The Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF III) was convened in the Chinese capital Beijing on October 18, 2023. Marking ten years since President Xi Jinping first advanced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in speeches during visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, BRF III was themed on “High-quality Belt and Road Cooperation: Together for Common Development and Prosperity”. Three high-level forums were held under the topics of Connectivity in an Open World Economy, Green Silk Road for Harmony with Nature, and Digital Economy as a New Source of Growth. And six thematic forums, focusing on Trade Connectivity, Maritime Cooperation, Clean Silk Road, Think Tank Exchanges, People-to-People Bonds, and Subnational Cooperation also took place.
President Xi Jinping was joined by 23 national leaders and representatives from 150 countries at the forum.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, held in the Great Hall of the People, President Xi announced eight major steps that China will take to further high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. These entail:
- Building a multidimensional Belt and Road connectivity network;
- Supporting an open world economy;
- Carrying out practical cooperation;
- Promoting green development;
- Advancing scientific and technological innovation;
- Supporting people-to-people exchanges;
- Promoting integrity-based Belt and Road cooperation; and
- Strengthening institutional building for Belt and Road international cooperation.
A Chair’s Statement from the forum noted that over the past ten years, the Belt and Road cooperation network has stretched from the Eurasian continent to Africa and Latin America. More than 150 countries and over 30 international organisations have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China. China has also conducted more than 3,000 cooperation projects with relevant parties and catalysed investment of nearly USD 1 trillion.
Summarising the discussions, the statement notes that forum participants supported building a green silk road together to realise harmony between humanity and nature. Climate actions should follow the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities to tackle climate change. The Belt and Road cooperation partners support strengthening cooperation in areas of biodiversity conservation and pollution control, circular economy, green infrastructure, green transport, prevention and control of desertification and sandstorms, and encourage the development of effective green finance instruments.
They also held that bridging the digital gap will facilitate an inclusive digital economy. In this regard, it is necessary to foster an open, fair, just, and non-discriminatory environment for digital development, and build a digital silk road featuring joint contribution and sharing of digital resources, vibrant digital economy, well-targeted and efficient digital governance, better digital security, and mutually beneficial digital cooperation.
Calling for the promotion of unimpeded trade, the participants supported the rules-based, non-discriminatory, open, fair, inclusive, just, and transparent multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its core, and oppose unilateral and protectionist measures. They support necessary WTO reform for multilateral trade rules to keep abreast with the times.
To enhance maritime cooperation, they called for promoting the development, transformation and upgrading of marine industries, and the development of a sustainable, resilient and inclusive blue economy, based on clean production, green technologies and circular economy.
They also called for zero tolerance for corruption in BRI projects.
To promote people-to-people exchanges, the Belt and Road cooperation partners encouraged political parties, parliaments, civil societies, media, think tanks and business communities to play bigger roles in fostering people-to-people bonds, and expect further exchanges and cooperation in areas of art, culture, education, science and technology, tourism, health and sports.
Friends of Socialist China co-editors Keith Bennett and Carlos Martinez attended the forum at the invitation of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
The following is the full text of the Chair’s Statement. It was originally published on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
1. The Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF III) was convened on 18 October 2023, in Beijing. President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, President Alberto Fernández of the Republic of Argentina, President Gabriel Boric Font of the Republic of Chile, President Denis Sassou-N’Guesso of the Republic of the Congo, President Joko Widodo of the Republic of Indonesia, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of the Republic of Kazakhstan, President William Samoei Ruto of the Republic of Kenya, President Thongloun Sisoulith of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, President Khurelsukh Ukhnaa of Mongolia, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President Aleksandar Vučić of the Republic of Serbia, President Ranil Wickremesinghe of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, National Leader of the Turkmen People and Chairman of the Halk Maslakhaty Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of the Republic of Uzbekistan, President Vo Van Thuong of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, Prime Minister Hun Manet of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary, Prime Minister Adriano Afonso Maleiane of the Republic of Mozambique, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Prime Minister James Marape of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin of the Kingdom of Thailand, Vice President Kashim Shettima of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Secretary General of the United Nations Antόnio Guterres attended the forum. High-level representatives of the leaders of the French Republic, the United Arab Emirates, and the Hellenic Republic as well as representatives from more than 150 countries attended the forum. President Xi Jinping made a keynote speech at the opening ceremony.
2. The BRF III is themed on “High-quality Belt and Road Cooperation: Together for Common Development and Prosperity”. Three high-level forums were held under the topics of Connectivity in an Open World Economy, Green Silk Road for Harmony with Nature, and Digital Economy as a New Source of Growth, respectively. Six thematic forums with focuses on Trade Connectivity, Maritime Cooperation, Clean Silk Road, Think Tank Exchanges, People-to-People Bonds, and Subnational Cooperation were respectively convened. A CEO Conference was held on the eve of the BRF III.
3. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over the past ten years, the Belt and Road cooperation network has stretched from the Eurasian continent to Africa and Latin America. More than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China. China hosted three BRFs, and launched together with its cooperation partners more than 20 multilateral dialogue and cooperation platforms in sectors of railway, port, finance, taxation, energy, green development, green investment, disaster risk reduction, anti-corruption, think tank, media, culture exchanges, etc.
4. The BRI, focusing on connectivity, has promoted development of the connectivity networks led by economic corridors, with major transportation passages and information highways as backbone, underpinned by railway, ports and pipelines, and encompassing land, sea, air and internet, which facilitated the flow of commodities, capitals, technologies and personnel among partner countries in the past decade. China has conducted more than 3,000 cooperation projects with relevant parties, and catalyzed investment of nearly USD 1 trillion.
5. The participants recognize that the BRI has rejuvenated the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutual benefit. The Belt and Road cooperation upholds the principle of extensive consultation, joint efforts and shared benefits, the approach of open, green and clean cooperation, and the pursuit of high-standard, people-centered and sustainable development. The BRI, featuring enhanced policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial cooperation, and people-to-people bonds, has mobilized driving forces for world economic growth, built platforms for international economic cooperation, opened up vistas for global common development, and become a widely welcomed international public good as well as a practice for building a community with a shared future.
6. The participants expect strengthened efforts to usher in a new stage of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, aiming to better contribute to promoting international cooperation, boosting global economic growth, accelerating implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and shape a bright future of peace, development, and win-win cooperation.
Outcomes of the BRF
7. At the Opening Ceremony of the BRF III, President Xi Jinping announced the following major steps that will be taken by China to support high-quality Belt and Road cooperation:
1) Building a multidimensional Belt and Road connectivity network. China will speed up high-quality development of the China-Europe Railway Express, participate in the trans-Caspian international transportation corridor, host the China-Europe Railway Express Cooperation Forum, and make joint efforts to build a new logistics corridor across the Eurasian continent linked by direct railway and road transportation. We will vigorously integrate ports, shipping and trading services under the “Silk Road Maritime Cooperation,” and accelerate the building of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor and the Air Silk Road.
2) Supporting an open world economy. China will establish pilot zones for Silk Road e-commerce cooperation, enter into free trade agreements and investment protection treaties with more countries. We will remove all restrictions on foreign investment access in the manufacturing sector. In light of international high-standard economic and trade rules, we will further advance high-standard opening up in cross-border service trade and investment, expand market access for digital and other products, and deepen reform in areas including the state-owned enterprises, digital economy, intellectual property and government procurement. China will hold the Global Digital Trade Expo annually. In the next five years (2024-2028), China’s total trade in goods and services is expected to exceed USD 32 trillion and USD 5 trillion respectively.
3) Carrying out practical cooperation. China will promote both signature projects and “small yet smart” livelihood programs. The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will each set up a RMB 350 billion financing window. An additional RMB 80 billion will be injected into the Silk Road Fund. Together, they will support BRI projects on the basis of market and business operation. Cooperation agreements worth USD 97.2 billion have been concluded at the CEO Conference held during this Forum. China will carry out 1,000 small-scale livelihood assistance projects, and enhance vocational education cooperation through Luban Workshops and other initiatives. We will also step up joint efforts to ensure the safety of BRI projects and personnel.
4) Promoting green development. China will continue to deepen cooperation in areas such as green infrastructure, green energy and green transportation, and step up support for the BRI International Green Development Coalition. China will continue to hold the BRI Green Innovation Conference, and establish dialogue and exchange mechanisms for the solar industry and a network of experts on green and low-carbon development. China will implement the Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road, and provide 100,000 training opportunities for partner countries by 2030.
5) Advancing scientific and technological innovation. China will continue to implement the Belt and Road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan, hold the First Belt and Road Conference on Science and Technology Exchange, increase the number of joint laboratories built with other parties to 100 in the next five years, and support young scientists from other countries to work on short-term programs in China. At this Forum, China will put forward the Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) Governance Initiative. We stand ready to increase exchanges and dialogue with other countries and jointly promote the sound, orderly and secure AI development in the world.
6) Supporting people-to-people exchanges. China will host the Liangzhu Forum to enhance dialogue on civilizations with BRI partner countries. In addition to the Silk Road International League of Theaters, the Network of Silk Road Arts Festivals, the International Alliance of Museums of the Silk Road, the Silk Road International Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries, and the Silk Road International Library Alliance that have been set up, China has also launched the International Tourism Alliance of Silk Road Cities. And we will continue with the Chinese government scholarship “Silk Road Program”.
7) Promoting integrity-based Belt and Road cooperation. Together with its cooperation partners, China will release the Achievements and Prospects of Belt and Road Integrity Building and the High-Level Principles on Belt and Road Integrity Building, and establish the Corporate Integrity and Compliance Evaluation System for the Belt and Road Initiative. We will also work with international organizations to carry out research and training on promoting integrity in Belt and Road cooperation.
8) Strengthening institutional building for Belt and Road international cooperation. China will work with Belt and Road partner countries to strengthen the building of multilateral cooperation platforms covering energy, taxation, finance, green development, disaster risk reduction, anti-corruption, think tank, media, culture and other fields. China will continue to host the BRF and establish a secretariat for the Forum.
8. A total of 458 outcomes were delivered during the BRF III, including: i) a series of international cooperation initiatives and international conferences jointly launched or agreed by relevant parties, which were compiled by the Chair as a list of multilateral cooperation deliverables (Annex I); ii) a number of pragmatic cooperation projects and bilateral cooperation agreements among relevant national governments, financial institutions, subnational governments and enterprises, which were compiled by the Chair as a list of practical cooperation deliverables (Annex II).
Discussions of High-level Forums
9. At the high-level forums, the participants discussed the cooperation in areas of connectivity, digital economy and green development. The main points are as follows.
i. Strengthen Connectivity in an Open World Economy
Infrastructure is the bedrock of connectivity, and enhanced connectivity is conducive for countries to be integrated into global supply chains, industrial chains and value chains. In this regard, it is necessary for countries to build and maintain high-quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, while ensuring viability, affordability, inclusiveness, accessibility and broad benefit over entire life-cycle of the infrastructure. Multilateral development banks and financial institutions from all countries are welcome to provide more financial support for infrastructure projects through financial instruments including public-private partnership (PPP) and blended finance.
Strengthened cooperation in areas of transport, energy resources, water conservancy and information communication facilities is conducive to building comprehensive and multi-modal connectivity networks, developing interoperable and multi-modal transport, and continuously enhancing international transport facilitation and the resilience of international transportation corridors. The participants encourage conducting international cooperation on rules, regulations and standards of infrastructure, and fostering universally accepted rules, standards and best practices in this regard to enhance “soft connectivity”. China and relevant partners jointly launched the Beijing Initiative for Deepening Cooperation on Connectivity.
ii. Build Green Silk Road for Living in Harmony with Nature
The participants recall the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement, as well as the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, and support building a green silk road together to realize harmony between humanity and nature.
Climate actions should follow the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities to tackle climate change. The Belt and Road cooperation partners support strengthening cooperation in areas of biodiversity conservation and pollution control, circular economy, green infrastructure, green transport, prevention and control of desertification and sandstorm, and encourage the development of effective green finance instruments. The BRI International Green Development Coalition and its cooperation partners launched the Green Investment and Finance Partnership, aiming to provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for green development in developing countries. China and relevant partners jointly launched the Beijing Initiative for Belt and Road Green Development.
iii. Develop Digital Economy as a New Source of Growth
Bridging the digital gap will facilitate an inclusive digital economy. In this regard, it is necessary to foster an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for digital development, and build a digital silk road featuring joint contribution and sharing of digital resources, vibrant digital economy, well-targeted and efficient digital governance, better digital security, and mutually beneficial digital cooperation.
The Belt and Road cooperation partners support to build and improve information infrastructure, namely regional communications, internet, satellite navigation, etc. They support in-depth integration of digital technologies into real economy, facilitating exchange of digital transformation practices in areas of manufacturing, agriculture, retail, education, medical services, health care, tourism and professional services, and stepping up the application of blockchain and AI technology in an innovative manner in sectors of finance, shipping, commerce and culture, to achieve digital transformation which is more inclusive, enabling, sustainable, resilient and innovation-driven. They support strengthened exchanges and cooperation on international cyberspace governance and law-based cyberspace governance.
China launched the Global AI Governance Initiative during the BRF III, calling for strengthening information exchanges and technological cooperation on the governance of AI, preventing risks, and developing AI governance frameworks, norms and standards based on broad consensus, so as to make AI technologies more secure, reliable, controllable, and equitable. China and relevant partners jointly launched the Beijing Initiative on the Belt and Road International Digital Economy Cooperation.
Discussions of Thematic Forums
10. At the thematic forums, the participants elaborated on the following points.
i. Promoting Unimpeded Trade
The participants support the rules-based, non-discriminatory, open, fair, inclusive, just and transparent multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core, and oppose unilateral and protectionist measures. They support necessary WTO reform for multilateral trade rules to keep abreast with our times.
The Belt and Road cooperation partners agree to further enhance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and support cooperation on customs clearance facilitation and law enforcement, especially mutual recognition of Authorized Economic Operators (AEOs), single window for international trade, international trade documents digitalization, shipping trade digitalization, innovation of trans-border e-commerce supervision, and cooperation on inspection and quarantine of agricultural and food products. They support improving business environment, protecting rights and interests of investors, improving multilateral and bilateral economic and trade cooperation mechanisms, safeguarding the stability of industrial chains and supply chains, increasing inflows and outflows of investment, and strengthening cooperation on key industries. They support the WTO to conclude the Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement, and encourage tripartite or plurilateral market cooperation. They acknowledge the impact of taxation on cross-border investment, and agree to expand the tax treaty networks, and strengthen international tax cooperation, especially through the Belt and Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Mechanism. China will support to establish international cooperation zones for trade in services in places where conditions allow, and advance high-quality development of free trade pilot zones and Hainan Free Trade Port. China and relevant partners jointly launched the Initiative on International Trade and Economic Cooperation Framework for Digital Economy and Green Development.
ii. Enhancing Maritime Cooperation
Ocean, as “the Blue Engine”, is playing an increasingly important role in the world economic development. The participants support to promote the development, transformation and upgrade of marine industries, and develop a sustainable, resilient and inclusive blue economy based on clean production, green technologies and circular economy. They encourage innovations in blue economy finance platforms, products, standards and service systems, utilization of financial instruments, namely blue bonds, insurance and funds, and improvement of investment and financing environment for blue industries.
The Belt and Road cooperation partners support the sustainable use of marine resources, and strengthening cooperation in areas of marine biodiversity protection, marine ecosystem conservation and restoration, as well as ocean-based climate actions. They agree to deepen marine science and technology cooperation, share knowledge and outcomes of marine sustainable development, and facilitate the harmonization of marine technological standards and marine technology transfer. They support efforts to provide maritime public services, promote the development of critical seabed infrastructure, establish a maritime disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism, and jointly develop a maritime disaster early warning system for key waters on the sea. China and relevant partners jointly launched the Belt and Road Blue Cooperation Initiative.
iii. Promoting Clean Silk Road
Integrity guarantees high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation, and there shall be zero tolerance for corruption. The participants call for comprehensive and efficient international cooperation on fugitive repatriation, asset recovery, anti-bribery, and anti-money laundering in accordance with national laws and regulations as well as the obligations under international conventions such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and relevant bilateral treaties, aiming to deny safe havens for corrupt criminals and their assets.
China and cooperation partners jointly issued the Achievements and Prospects of Belt and Road Integrity Building as well as the High-Level Principles on Belt and Road Integrity Building, acknowledged the significant progress made in promoting integrity in Belt and Road cooperation, and proposed cooperation principles in this regard, namely jointly establishing integrity partnerships, collectively promoting fair and transparent business environment, and sharing outcomes of integrity development. They will cultivate a culture of integrity, raise the awareness of enterprises for self-discipline, rule of law and accountability, and establish the Corporate Integrity and Compliance Evaluation System for the Belt and Road Initiative. They agree to strengthen academic exchanges and cooperation against corruption, step up training for personnel involved in Belt and Road integrity cooperation, and encourage signing extradition treaties, treaties on judicial assistance in criminal matters, and anti-corruption cooperation agreements. The thematic Forum on Clean Silk Road issued a chair’s summary.
iv. Strengthening Think Tank Exchanges
The academia recognize the white paper “The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future” issued by China, the report “The Belt and Road Development Studies” released during the BRF III by the New China Research, a think tank of Xinhua News Agency, as well as other studies on the BRI published by the World Bank, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and the BRF Advisory Council. As indicated in these studies, the BRI is conducive to lowering global trade costs, alleviating global poverty, and thereby contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Think tanks from different countries, while having provided important intellectual support for high-quality Belt and Road cooperation so far, are encouraged to strengthen cooperation to promote the sharing of information, resources and research outcomes, and deliver more objective and impartial research results and practical policy recommendations.
The participants support think tanks, experts and scholars to conduct joint research by leveraging their respective professional advantages, and explore practical pathways and future directions of the BRI. They encourage think tanks to carry out the BRI-related thematic activities, enhance academic exchanges, expand collaboration networks and share up-to-date research outcomes through forums, symposiums and visiting scholar programs, and continuously enrich the substance and depth of BRI-related studies. They support think tanks, media, and civil societies to strengthen communication with the general public on the BRI, effectively address misinformation and misperceptions about the BRI, and enhance people’s understanding and awareness in this regard. The Initiative of Promoting International Think Tank Cooperation for BRI was put forward at the Thematic Forum on Think Tank Exchanges.
v. Enhancing People-to-People Exchanges
Strong people-to-people bonds serve as an important foundation of Belt and Road cooperation. In this regard, it is necessary to embrace the vision of equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness among different civilizations, and enable cultural exchanges to transcend estrangement, mutual learning to transcend clashes, and coexistence to transcend feelings of superiority, thus to continuously promote mutual understanding, respect and appreciation among different peoples, cultures and civilizations, and jointly build global network for inter-civilization dialogue and cooperation.
The Belt and Road cooperation partners encourage political parties, parliaments, civil societies, media, think tanks and business communities to play bigger roles in fostering people-to-people bonds, and expect further exchanges and cooperation in areas of art, culture, education, science and technology, tourism, health and sports.
China launched the Joint Statement of Proposals on Strengthening Silk Road People-to-People Connectivity, and will implement the Belt and Road Future Leaders Program, set up a Belt and Road Fund for People-to-People Connectivity, and carry out Action on “Silk Road People-to-People Connectivity”.
vi. Strengthening Subnational Cooperation
Non-governmental friendship is rooted in the local and derived from the people. Subnational governments, particularly governments of friendship cities, are important booster of people-to-people bonds among the Belt and Road partner countries. The participants encourage relevant parties to uphold a people-centered approach for development, strengthen exchanges among relevant subnational governments and friendship cities, deepen practical cooperation and work together to translate friendly relations into fruitful outcomes that benefit the people.
The Belt and Road cooperation partners support to advance the building of subnational cooperation platforms, and will work to foster more friendly partnerships among subnational governments in places with strong economic complementarity and industrial linkages, to better leverage respective advantages on industrial structures and resource endowment, promote mutually beneficial cooperation in priority areas of poverty reduction, urban governance, digital economy, green and innovative development, capacity building, and facilitate common development. They agree to continuously deepen subnational people-to-people exchanges, expand and consolidate the base of friendly relations in the regard of benefits and public support. The Thematic Forum on Subnational Cooperation issued a chair’s statement.
11. The Belt and Road cooperation is based on market rules with enterprises as the main players and supported by inter-governmental cooperation. The Beijing Declaration of the Belt and Road CEO Conference was released during the BRF III as an outcome, in which business communities reaffirmed that openness and cooperation should be upheld, and pledged to enhance practical cooperation in areas of connectivity, green development and digital economy, fulfill corporate social responsibilities, thus to contribute to high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.
The Way Forward
12. The Belt and Road cooperation partners will jointly translate the above outcomes into actions, continue to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, better synergize their respective development plans with the BRI, and further facilitate infrastructure “hard connectivity”, rules and standards “soft connectivity”, as well as people-to-people “heart connectivity”, contributing to world economic recovery and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.