|The Belt and Road Initiative: Build a Better Future Through Extensive Consultation and Win-win Cooperation|
Speech by Consul General Zhao Jian at the 15th Annual Silk Road Conference Hosted by the Central Asian Productivity Research Center
Dear Prof. Lebinski,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning! I’m truly delighted to join you at the 15th Annual Silk Road Conference via videolink. I would like to thank the Central Asian Productivity Research Center for the thoughtful arrangements for the conference. My special thanks go to Prof. Lebinski for all he has done to make this event possible.
Speaking of the Silk Road, the theme of the conference today, I would like to first recall the ancient Silk Road, a network of trade routes originating from China, connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. As ancient Chinese poems had described, numerous emissaries and traders took to the Road, and ships set sail, bringing about a boom in travel and trade over land and across the seas, and providing a strong impetus to regional development and exchanges and cooperation among different nations and civilizations along the routes.
The world today is undergoing great development and profound transformation and changes, which calls for new growth drivers for the global economy, more inclusive and balanced development and ways and means to bridge the yawning gap between the rich and the poor.
In line with the prevailing trend of economic globalization and in response to the call of the times for reforming the global governance system and the strong aspiration of the world’s people for a better life, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
This is an initiative for open and inclusive economic cooperation that follows the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. It is based on and centered around economic cooperation, underpinned by people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations, and aims to increase connectivity among countries along the routes through deepened practical and win-win cooperation to achieve common development.
At the center of the Belt and Road cooperation are “five connectivities”.
First, policy connectivity. Any cooperation project under the BRI will be carried out on the basis of consultation on an equal footing, with no political strings attached. It will not be imposed from a “position of strength”. Rather China seeks to align the initiative with other countries’ development strategies and regional and international development agendas so that the parties involved can draw upon each other’s strengths to achieve complementarity. In fact, the BRI has been effectively aligned with policy initiatives like the Middle Corridor initiative of Turkey, the Bright Road initiative of Kazakhstan, the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia and the Development Road initiative of Mongolia to produce greater synergy and a multiplying effect.
Second, infrastructure connectivity. China is working with relevant countries to accelerate implementation of major infrastructure projects such as railways, roads and ports, with many more connectivity projects in the pipeline. It is our goal to create better conditions and more opportunities for trade and investment cooperation and economic development of all countries.
Third, trade connectivity. China is working with other BRI participating countries to promote trade and investment facilitation, improve business environment and build FTAs in firm support of the multilateral trade regime and the building of an open world economy.
Fourth, financial connectivity. China has engaged in diverse forms of financial cooperation with BRI partner countries and organizations, and is willing and ready to provide them with financial support for economic development to the best of its ability. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, for instance, have already made good contributions to economic growth in relevant countries.
Fifth, people-to-people connectivity. Guided by the Silk Road spirit, China and other BRI participating countries have carried out extensive cooperation in science, education, culture, health and people-to-people exchanges with firm commitment to enhancing exchanges, dialogue and mutual learning among different civilizations.
Having received positive response and broad support from the international community, the BRI is being translated from a blueprint into reality and has grown to be the broadest and largest platform for international cooperation in the world, generating huge opportunities and dividends to countries around the world. The cumulative trade between China and its BRI partners has exceeded US$9.2 trillion, and Chinese businesses’ direct investment in countries along the routes exceeded US$130 billion. A World Bank report estimated that when fully implemented, the BRI could help nearly 40 million people in relevant countries get out of poverty.
Despite the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 that has ravaged the world since last year, the Belt and Road cooperation has not come to a halt. Instead, it has pressed ahead against the headwind, demonstrating strong resilience and vitality.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, China and its BRI partners have worked together to put up an international firewall of cooperation against the virus. China has held over 100 meetings with relevant countries to share experience in pandemic response, provided more than 280 billion masks, 3.4 billion protective suits and 4 billion testing kits to the world, and helped many countries build testing labs. China has also conducted extensive vaccine cooperation with many countries, and had by mid-June donated and exported more than 400 million doses of finished and bulk vaccines to more than 90 countries, most of which were BRI partners.
In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, trade and investment cooperation under the BRI has made remarkable achievements, making the Belt and Road a promising model of recovery for restoring economic and social activity and a model of growth for unlocking development potential. We have seen the China-Europe freight trains playing a more prominent role as an artery for trade, the construction of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor picking up speed and the cross-border e-commerce boosting the circulation of supplies of anti-pandemic materials and daily necessities. Platforms like China International Import Expo (CIIE) and China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) are also playing an increasingly important role in facilitating trade connectivity and technological cooperation among countries.
In 2020, Chinese investors made non-financial direct investment of US$18.61 billion in 58 Belt and Road countries, despite a 35 percent year-on-year decline in global outward direct investment, and their accumulated investment in overseas economic and trade cooperation zones reached US$44.85 billion, creating 373,000 local jobs.
Going forward, China will continue to work with all other parties to pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation in line with the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits and the philosophy of open, green and clean development to make it high-standard, sustainable and beneficial to the people.
The Belt and Road is a road to prosperity. China and other participating countries will continue to promote all-round infrastructure connectivity and enhance the free flow of goods, capital, technology and personnel to deliver more tangible benefits to the people and enable more developing countries to participate in and gain from the Belt and Road cooperation.
The Belt and Road is a road for green development. We advocate a green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable way of life and work, and call for increased cooperation in green infrastructure, green energy and green finance and deepened implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, so as to bring about harmonious coexistence between man and nature and sustainable development of human society.
The Belt and Road is a road for health. We will continue to work with our BRI partners to help and support underdeveloped countries and regions in fighting and preventing epidemics, promote exchanges and cooperation in public health R&D, scale up cooperation in virus origin tracing and vaccine R&D and production, and further improve global public health governance, so as to build a robust global community of health for all.
The Belt and Road is a road for open, inclusive and win-win cooperation. Some people say the BRI is a geostrategic tool of China. This is a biased misunderstanding of what we are doing. In building the Belt and Road, China acts in the spirit of multilateralism, pursuing cooperation through consultation and striving to bring into full play the strengths and potential of all parties involved to foster greater synergy. The BRI, though proposed by China, belongs to the whole world. It is open to all countries, and its achievements will be shared by all.
China welcomes and supports the U.S. participation in the Belt and Road cooperation. Our two countries are highly complementary in economic structures and comparative strengths. If we can cooperate on the Belt and Road, it will serve not only the interests of our two countries, but also the interests of all participants in the initiative. The BRI would provide broad opportunities for U.S. businesses, open up a new horizon for China-U.S. cooperation, and place us in a better position to help partner countries strengthen infrastructure building, advance industrialization process and improve people’s living standard.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China has embarked on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects. We are actively building a new paradigm of development with domestic cycle being the mainstay and domestic and international cycles reinforcing each other. This will provide stronger impetus and greater space for the Belt and Road cooperation. China will continue to work with relevant countries to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and help them meet their needs in pandemic response and economic recovery so as to jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind and create a brighter future for us all.