Fruitful Results Achieved in the Implementation of the "Belt and Road" Initiative, with the Formation of a Comprehensive Opening-up Pattern

2023-02-08 16:08:41 | Author:National Bureau of Statistics

Fruitful Results Achieved in the Implementation of the "Belt and Road" Initiative, with the Formation of a Comprehensive Opening-up Pattern 

—Series Report XVII on the Economic and Social Development Achievements since the 18th CPC National Congress 


In 2013, when President Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan and Indonesia, he successively put forward the major initiatives of jointly building the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and "21st Century Maritime Silk Road", aiming to inherit the spirit of the Silk Road, jointly construct an open cooperation platform, and provide new impetus for the common development and prosperity of all countries. Since the implementation of the "Belt and Road" initiative, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, China has made overall plans to promote high-quality development, build a new development pattern, and jointly build the "Belt and Road". We adhere to the principle of extensive consultation, joint construction and shared benefits, take the "physical connection" of infrastructure as an important direction and the "soft connection" of rules and standards as an important support, and the "heartfelt connection" of the people of the countries which we jointly build as an important foundation to promote the joint construction of the high-quality development of "Belt and Road" and achieve substantial and abundant results. 

I. Further Policy Exchanges to Build a Broad International Consensus 

Policy exchanges serve as the trailblazer and the key underpinning for joint building the Belt and Road Initiative. Since the initiative was introduced, China has deepened coordination and communication with relevant countries and international organizations, reaching a broad international consensus on Belt and Road Initiative. 

(I) Continuous expansion of strategic cooperation and coordination 

The Belt and Road Initiative has received positive responses from more and more countries and international organizations and become a popular public product and cooperation platform in the world. By the end of 2021, China had signed more than 200 documents on Belt and Road cooperation with 145 countries and 32 international organizations, covering areas such as investment, trade, finance, science and technology, society, humanity and people's livelihood. At the same time, China is actively fulfilling its international responsibilities and deepening its synergy with other parties' development plans and policies under the framework of Belt and Road Initiative. At the global level, the Belt and Road Initiative is effectively aligned with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, forming a synergy of policies to promote global development. At the regional level, the Belt and Road Initiative connects regional development plans and cooperation initiatives such as the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the Eurasian Economic Union and the Europe-Asia Connectivity Strategy of the European Union, reaching a consensus for improving connectivity and supporting economic integration among regions in the world. 

(II) Great results of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation 

After laying the groundwork and building pillars and frameworks, various institutional mechanisms for the construction of the Belt and Road have gradually taken shape. Under the principle of extensive consultation, wide contribution and shared benefit, China strives to build an international platform and carrier, and the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation has become the highest platform for global cooperation. In 2017 and 2019, China has successfully hosted the first and second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The first Forum attracted 29 heads of state and government, more than 1,600 representatives from more than 140 countries and over 80 international organizations, yielding 279 deliverables in 5 categories. At present, all these deliverables have been completed as scheduled, and some of them have been turned into regular work and will be continuously promoted. The second Forum attracted participants from more countries and international organizations, achieving more fruitful results. It called for building global connectivity partnerships, and embarking on a new journey of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. 

II. Enhancement of Infrastructure Links with Continuous Promotion of Interconnectivity 

Infrastructure is the cornerstone of interconnection, and a key priority of the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past eight years, with the joint efforts of all parties, a connectivity framework consisting of six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports has taken shape, and a large number of mutually beneficial projects have been successfully delivered. 

(I) Significant progress of economic corridor construction 

The six economic corridors, including the China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor, the New Asia-Europe Continental Bridge, China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor, China-Indochina Corridor, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, are the strategic pillars of the Belt and Road Initiative and the important framework of the regional economic cooperation network. Over the past eight years, the development of the six economic corridors has produced many highlights and played an important role in building and strengthening the connectivity partnership among countries and unlocking the big Asia-Europe market. Passing through the central and eastern parts of the Eurasian continent, the New Eurasian Land Bridge, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor not only connect the dynamic East Asian economic circle with the developed European economic circle, but also facilitate cooperation between the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea and the Baltic Sea. The China-Indochina Peninsula, China-Pakistan and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridors pass through southeast Asia, the most populous region in the world, connecting major cities population concentration areas and industrial clusters along the routes. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, which was one of the earliest projects and has proceeded fast. Today, all 22 priority projects in the first phase have been completed. According to incomplete statistics from the Planning Commission of Pakistan, the early harvest projects completed during the first phase have generated about 38,000 jobs, more than 75% of which are local jobs, including 16,000 Pakistani workers and engineers in energy projects and 13,000 jobs in transportation infrastructure construction. Since 2021, the CPEC has entered its second phase, unleashing greater opportunities for bilateral cooperation in multiple fields. 

(II) Orderly implementation of infrastructure projects 

Focusing on the main structure of "six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports", a number of landmark projects have made substantial progress. In terms of railways, China-Laos Railway is in operation, and the construction of Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway and China-Thailand Railway is progressing steadily. In terms of highways, the "two major" highways of the CPEC [1] have come into operation, and the Sino-Russian Black River Bridge has been completed. In terms of aviation, the route network of international civil aviation has continued to expand. At the end of 2021, China had signed bilateral air transport agreements with 100 countries, maintaining regular passenger and cargo flights with 54 of them, and signed regional air transport agreements with ASEAN and the European Union. 

As an effective channel of interconnection and mutual benefit between China and the countries along the "Belt and Road" route, the role of the China-Europe freight train in facilitating the logistics between China and Europe has been further highlighted. As of the end of January 2022, the total number of China-Europe freight train trips has exceeded 50,000, carrying more than 4.55 million TEUs of goods with a value of USD 240 billion, reaching 180 cities in 23 European countries and making positive contributions to the high-quality development of the "Belt and Road". In particular, since the unification of the brand in 2016, the port and channel transport capacity of China-Europe freight trains has been effectively improved through the successive implementation of the capacity expansion and reconstruction projects of ports and stations such as in Horgos, Alashankou, Erenhot, Manzhouli, etc., and the launch of the construction of the demonstration project of China-Europe freight train assembly center at five urban hub nodes in Zhengzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi'an and Urumqi. From 2016 to 2021, the annual number of China-Europe freight trains increased from 1,702 to 15,183; the category of goods transported has expanded to more than 50,000 kinds, including auto parts and finished vehicles, chemicals, electromechanical products and grains; the annual value of goods transported increased from USD 8 billion to USD 74.9 billion, and its share in the trade between China and Europe increased from 1.5% to 8%. 

III. Improved Smooth Trade Flows with Expanding Cooperation on Economy, Trade and Investment 

Smooth flow of trade is the focus of the Belt and Road Initiative and an important driver of sustainable economic growth of all countries. Over the past eight years, the level of trade liberalization and facilitation between China and the countries along the "Belt and Road" route has been steadily improved, the trade mode has been constantly innovated, and the smooth trade has risen to a new level. 

(I) Rapid growth in international trade 

Since the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward, China has maintained an increasingly close trade relationship with the countries along the Belt and Road route, and become the largest trading partner of 25 countries along the route. With the accelerated construction of the network of free trade zones along the Belt and Road, China has signed seven free trade agreements with 13 countries along the route, and has signed Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) mutual recognition agreements with 31 economies, including the European Union and Singapore. From 2013 to 2021, the total value of China's imports and exports with countries along the Belt and Road increased from RMB 6.5 trillion to RMB 11.6 trillion, with an average annual growth of 7.5%, higher than China's average annual growth of trade in goods during the same period; and its proportion in China's total foreign trade increased from 25% to 29.7%. 

In addition, the Silk Road e-commerce has become a new highlight and a new engine to further promote the economic and trade cooperation. As of end 2020, China had signed memorandums of understanding for "Digital Silk Road" with 16 countries, established bilateral mechanism with 22 countries for "Silk Road e-commerce" cooperation, and jointly carried out multi-level and multi-field cooperation on policy communication, connectivity plans, industrial promotion, sub-national cooperation and capacity building, focusing on fostering new growth points of trade and investment. 

(II) Two-way investment to achieve mutual benefits and win-win results 

Under the effective promotion of the cooperation mechanism, two-way investment and cooperation have generally maintained a steady growth; from 2013 to 2021, the cumulative amount of China's direct investment in countries along the Belt and Road was USD 161.3 billion, with an average annual growth rate of 5.4%, and the countries along the route have become the first choice of China's enterprises for foreign investment; the countries along the Belt and Road route have set up 32,000 enterprises in China, with a total investment of USD 71.2 billion; China's newly-signed contracted projects in Belt and Road countries totaled about USD 1.1 trillion, with a completed turnover of USD 728.6 billion, covering transportation, electricity, and other fields. 

(III) Vibrant development of cooperation park construction 

The cooperation projects of overseas industrial parks with the countries along the Belt and Road are making steady progress, becoming an important carrier of economic and trade cooperation. A large number of industrial parks, such as China-Belarus Industrial Park, Thai-Chinese Rayong Industrial Park, China-Indonesia Integrated Qingshan Industrial Park, China-Cambodia Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, and China-Ethiopia Eastern Industrial Park, have developed rapidly on their own merits, playing a positive role in undertaking cooperation between Chinese and foreign enterprises, providing employment for local people and promoting the economic development of host countries. According to the data [2], there were 46 countries where overseas economic and trade cooperation zones were built by the end of 2021, with a cumulative investment of USD 50.7 billion, contributing a total of USD 6.6 billion in tax revenues to the host countries, and creating 392,000 jobs for local communities. 

IV. Expanding Financial Connectivity and Improving Financial System Construction 

Financial connectivity serves as the key underpinning and guarantee for joint building the Belt and Road Initiative. China has actively carried out financial cooperation with the countries along the route and built a multi-level financial services system to provide diversified financial support and services for the Belt and Road construction. 

(I) Stronger synergy between financial institutions 

So far, China has jointly approved the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road with 29 countries, the purpose of which is to give full play to both government and market forces to build a long-term, stable, sustainable, risk-controlled, and diversified financing system in association with the countries, international organizations, financial institutions, and investors along the Belt and Road. China has jointly established the Capacity Development Center with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide intellectual support for improving the macro-economic and financial frameworks of Belt and Road participants; and established the Multilateral Cooperation Center for Development Finance (MCDF) with the World Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Asian Development Bank to promote the infrastructure connectivity of international financial institutions and relevant development partners. 

(II) Emerging role in supporting multilateral financial cooperation 

With the joint efforts of all parties, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank [3], the Silk Road Fund and other multilateral institutions have been established one after another to provide investment and financing support for the Belt and Road construction and bilateral and multilateral interconnection. As of October 2021, the number of AIIB members had increased from 57 in the early days to 104, second only to the World Bank, covering the six continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania. By the end of 2021, the AIIB had approved 158 projects with a total investment of USD 31.97 billion. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the AIIB has set up a special emergency fund to support the emergency public health funding needs of its member countries, benefiting 19 countries including Vietnam, Georgia, Pakistan, Turkey and Kazakhstan, with the emergency fund increased from the initial USD 10 billion to USD 13 billion. As of end 2020, the Silk Road Fund had signed 49 projects through equity investment, covering many "Belt and Road" countries, and 70% of the funds were used for large-scale international cooperation projects such as power station development, infrastructure construction, port and shipping, and high-end manufacturing. 

V. Enhancement of People-to-People Exchanges for Further Humanistic Exchanges 

People-to-people exchanges are the foundation and key to Belt and Road cooperation. In recent years, numerous cooperation projects for people-to-people exchanges have been conducted in culture, education, tourism, sci-tech innovation, and pandemic containment, which have consolidated the foundation of the Belt and Road cooperation. 

(I) Frequent cultural exchanges and interactions 

The Belt and Road Initiative has created conditions for international talent training and cooperation. Since the Initiative was put forward, China has formulated the Education Actions on Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, with a focus on strengthening practical cooperation, expediting the progress and promoting people-to-people exchanges from both international and domestic aspects, so as to continuously consolidate the foundation of public opinion for the Belt and Road construction. As of end 2019, China had signed mutual recognition agreements on higher education degrees with 24 countries along the Belt and Road, a total of 60 Chinese colleges had set up educational institutions in 23 Belt and Road countries, and 16 colleges had established 17 joint laboratories for international cooperation with Belt and Road countries. At the same time, the number of cultural activities themed on Belt and Road has increased significantly, with a significant branding trend, which continuously promotes the all-round and in-depth development of cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries. 

(II) New highlights of cooperation in sci-tech innovation cooperation 

Since the Belt and Road Science, Technology, and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan was launched in 2017, China has carried out cooperation with Belt and Road countries in science and technology people-to-people exchanges, joint laboratories, science park cooperation, and technology transfers with a view to driving the new round of technological and industrial revolution, and promote the development of innovation paths. As of the end of 2021, China had established sci-tech cooperation with 84 countries, supported 1,118 joint research projects, invested a total of RMB 2.99 billion, and launched and built 53 joint laboratories in agriculture, new energy, and health. 

(III) Steady advancement of people's livelihood assistance projects 

Relying on the platform of Belt and Road cooperation, China has made great efforts to assist countries along the Belt and Road in poverty alleviation and poverty reduction by providing various professional skills training, covering the field of poverty reduction and agriculture. According to the forecast of the World Bank, the Belt and Road Initiative will help 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty in these countries. Under the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, China's achievements in coordinating epidemic prevention and control with economic development have been recognized by the international community, and it has jointly launched the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on COVID-19 Vaccines Cooperation with 31 partners, actively provided assistance and led international cooperation to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, China provided 150 countries and 13 international organizations with a large number of pandemic prevention materials such as protective clothing, masks, and respirators, and sent 37 groups of medical experts to 34 countries. As of end 2021, China had provided more than 2 billion doses of vaccine to more than 120 countries and international organizations, and a great part of the vaccines were sent to the Belt and Road countries. The joint fight against the pandemic has added new connotations to the Belt and Road cooperation and deepened the friendship among Belt and Road countries. 

The world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century and has entered a period when a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation have brought about unprecedented competition, and global issues such as climate change and pandemic prevention and control have far-reaching impacts on human society. The international environment for Belt and Road cooperation is becoming increasingly complex, but there are still important opportunities. We should maintain strategic focus, seize strategic opportunities, firmly promote high-quality development along the Belt and Road, and make this initiative an open, green, and innovative path to peace, prosperity and cultural exchanges, so as to make new and greater contribution to the building of an open world economy and a community with a shared future for mankind. 



[1] It refers to the project of Karachi-Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan section) and the upgrading and rebuilding project of Karakoram Highway Phase II (Havelian-Takot section). 

[2] Data from the Ministry of Commerce of China. 

[3] AIIB for short.