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B&R Initiative an open and inclusive platform and a global public good forged by all parties
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 05 - 2019

Chinese Consul General Tan Banglin said, The Belt and Road Initiative not only promotes international trade and people-to-people exchanges, but also enhances understanding between countries and reduces cultural barriers, so as to ultimately achieve peace, harmony and prosperity. The Belt and Road Initiative conforms to the trends of the times, so it has been welcomed by many countries and shown a sound momentum while speaking to Saudi Gazette in an interview. Here are the excerpts:
Q: Sir, thank you for accepting this interview. The 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) was held in Beijing from April 25 to 27. According to reports, BRF has high specifications and a large-scale participations, with delegations from over 100 countries. Can you introduce to us what the Belt and Road Initiative is, and why the Forum is so popular?
A: First, I would like introduce what the Belt and Road Initiative is. In September and October 2013, Chinese president Xi Jinping proposed the initiatives of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road respectively during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia. We use "the Belt and Road Initiative" to refer to them for the sake of simplicity. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was first proposed over five years ago, it has been welcomed by many countries, not just because it originated in China but it belongs to the world. The Belt and Road Initiative covers different regions at different stages of development that have different cultures. It is an open and inclusive platform and a global public product forged by all parties involved. Directed toward a shared future for humanity, the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative upholds its noncompetitive and nonexclusive nature to the fullest extent under the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. It reflects the international community's demand for a global governance system that is fair, equal, open and inclusive. It is an important public product oriented toward today's world. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has pointed out, the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals share the same grand goals, and both are public good offered to the world. The Belt and Road Initiative not only promotes international trade and people-to-people exchanges, but also enhances understanding between countries and reduces cultural barriers, so as to ultimately achieve peace, harmony and prosperity. The Belt and Road Initiative conforms to the trends of the times, so it has been welcomed by many countries and shown a sound momentum. So far, 126 countries including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and 29 international organizations have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China.
Over 5,000 guests from 150 countries attended the 2nd BRF, including heads of states and governments from 38 countries, and leaders of the UN and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Its scale is much larger than that of the first BRF two years ago.
Q: We have noted that although the Belt and Road Initiative enjoys popularity in the international community, there are still some people who criticize it as a debt trap, which leads to the increased debt burdens to some countries. What is your comment?
A: What I want to stress on is that the debt problem in some countries has been chronic, having existed long before the Belt and Road Initiative. These countries' debt to China takes up only a small proportion in their total debt, and they also obtain loans from some other countries. The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed just over five years ago, so it's unreasonable to attribute a perennial problem to a five-year-old initiative. Numbers speak louder than words. The 82 cooperation zones co-built by China and relevant countries have paid over $2 billion of tax to the hosting countries, creating over 300,000 jobs for the local area. Since the Port of Piraeus began to be run by Chinese enterprises, its container throughput ranking worldwide has leaped from 93 to 36 in 2010, creating more than 10,000 jobs for the local area. Projects invested by Chinese enterprises in Egypt have made Egypt the third largest glass fiber producer in the word and helped it develop large numbers of technologies and management talents. Countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative have benefited substantially from the cooperation. Is it really fair to regard other loans as "pies" while China's loans as "traps"?
Q: There are words that China proposes the Belt and Road Initiative to pursue geopolitical interests and global dominance. Do you agree with them?
A: There isn't any gene for hegemony in the Chinese civilization in its five millennia's history. The ancient Silk Road was about an open and inclusive spirit for peace, mutual learning and win-win cooperation, and the proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative aims to pass on this spirit. It has not and will never become a geopolitical alliance, military league, exclusive bloc, or "China club." Instead, open to all the countries, it is an inclusive platform focusing on peace and development, on which issues that matter to all are addressed through consultation. It is the public good that China offers to the whole world for the common development and prosperity of mankind. Over the past five years and more, facts have proved that the implementation of a large number of projects on the basis of the cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative has advanced the local economic and social development, and improved people's livelihoods, which has also promoted the economic ties, people-to-people exchange, and cooperation among the countries.
Q: Please introduce to us the China-Saudi Arabia cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
A: China and Saudi Arabia are natural partners of the Belt and Road Initiative. China is willing to serve as a cooperative partner for economic diversification to support Saudi Arabia in fulfilling the Saudi Vision 2030. During his meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in Beijing last February, President Xi Jinping called on the two countries to reinforce synergy of development strategies and cement the integration of each other's interests. He also stressed that the two sides should speed up the signing of an implementation plan on connecting the Belt and Road Initiative with the Saudi Vision 2030, advancing the pragmatic cooperation in areas such as energy, infrastructure, trade, investment and high value-added industries, and jointly press ahead with the construction of China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) free trade zone. Prince Muhammad also said that the Arabian Peninsula is a part of the ancient Silk Road, and that Saudi Arabia supports the Belt and Road Initiative and is willing to align it with the Saudi Vision 2030 to deepen bilateral practical cooperation in various fields.
Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid A. Al-Falih led the Saudi delegation to the Forum this year. The China-Saudi Arabia Investment Cooperation Forum conducted the industry alignment centered around the Belt and Road Initiative and the Saudi Vision 2030, and signed cooperation agreements worth over $28 billion. China-Saudi Arabia cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative has a promising future.
Q: Please introduce to us the 2nd BRF and its deliverables.
A: Events of the 2nd BRF include the opening ceremony, a high-level meeting, 12 thematic forums, a CEO conference and other side events, with delegates from over 150 countries. Heads of states and governments from 38 countries, and leaders of the UN and IMF participated in the Leaders' Roundtable. The theme of this year's Forum was "Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future". The leaders participating in the Leaders' Roundtable held in-depth discussions on issues including enhancing connectivity and exploring new sources of growth, strengthening policy synergy and closer partnerships, and promoting green and sustainable development to act on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They have improved the concept of cooperation, made clear the key points of cooperation, strengthened the mechanism of cooperation, reached broad consensus on the high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, and unanimously adopted the Joint Communique.
The Belt and Road cooperation was considered an opportunity of shared prosperity at the Roundtable. In the past five years of the Belt and Road Initiative, especially since the first BRF, with the concerted efforts of all the participating parties, the scope of policy communication has been expanded; the level of infrastructure connectivity has been raised; economic, trade and investment cooperation has reached a new level; the ability of financing has been continuously enhanced; and people-to-people bond has been strengthened. The fruitful early harvests of the Belt and Road Initiative has unlocked more potential and broader space for the growth of economies of the countries and the world, created a platform for enhancing international cooperation, and contributed to building a community with a shared future for mankind.
The participating leaders jointly reaffirmed their commitment to the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative. They supported open, clean, and green development, reject protectionism, and will work hard to deliver a clean and green Silk Road for the new era. They agreed to stick to the principles of high-standard, people-centered, and sustainable development, align the cooperation with universally accepted international rules and standards, follow the philosophy of people-centered development, and pursue coordinated progress in economic, social, and environmental dimensions.
Clear priorities were set for the Belt and Road Initiative in the future at the Roundtable. The leaders decided to strengthen all-round and multi-tiered cooperation. They will continue to promote land, sea, air, and cyber connectivity, and develop high-quality, sustainable, resilient, affordable, and accessible infrastructure. They will advance the development of economic corridors and economic and trade cooperation zones, enhance the alignment between markets, regulations and standards, and encourage the development of digital infrastructure. In the projects on the basis of the cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, the governments will provide guidance; enterprises will act as the main players; and market principles will apply. This will make the projects more sustainable, and create a fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign investors. They will continue to diversify financing channels, reduce financing costs, and welcome the participation of multilateral and foreign financial institutions in investment and financing cooperation. They also agreed to conduct extensive and multi-faceted people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and launch more cooperation projects for the benefits of their peoples. The leaders all supported global development, particularly the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by striving for clean and low-carbon sustainable development. It is also necessary to help developing countries break bottlenecks to development, and better partake in and benefit from global value, industrial, and supply chains.
The leaders all supported the idea of building a global partnership on connectivity, and agreed to strengthen the cooperation mechanism. To this end, they intend to seek greater complementarity between the economic development initiatives and plans of relevant countries and international organizations, step up bilateral and third-party market cooperation, and continue to develop the China-Europe Railway Express, the New International Land-Sea Corridor, and other international transportation and trade links to help more countries improve connectivity. They will uphold multilateralism, and work to foster a framework led by the BRF and underpinned by multilateral and bilateral cooperation in various areas. The leaders shared the view that the BRF is an important platform for multilateral cooperation and they supported to hold the forum on a regular basis.
During the second BRF and its preparation, 283 projects of result-oriented cooperation were reached, including signing of intergovernmental cooperation agreements, implementation of projects of practical cooperation, proposal and establishment of cooperative platforms for multilateral dialogues in various fields, progress reports on the Belt and Road Initiative, and BRF Advisory Council reports on the policy recommendations, etc. The CEO conference attracted a large number of participants from industrial and commercial communities, who signed cooperation agreements on projects worth over $64 billion. These achievements speak volumes for the fact that the Belt and Road Initiative is in sync with the times, widely-supported, people-centered, and beneficial to all.
There is wide consensus among the leaders that the series of major reform and opening-up measures President Xi Jinping announced on the opening ceremony are good news for both China and the world at large, providing important opportunities for the Belt and Road Initiative and the world economic growth. The measures are as follows:
1) expanding market access for foreign investment in more areas,
2) intensifying efforts to enhance international cooperation in intellectual property protection,
3) increasing the import of goods and services on an even larger scale,
4) engaging more effectively in international macro-economic policy coordination, and
5) working harder to ensure the implementation of opening-up related policies. — SG
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