Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated that the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative should focus on high quality and sustainability so that the platform would yield more beneficial results to the world.
Xi made the remarks during a press conference at the closing of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing on Saturday, April 27.
The BRF, which was held from April 25 to April 27, attracted 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organizations.
A total of 283 items of practical outcomes were achieved during the three-day forum and cooperation agreements worth more than $64 billion were signed at a CEO conference on April 25.
A joint communiqué released after a leaders’ roundtable meeting at the forum on April 27 stressed that cooperation of BRI should be open, green and clean, and based on extensive consultations, joint efforts, shared and mutual benefits.
Chinese analysts said that the results show that the BRI has entered a new phase that focuses on practical and high-quality implementation of projects.
The communiqué and President Xi’s speeches also demonstrate that China does listen to suggestions from partners and is proactively improving BRI projects according to their needs, Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times.
It also shows China’s commitment to following international rules and regulations to achieve long-term and mutually beneficial results for BRI projects, said Huo.
Participants agreed that the forum is an important platform for multilateral cooperation, and should be held on a regular basis, Xi said. In the joint communiqué, participants said that they look forward to the third BRF.
It’s a very important opportunity for opinion leaders and decision makers to get together to share their views and agree on the common ground for further steps of cooperation and development, said Massimo Bagnasco, vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.
For Mansoor Lari, CEO of the India’s Silk Route Trade and Industry Development Cooperation, the BRF has given a roadmap for the company to focus on an aggressive market promotion to increase exporting Indian products to China and to facilitate the participation of Indian small- and medium-sized enterprises.
He said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with Chinese partners to promote AI and block chain synergies.
Sushil K. Lamsal, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Nepal, called the second BRF a “historic event” as it provides guideposts and priorities for the future trajectory of BRI cooperation.
“Our two countries have already agreed to enhance such cooperation under the rubric of trans-Himalayan connectivity networks. So, I believe there’s a bright future for bilateral cooperation under this landmark initiative,” said Lamsal.
So far, more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. From 2013 to 2018, trade between China and other Belt and Road countries surpassed $6 trillion, and China’s investment in those countries exceeds $90 billion.
Because of the cooperation under the BRI, eastern Africa has its own expressway, the Maldives has its first inter-island bridge, Belarus can produce cars and the number of freight trains between China and Europe is on the rise, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference in March.
The BRI is a very important and positive initiative which China is offering to the world. It greatly contributes to global peace and stability, said Sigfrido Reyes, president of the Export and Investment Promotion Agency of El Salvador.
Through increased trade connectivity, investment and technological exchanges, many countries in the world could benefit from the initiative, said Reyes. “We could accelerate our development via BRI platforms as well,” he said.
“In our country, there is an infrastructure deficit to fill, such as building more ports, airports, railways and highways. And we also need to increase our digital connectivity,” Reyes told the Global Times.
“The purpose of these activities is to mitigate poverty, create new and high-quality jobs. And at the same time, we also need to tackle problems like climate change and managing natural resources,” he said.
In the month leading up to the forum, Italy and Luxembourg became the latest European countries to sign BRI cooperation documents. Twenty-two European countries had signed BRI cooperation documents with China.
Amedeo Scarpa, director of the Italy Trade Agency in Beijing, told the Global Times that the economic systems of China and Italy are very complementary. “BRI could facilitate and further boost this growing and promising trade and business cooperation between Italy and China,” said Scarpa.
“We expect economic and trade opportunities to benefit from this renewed climate of strategic collaboration,” said Scarpa.
Not a political tool
When asked whether they think China is seeking global hegemony through the initiative, BRF attendees stressed that as the world seeks new ways to address challenges such as climate change, poverty and illnesses, China should not be blamed for offering proposals or solutions.
BRI emphasizes incorporation, not confrontation, Reyes said.
“And in the end, it will benefit not only China, but also the international community, and I would never expect anything but a large contribution from China’s leadership to further address the current global challenges,” Reyes said.
Bagnasco noted that with the rise of protectionism, China has a great opportunity to assume leadership on many global issues – such as climate change – within the framework of existing multilateral institutions.
It can also help work toward much needed WTO reforms, as it has agreed to do along with the EU, through the EU-China Joint Working Group, Bagnasco noted.
Reyes said he doesn’t share the concerns of the alleged debt trap issue of BRI. “China has put a lot of effort and resources to make this initiative a reality, and that includes providing favorable financing terms for developing countries.”
Reyes noted that he was also impressed with China’s commitment to the initiative’s transparency.
“Every project should be closely scrutinized, not only in this initiative. That is the rule for every project in the world. I think this is a very important message to corporations that these initiatives should be free from corruption,” said Reyes.