Profound global impact of BRI

  • Making the whole world prosperous


Six years since it was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a widely welcomed international public good with a far-reaching and profound impact on the world. It has played a major role in deepening international cooperation, promoting closer ties between countries, and boosting global growth. In effect, there is an underlying link between the BRI and the vision of building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for humankind.

Since its inception, the BRI has received strong endorsement and warm support from the international community. So far, 124 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. Most recently, during President Xi’s visit to Italy, the two countries signed an MOU on promoting BRI cooperation, providing fresh impetus to this process. Meanwhile, the BRI vision has been included in documents of major international institutions including the United Nations, the G20, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Trade volume between China and countries participating in the BRI has exceeded $6 trillion, investments have grown to over $80 billion and around 300,000 jobs have been created

Coming in the backdrop of the global economic meltdown of 2008, the BRI is guided by the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits, featuring mutual respect, justice and equity. It is a commitment to multilateralism and an open global economy. As such, the BRI will help move economic globalization toward greater openness, inclusiveness and balance.

The BRI has created new opportunities for global growth and aims to address the fundamental issue of promoting development by enhancing all-round connectivity. It has helped countries involved in removing development bottlenecks and the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These milestones are endorsed by various credible organizations. The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the BRI cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 percentage points to 2.2 percent and those of trade along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor by 10.2 percent. Moreover, it will contribute at least 0.1 percent of global growth in 2019.

As a diplomatic tool, the BRI provides a solid platform and new opportunities for fostering closer ties between countries, ushering in a new era of cooperation rather than confrontation. By improving connectivity between countries, BRI cooperation has strengthened economic ties and people-to-people exchanges between them, thus binding them closer together with shared interests. This will naturally build extensive consensus, enhance cooperation, and ultimately promote development for all.

As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the BRI aims to replace estrangement with exchanges between different civilizations, promote mutual learning and substitute a sense of superiority with coexistence; aiming to boost mutual understanding, respect and trust among different countries.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The BRI is not all talk, but in the last six years it has made notable progress. There is growing complementarity between the BRI and development plans and policies of various parties. At the global level, the BRI is well aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, thus forming a synergy of policies to promote global development.

At the regional level, the BRI 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, thus creating a synergy for improving connectivity and supporting economic integration among regions in the world. During President Xi’s recent visit to France, the two countries agreed to jointly promote Belt and Road cooperation in the form of cooperation in third markets, and a list was signed on the third batch of demonstration projects on third-market cooperation.

The joint endeavour to promote the BRI has deepened international cooperation on physical connectivity within the basic framework of “six economic corridors, six connectivity networks, and multiple countries and ports in different parts of the world”. It has also strengthened cooperation on institutional connectivity including policies, rules and standards.

Development of major transport links such as the China-Europe railway express, and the new land-sea corridor is making a big difference; cooperation on transnational economic corridors is being intensified; construction of infrastructure projects on railway, port, motorway and pipeline construction as well as economic and trade cooperation parks is proceeding smoothly.

The international platform for Belt and Road cooperation has been steadily strengthened, some countries now have their first motorways or modern railways, some have developed their own car industry, while some have seen an end to their longstanding power shortages.

Owing to BRI cooperation, landlocked countries like Kazakhstan, have gained access to the Pacific Ocean; Germany has seen a rise in the China-Europe Railway Express Service, creating over 6,000 jobs; the Piraeus port in Greece has become one of the fastest growing container ports in the world.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship of BRI, has displayed tremendous impetus and has become a platform for the take-off of Pakistan’s economy, development and growth. The people of Pakistan, especially the residents of the underdeveloped province of Baluchistan, are eagerly looking forward to the era of prosperity, employment opportunities and development ushered by the megaproject.

The BRI has its fair share of critics and detractors, with the USA and India leading. Daniel Kliman, Rush Doshi, Kristine Lee and Zack Cooper of the US think tank CNAS, in their opinion piece Grading China’s Belt and Road claim that under the umbrella of the Belt and Road, Beijing is pursuing a vision of the 21st century defined by great power spheres of influence, state-directed economic interactions, and creeping authoritarianism. Amongst the challenges the BRI presents for recipient states, the authors name: erosion of national sovereignty, lack of transparency, unsustainable financial burdens, disengagements from local economic needs, geopolitical risks, negative environmental impacts and having significant potential for corruption.

The erudite scholars paint a gloomy picture and warn of perilous consequences for the participants. The fact of the matter is that countries that have joined the BRI do not include merely the underdeveloped ones, but most of Europe and affluent nations from Asia and Africa. These rational participants have not been forced to jump on board at gunpoint, but must have debated and mulled their options before signing on the dotted lines. As the BRI Summits in May 2017 and now in April 2019 indicate, each member state has reviewed the progress, scrutinized the development and even reviewed options. The benefit of the BRI is that it is not being forced by China but discussed and evaluated by experts. In fact, if the USA is apprehensive of the transparency of the BRI, it should come on board and lend its voice on the platform with its concerns, rather than be critical from outside.

The second BRI forum opened at Beijing from 25-27 April 2019. Over 5000 participants from more than 150 countries, including 37 heads of state or government, attended the three-day event.

The forum, with “Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future” as its theme, brought about high-quality cooperation under the initiative. Trade volume between China and countries participating in the BRI has exceeded $6 trillion, investments have grown to over $80 billion and around 300,000 jobs have been created in the countries involved in the initiative. Thus it is not a geopolitical tool or a debt trap for participating countries, but a platform for cooperation.