader Cooperation
With a joint communique signed by the attending government heads and an extensive list of 270 deliverables, the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF) concluded fruitfully in Beijing on 15 May. Featuring the theme ‘Cooperation for Common Prosperity’, the two-day forum drew around 1,500 delegates from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations, including 29 foreign heads of state and government.
The BRF is touted as China’s highest-profile diplomatic event of the year, and a first-of-its-kind international conference promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, which was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 and has involved over 100 countries and international organizations so far. The second BRF will be held in China in 2019, Xi announced at the close of the forum.
Inspired by the ancient silk routes and previously known as ‘One Belt, One Road’, the Belt and Road Initiative is an ambitious plan spearheaded by the Chinese government to promote trade and economic integration across Asia, Europe, Africa and possibly beyond. The Initiative, which includes the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aims at creating an open platform among the participating countries and international organizations to improve policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, trade and finance collaboration, and people-to-people bonds.
- Highlights of President Xi’s Keynote Speech
In his keynote speech delivered at the opening ceremony, President Xi repeated his call for an open world economy and reiterated China’s objective of pursuing the Initiative is to create ‘a new model of win-win cooperation’ but not ‘geopolitical maneuvering’. Besides, he pledged more financial support from China to the Initiative through loans and assistance.
Below are key highlights of President Xi’s keynote speech :
Renewing the Silk Road spirit
- President Xi called for renewing the ancient Silk Road spirit of ‘peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit’.
Reviewing progress made during the past four years
- Fruitful results have been achieved in the areas of policy coordination, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people exchange.
- For example, China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organizations; total trade between China and other Belt and Road countries in 2014-2016 has exceeded US$3 trillion, and China’s investment in these countries has surpassed US$50 billion; the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has provided US$1.7 billion of loans for 9 projects in Belt and Road countries.
Reiterating China’s objectives
- ‘We are ready to share practices of development with other countries, but we have no intention to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, export our own social system and model of development, or impose our own will on others.’
- ‘We will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering. What we hope to achieve is a new model of win-win cooperation. We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability, what we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence.’
Reaffirming the aim and focus of the Initiative
- ‘The pursuit of the Initiative is not meant to reinvent the wheel’, but ‘to complement the development strategies of countries involved by leveraging their comparative strengths’.
- The Initiative should ‘focus on the fundamental issue of development, release the growth potential of various countries and achieve economic integration and interconnected development and deliver benefits to all’.
- ‘We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy.’ Pledging more funds for the Initiative
- China’s Silk Road Fund will increase funding by 100 billion yuan; Chinese financial institutions will set up overseas RMB fund business with an estimated scale of around 300 billion yuan; the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will make special loans worth 250 billion yuan and 130 billion yuan, respectively, to support cooperation in infrastructure, industrial capacity and financing.
- China also promised assistance worth 60 billion yuan to developing countries and international organizations over the next three years. Some other financial assistance will be provided to improve the well-being of people in the Belt and Road countries.
Enhancing trade and cooperation
- China will host the China International Import Expo starting from 2018.
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