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

By Qiu Ping Source: Updated: 2024-02-20

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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%.