On 10 October 2023, China’s State Council Information Office released an important white paper: The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future. The document presents the achievements of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since its announcement in September 2013.
A significant number of historic infrastructure projects in the developing world have already been built within the framework of the BRI. For example, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway is the largest infrastructure project carried out in Kenya since independence. The China-Laos Railway – an electrified railway directly connecting Kunming (in China’s southwestern Yunnan province) to Vientiane, the capital of Laos – was completed in 2021. The white paper notes:
“As an important part of the central section of the pan-Asia railway network, the China-Laos Railway has helped Laos to realize its long-cherished dream of becoming a land-linked country from a landlocked one. It has promoted transport, investment, logistics and tourism, and injected new impetus into the economic development of Laos and areas along the line. By August 31, 2023, the railway had recorded a total of 20.79 million passenger trips and carried 25.22 million tonnes of cargo. It has become a safe and efficient international passageway connecting Laos with its neighbouring countries and regions and generating mutual benefits.”
The Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway – the first high-speed rail system in Indonesia – has achieved an operational speed of 350 km per hour, reducing the journey time between these important cities from 3.5 hours to 45 minutes.
A huge number of energy production and distribution projects have been built as part of the BRI, connecting China, Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia, Pakistan and further afield.
The white paper makes it very clear that, while the BRI was launched by China, “it belongs to the world and benefits the whole of humanity”, and that “irrespective of size, strength and wealth, all countries participate on an equal footing.” The aim is not to travel the well-trodden path of imperialist modernisation but rather to build a global community of shared future – “an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity, charting a bright future for human development.”
This is a model of development and international relations that “diverges from the exploitative colonialism of the past, avoids coercive and one-sided transactions, rejects the centre-periphery model of dependency, and refuses to displace crisis onto others or exploit neighbours for self-interest. Instead, it aims to achieve win-win outcomes and shared development and prosperity.”
Rather than competing with other initiatives, the BRI has successfully integrated and cooperated with many other strategies including Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union framework, Kazakhstan’s Bright Road economic policy, Indonesia’s Global Marine Fulcrum initiative, Vietnam’s Two Corridors and One Economic Circle plan, South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, and Egypt’s Suez Canal Corridor Project.
“By June 2023, China had signed more than 200 BRI cooperation agreements with more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations across five continents, yielding a number of signature projects and small-scale yet impactful projects.”
The document notes that the fruits of economic globalisation have hitherto been dominated by a small group of developed countries. Rather than contributing to common prosperity at a global level, globalisation “has widened the wealth gap between rich and poor, between developed and developing countries, and within developed countries. Many developing countries have benefited little from economic globalisation and even lost their capacity for independent development, making it hard for them to access the track of modernisation. Certain countries have practiced unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism, hampering economic globalisation and threatening a global economic recession.”
The focus of the BRI is precisely on contributing to a form of globalisation that generates common prosperity, that brings benefits particularly to developing countries. As such, “most participants are developing countries, all seeking to leverage collective strengths to address challenges such as inadequate infrastructure, lagging industrial development, limited industrialisation, insufficient capital and technology, and a shortage of skilled workers, to promote their own economic and social development.”
Hence the BRI stands in defence of greater globalisation and economic integration, but in a form that is beneficial to all. It stands against certain concepts that have become popular in the West recently – “decoupling” and “derisking” – which seek to impede global cooperation, exchanges and mutual learning. “In a world full of uncertainties and instabilities, all countries should urgently bridge differences through dialogue, oppose rifts with unity, and promote development through cooperation.”
Especially in the last few years, the BRI has embraced green and low-carbon development, “emphasising respecting and protecting nature and following its laws, and respecting the right of all parties to pursue sustainable and eco-friendly growth.” Hence for example China pledged in 2021 to stop building new coal-fired power stations overseas, and is actively building financing mechanisms to encourage sustainable energy and infrastructure.
The document also discusses progress made under the BRI in numerous fields that are largely overlooked, for example cooperation in public health, digital governance and people-to-people exchanges and tourism.
All in all, “the BRI has become the world’s largest platform for international cooperation” and is providing a springboard for progress and prosperity throughout the world.
Note that Friends of Socialist China and the International Manifesto Group are holding a webinar – Building a multipolar world: Ten years of the Belt and Road Initiative – on Saturday 4 November 2023, featuring an array of interesting speakers including Erik Solheim (President, Green Belt and Road Institute), Professor Zhang Weiwei (Director, China Institute, Fudan University), Li Jingjing (Journalist and political commentator, CGTN), Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi (Political analyst, Iran), Senator Mushahid Hussain (Chair, Pakistan-China Institute), Martin Jacques (Author, When China Rules the World), Fred M’membe (President, Socialist Party Zambia), Camila Escalante (Editor, Kawsachun News), Keith Bennett (Co-editor, Friends of Socialist China) and Radhika Desai (Convenor, International Manifesto Group). Registration is free via Eventbrite.
The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China
Over two millennia ago, inspired by a sincere wish for friendship, our ancestors travelled across grasslands and deserts to create a land Silk Road connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, leading the world into an era of extensive cultural exchanges. More than 1,000 years ago, our ancestors set sail and braved the waves to open a maritime Silk Road linking the East and the West, beginning a new phase of closer communication among peoples.
Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes were not only routes for trade but also roads for cultural exchanges. They made a great contribution to human progress. In the 1980s, the United Nations and some countries began to envisage the Eurasian Land Bridge, the Silk Road Initiative, and other plans, reflecting a common wish to engage in communication and cooperation.
In March 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed the vision of a global community of shared future; in September and October that year, he raised the initiatives of joining with others to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI). The Belt and Road Initiative is a creative development that takes on and carries forward the spirit of the ancient silk routes – two of the great achievements in human history and civilization. It enriches the ancient spirit with the zeitgeist and culture of the new era, and provides a platform for building a global community of shared future.Continue reading The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future