Xu Zhanchen: The Joint Construction of the Belt and Road Initiative Propels Global Development Into a New Stage

  • Time:2023-10-24
  • source:CCIEE

By—Xu Zhanchen 

Currently, the world is experiencing an unprecedented and significant transformation, with the rapid evolution of a century-long major upheaval. Economic globalization is facing counter-currents, and the trust and collaborative atmosphere necessary for global development are severely deteriorating. Challenges related to global governance, security, and other factors are increasing, posing additional hurdles to global progress. In this new context, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) brings a rare sense of certainty to global development, propelling the global development agenda into a new phase.


The co-building of the BRI as a crucial global public good has identified a viable path to drive contemporary global development and represents a groundbreaking institutional initiative with far-reaching significance. Practical evidence demonstrates that the BRI has maximally integrated the development goals of all parties involved, delineating the largest concentric circle of common development. It has achieved mutually beneficial cooperation and common development, showcasing the success of this initiative.


Promoting the global deep integration of factor resources.


The achievement of industrialization worldwide is crucial to addressing numerous challenges faced by human development. The United Nations' report on the "Significance of Industrialization for the Well-being of the World's People" explicitly outlines the relationship between a country's poverty, inequality, health, education, employment, and human development index with per capita manufacturing value added. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some underdeveloped countries lacked the production capacity for basic supplies such as masks and protective clothing, highlighting the extreme importance of a country's development in improving people's living conditions and quality of life.


For a long time, developed countries, driven by their own interests, have been unwilling to relinquish the "ladder" that could help developing countries overcome difficulties. In reality, economic assistance has been the primary method of support, often with attached conditions, leading to a patronizing and incompatible approach. This has resulted in a prolonged stagnation of much-needed major infrastructure development in developing countries. Due to constraints such as high initial investment, long construction periods, and slow returns on investment, significant infrastructure projects in areas like energy, transportation, and communication have become obstacles to the development of many countries.


The joint construction of the BRI has promoted the formation of a comprehensive and interconnected pattern of "land-sea-air connectivity." Over the past decade, the BRI has implemented a large number of infrastructure projects, driving significant progress in the participating countries' railways, roads, shipping, pipelines, energy, communications, and basic life service infrastructure. Some long-standing bottlenecks that have constrained and troubled the interconnectivity and economic development of developing countries have started to break. Several major landmark projects have greatly boosted the confidence of participating countries in their development. In particular, the BRI has stimulated global interest and enthusiasm for infrastructure investment, leading to a new global infrastructure development situation. The BRI has shown that the traditional "trickle-down effect" in which developing countries rely on spillover effects from developed countries is being replaced by a new "gushing spring effect." The global development momentum continues to strengthen, consolidating the dominant position of development issues.


The industrial cooperation under the BRI promotes the integration of local resources and labor with foreign high-quality capital, technology, and management experience. By the end of June 2023, China had signed capacity cooperation agreements with over 40 countries. Especially for countries with lagging industrial development, low levels of industrialization, lack of funds and technology, and insufficient talent reserves, China and the participating countries have promoted the construction of special economic zones, which serve as exemplary projects for their development. Industrial cooperation under the BRI has nurtured a pool of professionals with technical and management expertise in participating countries, created local employment, increased tax revenue, and deepened the linkages between participating countries and the global industry. Over the past decade, the BRI has attracted nearly a trillion dollars in investment, formed over 3,000 cooperative projects, created 420,000 job positions for participating countries, and lifted nearly 40 million people out of poverty.


Creating new pathways for improving the quality and efficiency of global development.


The joint construction of the BRI has entered a new stage of high-quality development. The quality of BRI development continues to improve, with notable expansions into new areas of cooperation, exhibiting many "new qualitative" features. This holds significant practical significance for enhancing development quality under the new circumstances of global development, especially for "Global South" countries. Given the new situation in global climate change and tightening ecological constraints, most countries have set independent emission reduction targets. The BRI aligns with the international trend of green and low-carbon development, respecting the rights of all parties to pursue green development and responding to sustainable development needs. Practical cooperation in green infrastructure, green energy, green transportation, and other areas has deepened continuously, making green development a fundamental characteristic of the BRI.


Over the past decade, China has collaborated with countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and other regions to construct numerous renewable energy projects such as wind, solar, and hydropower. While increasing energy supply in participating countries, this has optimized their local energy structure. Energy transitions in some countries have led to a transformation in national development patterns. The BRI has fully leveraged China's advantages in renewable energy, energy conservation, environmental protection, and clean production. It actively cooperates in low-carbon demonstration zones, environmental technology exchanges, contributing positively to helping relevant countries move away from traditional industrialization models.


The rapid advancement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, represented by the new generation of information technology, has brought significant development opportunities and challenges to developing countries. China has positioned itself at the forefront in emerging technologies such as big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence. China has deepened the construction of the "Digital Silk Road" with countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, Africa, Latin America, and others. As of October 2022, China has signed cooperation memoranda on the "Digital Silk Road" with 17 countries and established bilateral cooperation mechanisms for "Silk Road e-commerce" with 23 countries. China has also participated in the construction of 34 cross-border land cables and multiple international submarine cables.


China's cooperation with BRI countries in the fields of digital infrastructure, digital technology, consumer electronics, digital applications, and cross-border e-commerce continues to expand. Particularly, many emerging economies have transitioned from lacking basic network infrastructure to having commercially available 4G and 5G networks. The foundational, pervasive, and inclusive nature of digital technology has allowed people in BRI countries to tangibly experience the life changes brought about by the BRI. The "Digital Silk Road" has narrowed the digital technology gap between developing and developed countries, accelerating the digital transformation of BRI countries. This is beneficial for seizing opportunities in the new round of technological revolution, creating new industries, fostering new formats, and forming new tracks, becoming a crucial pathway for advancing the "new qualitative" development of BRI countries. (The author is the Head of the Department of World Economy Studies and Institute of Belt and Road Studies, researcher, China Center for International Economic Exchanges)


(The original article was published on Economic Daily on 24th October, 2023)







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