China will hold the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing from April 25 to 27, 2019. With the first BRF in 2017 a success, producing consensus on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and delivering fruitful outcomes, the second BRF is taking place in response to participating countries’ wishes and representatives from over 150 countries and over 90 international organizations, including 40 heads of state and government and about 360 minister-level officials (including one representative from the Dominican government), have confirmed their attendance. The theme for this year’s Forum is: Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future.
What is the BRI?
The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is a top-level platform under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was originally announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in 2013. The Belt and Road run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, and encompassing countries with huge potential for economic development. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe; linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.
Five Cooperation Priorities
On the basis of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit, the BRI aims to promote policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds as the five cooperation priorities:
Policy coordination helps enhance intergovernmental cooperation and political trust, allowing the BRI participating countries to coordinate their development strategies and plans so as to push for major cooperation projects.
Facilities connectivity is a priority in the initiative. On the basis of respecting national sovereignty and security concerns of the countries involved, BRI participants will have their infrastructure development plans and technical standards aligned to form a infrastructure network linking sub-regions in Asia and connecting Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond.
Unimpeded trade is an important part of the initiative. Efforts will be made to facilitate trade, remove barriers to investment and trade and build an enabling business environment.
Financial integration helps strengthen financial cooperation and promote the development of a currency stability system, investment and financing system and credit information system in Asia. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, among other financial organizations, are set up to finance connectivity-related projects.
People-to-people bond provides the public support for implementing the initiative. Efforts will be made to conduct cultural and academic exchanges, carry out human resources and media cooperation, and increase youth and women engagement in the initiative.
Why is the BRI So Popular?
The BRI has been the most popular global public good and most promising platform for international cooperation. So what makes it so important behind its growing popularity?
On the one hand, the BRI has opened a new area for international cooperation. The world today is experiencing profound changes unseen in a century. Protectionism and unilateralism are rising, and so are uncertainties and destabilizing factors. The BRI is a significant move China has taken to fully open itself under the new conditions, and it embodies China’s commitment to sharing development opportunities and outcomes with more countries in the world. As such, the BRI will help move economic globalization toward greater openness, inclusiveness, balance and win-win outcomes.
On the other, the BRI has created new impetus and opportunities for global growth. Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis in 2008, creating new growth drivers has become a task for the international community. The BRI aims to address the fundamental issue of promoting development by enhancing all-round connectivity.The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the BRI cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2 percent. What is more, it will contribute at least 0.1 percent of global growth in 2019.
What Has Been Achieved?
Since its inception six years ago, the BRI has received strong endorsement and warm support of the international community. Its achievements are there to be seen. China has signed 174 BRI cooperation documents with 126 countries and 29 international organizations so far. China’s trade with and investment in the BRI participating countries exceed 6 trillion U.S. dollars and 80 billion U.S. dollars respectively. The 82 cooperation industrial parks built by China and the countries along the Belt and Road have created around 300,000 local jobs. Through Belt and Road cooperation, some countries now have their first motorways or modern railways, some has developed its own car industry, and some have seen an end to their longstanding power shortages. Abundant opportunities have been brought to those countries and people derive a sense of engagement, gain and happiness from the initiative.
Latin America and the Caribbean: Natural Extension of the BRI
The BRI was never meant to be limited to certain countries along certain routes as the idea was for participation and prosperity on a global scale ever since it was born. That makes the initiative open to all countries as well as international and regional organizations. Starting from 2017, when Chinese President Xi Jinping called Latin America the “natural extension of the Belt and Road” during his meeting with President of Argentina Macri, an increasing number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have joined the BRI. On January 22, 2018, the 2nd Ministerial Meeting of the China-CELAC Forum issued the Special Statement on the Belt and Road Initiative, signaling that the BRI has formally extended to the Americas. On July 13, 2018, China and Dominica signed MOU on Belt and Road Cooperation. More recently, Barbados and Jamaica signed MOU with China in February and April respectively this year, bringing the number of countries in this region which signed BRI cooperation documents with China to 18, including 8 Caribbean Community members.
The BRI will bring tangible benefits to Latin America and the Caribbean according to the five cooperation priorities of the BRI. LAC countries are in need of restructuring to promote a more inclusive growth and revive the economy. Their development strategies can be well aligned with the BRI which attaches importance to capacity cooperation and innovative development. The BRI, with a focus on enhancing connectivity, can help with the integration process of LAC, removing the physical barriers to a more integrated LAC. Meanwhile, China is capable of providing patient capital to LAC where lack of fund and infrastructure are a immediate problem hindering faster growth.
Now, China and LAC are making great headway in their relations and cooperation. China has become LAC’s second largest trading partner and LAC has become China’s second largest overseas destination for investment, next only to Asia. China-LAC trade increased from 17 billion U.S. dollars in 2002 to 307 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. The cumulative stock of Chinese foreign direct investment in LAC reached over 200 billion U.S. dollars in 2017. The two sides are complementary in their economic development and there is so much potential for their future cooperation. The BRI will bring this sound economic cooperation to a new level.
BRI: The Road to a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind
Over 2000 years ago, when Chinese envoy and diplomat Zhang Qian traveled westward three times on what was later known as the Silk Road to as far as the Roman Empire, a seed of connection was sown. This route has witnessed trade, cultural exchanges and prosperity since then. Entering the 21st century, it is especially meaningful to rethink connectivity, to figure out ways to link each one of us so we can work together to achieve prosperity. This is a globalized world where global perspectives are valuable assets. Isolation leads to nowhere while openness and cooperation are the mainstream of our times. The Belt and Road Initiative is such a product that China provides as a solution to meeting global challenges in development. This seed of connection will continue to grow as more countries join this initiative and play their part. With all our efforts, the BRI will move the world towards peace, prosperity, openness, green development, innovation and more advanced culture. It will surely bring more opportunities to the world and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
For more information, please visit the official website of the BRI: https://eng.yidaiyilu.gov.cn/.