Dr Sun Xianghua
On May 14 and 15, the International Cooperation Summit Forum on the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative (B&R Initiative) will be held in Beijing, China.
As the Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi pointed out, the forum will be a priority of China’s diplomacy in 2017, a strategic measure to boost the world and regional economy, an important platform to deepen international cooperation and China’s innovative practice to implement the concept of win-win cooperation.
With the Forum draws near to us, and especially bearing in mind the unfolding political, economic and social scenarios in the Euro-Asian region and across the world at present, the international community will pay increasingly wider and closer attention to the Forum, and look forward to its concrete outcomes.
The B&R Initiative was first introduced by H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, in the fall of 2013 during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia respectively, which calls for the integration of the ancient land-based Silk Road and maritime Silk Road region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, facilitating connectivity, broadening trade and increasing cultural exchanges.
Since the introduction of this Initiative, it has been warmly received by the international and regional community. Up until now, more than 100 countries and international organizations have joined this Initiative, among which more than 40 have signed cooperation agreements with China.
The United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Asia-Europe Meeting have all incorporated or reflected the B&R cooperation in their relevant resolutions and documents.
Meanwhile, the implementation of the B&R Initiative is progressing with sound and solid strides. According to the Ministry of Commerce of China, the direct investment from China in the region has reached US$13.4 billion in the first 11 months of 2016.
In this same period, the trade volume between China and the B&R region has climbed up to $848 billion, accounting for one fourth of China’s foreign trade. By now, the Chinese enterprises have engaged in building 50 plus economic-trade cooperation zones in the region, with an overall investment of more than $18 billion, creating 160,000 jobs and $1 billion taxes.
At this moment, a plethora of major projects of railways, roads and port facilities are being built in the region.
o back up the B&R Initiative, two financial institutions proposed by China, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund (SRF) with a capital of $100 billion and $40 billion respectively, have already been set up and started operation.
The reason for the successful start-up and implementation of the B&R Initiative can be attributed to the following factors. Firstly, the Initiative follows the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit, giving priority to practical cooperation, win-win outcomes and step-by-step progress.
In other words, China welcomes the synergy and collaboration from her partners and tries to align the Initiative with the development strategies and plans of other countries.
Secondly, the Initiative adopts a holistic and comprehensive approach to upgrade the economic cooperation and development in the region, by incorporating five major factors into consideration, namely the promotion and enhancement of policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds.
This holistic approach exactly targets the constraints and bottlenecks that impede the economic integration of the B&R region. Thirdly, the Initiative comes at an opportune time and corresponds to the current world situation, when the global economy is yet to recover from the international financial crisis.
In the past several years, the international community has been increasingly worried about the rising protectionism, isolationism and anti-globalization surges.
Against this background, the Initiative came as an international public good that endeavors to solve the acute problems in the global and regional economy, and helps to advance the process of economic globalization that is more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable.
The B&R Initiative, which cuts across Asia, Europe and Africa, roughly covers an area with 63 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of the global GDP. Therefore the impact of the successful implementation of the Initiative on world economic cooperation and development can be enormous.
It needs to be pointed out that not only will the countries in the B&R region directly benefit from the Initiative, but also the realization of the various multilateral development initiatives and mechanisms which have emerged in recent years, including the Eurasian Economic Union, the Master Plan on ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) Connectivity, the APEC Connectivity Blueprint, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Investment Plan for Europe, the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, as well as the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), since the B&R Initiative attaches great importance to international cooperation, collaboration and synergy in its implementation.
Ever since the inception of the B&R Initiative, the African countries, especially the eastern and southern African countries have been treated as integral and indispensable partners.
History tells us that the commercial, cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and Africa along the maritime Silk Road date back many hundreds of years ago and have produced numerous legends of China-Africa friendship.
The B&R Initiative will definitely give a new boost to this time-tested relationship. Early this year, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made it clear once again that China welcomes African countries to join the B&R Initiative during his visit to Africa.
As a matter of fact, an increasing number of African countries are exploring ways to align their development with the B&R Initiative.
Some major projects such as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, the Bagamoyo Port in Tanzania, the China-Egypt Suez Economic Zone, the Hisense Industrial Park and Beiqi Automobile Manufacturing Plant in South Africa etc., just to mention a few, are either in operation already or in smooth progress.
There is no any doubt that with the implementation of the B&R Initiative, China-Africa cooperation will reap increasingly tangible benefits in the coming years.
Some of the positive signs are already emerging, for example, the structure of China-Africa cooperation is becoming more sustainable, shifting from a government-assistance dominated structure to one in which the enterprise investment and finances play a bigger role.
Another trend of China-Africa cooperation is that the commodity trade is gradually giving way to production-capability cooperation, and infrastructure and industry-zone construction and management.
No wonder even some western scholars admit that China’s development is “a common denominator” to Africa’s industrialization and modernization agendas, and “B&R Initiative can and should be viewed as a vital component of global agenda for achieving poverty reduction and improving living conditions for the least developed”.
It’s also worth to notice that in the above-said shifting paradigm, China’s development experiences and lessons can provide important inspiration and references to Africa’s development efforts.
The Kingdom of Lesotho, though a land-locked country and faraway from China, will continue to benefit from the implementation of the B&R Initiative. As an important member of African Union, SADC and SACU, Lesotho will enjoy more and better development opportunities and conditions from the industrialization and inter-connectivity of the continent and the sub-region as a whole, not to mention the benefits of the increasing bilateral trade and economic cooperation between China and Lesotho. It’s my strong belief that under our joint efforts, the China-Lesotho relations will bring more tangible benefits to our two countries and peoples in the coming years.
For all the reasons given above, the International Cooperation Summit Forum on the B&R Initiative next month in Beijing is really an important event that’s worth of close following, and its outcomes will surely have long-term and positive impacts on global and regional economic cooperation and development.
Dr. Sun Xianghua Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to The kingdom of Lesotho
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