The Belt and Road: A New Bridge to the Open World Economy
15 May 2017, 21:26 ( 15 May, 2017)
On May 14, Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the China National Convention Center in Beijing. The theme of the Forum is "Strengthening International Cooperation and Co-building the 'Belt and Road' for Win-win Development". Besides 29 heads of state and government, there are over 1500 officials, scholars, entrepreneurs and representatives from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations attending the forum, which testifies to the great attention and support that the Belt and Road Initiative has received from the international community.
The Forum is the highest-level meeting under the Belt and Road Initiative since its launching, and an important diplomatic event China hosts this year. It has great significance for international and regional cooperation, which has been designed to discuss ways to boost cooperation, build cooperation platforms and share cooperation outcomes. By hosting the Forum, China looks forward to working with others to take the Belt and Road forward, lay a more solid foundation and foster greater connectivity for world economic growth and deeper regional cooperation so as to bring more benefits to relevant countries and their people.
The Belt and Road Initiative, consisting of the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was put forward by President Xi in the fall of 2013. Building on the spirit of the ancient Silk Road--"peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutual benefits" which continues to this day, the Initiative targets a modern transnational network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa by means of promoting policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds among the countries along the Belt and Road. It is aimed to complement the development strategies of countries involved by leveraging their comparative strengths. And it’s open to all countries and organizations for engagement, so that the results of the concerted efforts will benefit wider areas.
The past four years have witnessed the launching, expansion and fruitful outcomes of the Initiative. More than 100 countries and international organizations have joined the Initiative, among which more than 40 have signed cooperation agreements with China, reaching a broad international consensus on the Initiative. The UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, UNESCAP, APEC, ASEM, the GMS have all incorporated or reflected Belt and Road cooperation in their relevant resolutions and documents. A number of important early harvests have been made. Economic Corridor Development is making steady progress. An interconnected infrastructure network is taking shape. Trade between China and Belt and Road countries exceeded $3 trillion in 2014-2016 and China’s investment in the countries topped $50 billion. Key projects including Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, China-Laos railway, Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, Hungary-Serbia railway, and upgraded Gwadar and Piraeus Ports are underway. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Silk Road Fund have provided firm support to financial cooperation. China Railway Express trains to Europe have been operating on the vast Eurasian continent. The Initiative has gradually shifted from vision to reality, providing a new platform for the interaction and cooperation among countries and contributing China’s solution and wisdom to the world in consideration of the current difficulties and challenges against the global economy.
In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Forum, President Xi announced a series of new measures by the Chinese government, e.g. to contribute an additional RMB 100 billion (about $14.5 billion) to the Silk Road Fund, encourage two Chinese banks to set up special lending schemes worth a total of RMB 380 billion (about $55.1 billion) to support Belt and Road cooperation, provide assistance worth RMB 60 billion (about $8.7 billion) to developing countries and international organizations participating in the Initiative for launching more development projects, invite in the next five years 2500 young scientists to China for scientific research and train 5000 personnel in the fields of science, technology and management, establish a big data service platform on ecological and environmental protection, propose the establishment of a Belt and Road international coalition for green development, just to name a few.
The Belt and Road Initiative also generates valuable development opportunities for the cooperation between China and Finland. Finland is among the first European countries which joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in 2015. As an important partner for China in all respects, Finland’s active participation in the Initiative is most welcome, especially in the areas of trade, innovation, clean energy, bio-economy, transportation and regional connectivity.
During his state visit to Finland last month, President Xi reached an important consensus with President Niinistö on deepening bilateral cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. As a follow-up, the Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner also attended the Forum in Beijing. There’s no doubt that with the concerted efforts of China and Finland, the bilateral cooperation on the Belt and Road will go a long way and deliver more benefits to the people of two nations.
Notes: The writer is the Ambassador of P.R.China to Finland.