“The Belt and Road Initiative brings an unprecedented opening-up pattern for China and it will experience five accelerations in the next five to ten years,” said Wei Jianguo, Vice Chairman of China Center for International Economic Exchanges, and former Vice Minister of Commerce in an exclusive interview with China’s Fortune Bond (CF Bond).
Wei Jianguo elaborated on the contributions and gains made by China in the past four years since the Belt and Road initiative was proposed, such as the characteristics of the initiative’s future development, the opportunities and challenges it faces, and the proposals for future trade cooperation.
Below is the exclusive interview with Wei Jianguo, conducted by CF Bond
The “Belt and Road” allows countries and regions along the belt and road to enjoy the opportunity of China’s development
CF Bond: What do you think is the biggest achievement for China since the Belt and Road Initiative was launched four years ago?
Wei Jianguo: The biggest achievement is that more and more people realize that the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China, is not a threat to any country or region, but a way of joint consultation, construction and sharing. China welcomes other countries to seize the opportunities brought by China’s development, together, we can build a common community of shared future for all mankind, and ultimately realize the win-win development.
The Belt and Road initiative is a great goal put forward after the World War II and is also a public product offered by China to the rest of the world. Initially, many people had doubts and hesitation about the initiative, now, there are more and more countries want to participate in the Belt and Road project. The development of the initiative is better than any other substantive projects.
In the next five to ten years, the Belt and Road will see five accelerations.
CF Bond: The report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China puts forward that the new pattern of an all-round opening-up should focus on the building of the Belt and Road. In your view, what are the new features of the building of the Belt and Road in the new era?
Wei Jianguo: In the next 50 or even 100 years after the 19th NPC, the Belt and Road initiative will be the general guideline, strategy and initiative for China, especially in the next five or ten years. There may be five “accelerations” in the building of the Belt and Road.
The first acceleration will appear in the international trade and investment. China’s trade with the 65 countries along the Belt and Road will experience double-digit growth, at least five or six percentage points higher than the trade with non-cooperating countries. In addition, the foreign investment will also see double-digit growth.
The second acceleration is that more Chinese private enterprises will expand their businesses abroad. We will see a large number of private enterprises join the Belt and Road construction. These companies will make significant overseas investment and tens of thousands of Chinese enterprises will step up investment and cooperation with countries along the Belt and Road.
The third acceleration is China’s industrial change. Previously, China’s traditional industries are the pioneers of the “go-abroad” campaign, such as textile, machinery manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure and mineral development, but now they are replaced by IT, information, aerospace, high-speed rail and tourism industries.
The fourth acceleration is a comprehensive change. Apart from the trade and economic sectors, China will conduct cooperations with countries and regions along the belt and road in various fields, such as culture, education, science and technology, health and sports.
The fifth acceleration is that the development of the Belt and Road will create a high-level, all-round and multi-level exchanges for all the participants of the belt and road initiative.
The Belt and Road brings a comprehensive opening-up pattern
CF Bond: What opportunities and challenges will the Belt and Road bring to China’s regional economic development?
Wei Jianguo: The Belt and Road can be seen as the biggest breakthrough in the development of China’s regional economy. It is also a landmark of China’s regional economic development. With the proposed Belt and Road Initiative, China’s regional economy has entered a new historical stage. The initiative not only allow China to connect with ASEAN and the EU, but also promote comprehensive cooperation with the Africa Union, the Arab League and the “16 + 1(China and the 16 Central and Eastern European countries)”. Furthermore, China has signed both bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements with different regions and countries.
As a new platform for global development cooperation, the Belt and Road has restructured the pattern of China’s opening-up. It welcomes not only the countries along the belt and road, but also those countries who are not along route, such as the United States, Japan and South Korea. Therefore, the Belt and Road is a truly comprehensive opening-up.
The challenge is that how to effectively integrate the initiative with the local development plans? In response, we are making efforts to improve communication and cooperation with the participating countries through such means as exchange of think tanks and political parties, so that more multinational corporations can participate in the building of the Belt and Road.
Breaking the system barriers to strengthen personnel and information exchanges
CF Bond: In the first three quarters this year, China’s trade growth with the countries along the Belt and Road has become a highlight of foreign trade. Are there any trade barriers? What is the priority in promoting trade with these countries?
Wei Jianguo: Of course, there are still some obstacles. The current trade barriers are institutional ones. Therefore, we should sign more bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements with countries along the belt and road as soon as possible, such as the Bilateral Investment and Trade agreement (BIT), Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and so on.
In addition, it is necessary to strengthen personnel and information exchanges with countries along the belt and road, make full use of local energy advantages and actively create more employment opportunities locally. At the same time, we must also pay attention to environmental protection, strengthen the development and application of green clean energy technologies. As the new round of energy restructuring and the era of energy technology revolution approaches, the energy transformation and the development of green circular economy will become the key areas of the Belt and Road.
CF Bond: What are your suggestions to further promote trade cooperation with countries along the Belt and Road?
Wei Jianguo: On one hand, we should speed up the implementation of the projects that have already been agreed, this is the most crucial part. On the other hand, it is necessary to accelerate the integration of the belt and road initiative with the development strategies of those countries and regions along the belt and road so that more Chinese enterprises, especially private-owned ones, can participate in the construction of industrial parks and small and medium-sized projects. In particular, we should connect advanced technology and talent in these regions and form differentiated competition and choices.