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Broadening and Extending the Belt and Road as a “Path of Happiness”

By Qiushi Commentary Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2024-01-05

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) meets the requirements of the times and the desire of all countries to accelerate development. It has not only garnered a positive response and widespread recognition from the international community, but also brought real benefits to participating countries.

Thanks to Belt and Road cooperation, Indonesia has entered the high-speed rail era, the dream of the Lao people to see the opening of a new railway has been realized, the Maldives has its first cross-sea bridge, and Belarus has developed its own auto manufacturing industry. It is also thanks to the BRI that electrified railways and light rail lines have opened to traffic in Africa, Greece’s Piraeus Port has been reinvigorated, cataract patients in Uzbekistan have been cured with free surgical procedures provided by China, and villagers in arid areas of Senegal now have clean drinking water on their doorstep. Countless uplifting stories and moving scenes have continued to emerge from countries along BRI routes.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) seeks happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation and dedicates itself to promoting human progress and world harmony. The BRI is a major proposal introduced by President Xi Jinping based on his deep insights on the future of humanity and the development trends of China and the world, with a view to realizing mutually beneficial cooperation and shared development for various countries.

With a focus on this initiative, President Xi has made a series of important statements and conclusions. He has emphasized that “the core aims of the BRI are to promote infrastructure construction and connectivity, strengthen economic policy coordination, enhance complementarity of development strategies, and boost coordinated and interconnected development to achieve common prosperity.” He has also stated that this initiative “is an open platform for cooperation committed to achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration,” and expressed his hope to “use China’s own development as an opportunity to invite more countries to board the express train of China’s development and help them achieve their development goals.” Specifically, he has noted that the initiative should “focus on promoting connectivity in terms of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance, and people-to-people exchanges to build a new platform for international cooperation and create new drivers of shared development,” and that “the ‘Belt and Road’ should be built into a road of peace, prosperity, openness, green development, and innovation that brings different civilizations closer.”

President Xi has always kept the BRI in mind, considering it one of the century’s most significant projects benefiting all humanity. He has dedicated himself to promoting its implementation in order to see this project take root and deliver real results. For example, he presided over meetings to study how to arrange the implementation of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and initiated the establishment of new mechanisms such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund (SRF). He also chaired group study sessions of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau in which lessons were drawn from history to guide the development of the BRI under new circumstances. He attended three symposiums on the development of the BRI held in 2017, 2019, and 2021, outlining a blueprint for Belt and Road cooperation. He took part in the first, second, and third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, where he held in-depth discussions with guests from various countries and international organizations on high-quality cooperation under the BRI framework. At multilateral diplomatic events and during state visits, he has presented the results of BRI cooperation and declared China’s firm belief in creating development opportunities and sharing the achievements of the BRI with other countries.

Personally mapped out, initiated, planned, and promoted by President Xi, the BRI is a major proposal for international cooperation that is rooted in the soils of history and adapted to the major trends of the times. Over the last 10 years, participating countries have laid foundations, built platforms, and established frameworks for the BRI to help it take root and achieve sustained development, enabling it to evolve from vision into reality and from a general outline into concrete projects. Now, the BRI has become an international cooperation platform characterized by openness, inclusiveness, and mutually beneficial cooperation. With more friends and partners committed to the BRI, its international influence and the appeal of its cooperative opportunities continue to rise.

Over the past decade, policy communication under the BRI has become more extensive and in-depth

At present, China has signed over 200 cooperation agreements related to the BRI with 152 countries on all five continents, covering 83% of all nations that have diplomatic relations with China, and 32 major international organizations. By facilitating strategic alignment and policy coordination among BRI countries, these documents have helped establish regular communication channels for a range of entities at multiple levels and on various platforms and have given shape to long-term mechanisms for policy communication.

Over the past decade, there has been greater infrastructure connectivity between BRI countries

 “Soft” connectivity in the form of rules, regulations, and standards has significantly improved. An interconnectivity framework comprising six corridors, six types of routes, multiple countries, and multiple ports has taken shape. A series of landmark Belt and Road projects have come to fruition, such as the China Railway Express (CR Express), the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, the China-Laos railway, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, the Budapest-Belgrade railway, and the Port of Piraeus. Of these, the CR Express, which serves more than 200 cities in 25 European countries, has often been likened to a “steel camel fleet,” helping to boost interconnectivity and elevate economic and trade cooperation between countries along the routes. Meanwhile, freight transported through the rail-sea links of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor flows to more than 300 ports in over 100 countries.

Over the past decade, connectivity in terms of trade has brought about mutual benefits

The trade volume between China and participating countries is constantly expanding, and trade structures continue to be optimized. From 2013 to 2022, the volume of goods trade and non-financial direct investment between China and other BRI countries have registered an average annual growth rate of 8.6% and 5.8% respectively, while total bilateral investment has surpassed US$270 billion. In the first half of the year, the total value of imports and exports between China and other BRI countries rose by 9.8% on a year-on-year basis, 7.7 percentage points faster than the growth of China’s foreign trade as a whole.

Over the past decade, financial connectivity has been steadily enhanced

The number of member countries of the AIIB has increased to 106 from 57 at the outset. By the end of 2022, a total of 202 projects had been approved, with financing valued at over US$38.8 billion. More than 60 countries and regions are now covered by the Silk Road Fund. In addition, the scale of local currency swaps and cross-border settlements continues to expand. By the end of 2022, China had established RMB clearing arrangements in 17 partner countries, giving rise to a steady increase in the number of participants, volume of business, and influence of the RMB cross-border payment system.

Over the past decade, remarkable results have been achieved in people-to-people connectivity

Thanks to extensive cooperation in fields such as education, science, culture, sports, tourism, and archaeology, a series of small yet effective wellbeing projects have been carried out. This has helped pave a path of great promise that forges emotional bonds, meets people’s expectations, and delivers real benefits to people. Overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in participating countries have created 421,000 local jobs. In addition, the rural poverty alleviation plan and technical assistance projects for poverty reduction demonstration cooperation have been steadily implemented. It is estimated that by 2030, Belt and Road cooperation will lift 7.6 million people in relevant countries out of extreme poverty and 32 million people out of moderate poverty, thus increasing global income by 0.7%–2.9%.

These facts prove that the BRI represents a new exploration that spurs shared development among various countries and a “road to happiness” benefiting all countries and our world as a whole. Aspiring for development, pursuing mutual benefit, and conveying a message of hope, this initiative is adapted to the historical trend of economic globalization, the requirement of the times to transform the global governance system, and the strong desire among the peoples of all countries for a better life. In a word, it is in line with the interests of the whole world. After 10 years of tireless endeavor, the BRI has been welcomed by the international community both as a public good and as the largest platform for international cooperation and is considered an important practical platform for building a global community of shared future. It has also provided new solutions for jointly addressing global challenges, improving the global development model and global governance, and safeguarding world peace and promoting common development. Its achievements have demonstrated China’s determination to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and preserve international order, and have marked a milestone in the history of world development.

Unlocking new prospects for China’s opening up and development

Through joint efforts to advance the BRI, China has improved the quality of opening up in its various regions by expanding the fields of opening up, promoting openness at the institutional level, and tapping new avenues for facilitating common development. In this process, border regions have moved from the background to the forefront of opening up. By accelerating the formation of a grand pattern of all-around openness featuring links running eastward and westward across land and over sea, we have created mutually beneficial outcomes for BRI countries.

Injecting new impetus into world economic growth

As economic globalization is buffeted by headwinds and the global economy remains sluggish, the BRI has been introduced to create an effective platform for connectivity, where goods, capital, technology, and personnel flow freely, trade and investment are further liberalized and facilitated, and the development potential of all countries is fully unleashed, thus providing strong impetus and creating broad space for global economic growth.

Creating new opportunities for all countries to flourish

Development is an eternal theme of human society as well as the foundation and key for solving all problems. To boost Belt and Road cooperation, we must firmly grasp the greatest common denominator of development and stay committed to narrowing the development gap and promoting common prosperity for all countries. The BRI originated in China, but its opportunities and achievements belong to the whole world. One after another, landmark projects, wellbeing programs, and cooperation milestones have promoted prosperity and development in countries along the route.

Providing new solutions for global governance

The BRI is a global public good jointly created by members of different civilizations across different regions at different stages of development. Based on the principle of shared growth through discussion and collaboration, this initiative is open and inclusive; it is a chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo act performed by China alone. The BRI and its principles have been written into relevant documents of the UN, G20, APEC, and other regional organizations. They have become an important consensus on global governance and have offered Chinese insight, Chinese input, and Chinese strength for building a global community of shared future.

In conclusion, the BRI is a crucial measure for expanding China’s opening up in the new era, a major theoretical and practical innovation in opening up by the CPC, as well as a vivid example of the new and greater contributions being made by the CPC and the Chinese people for humanity.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 19, 2023)