This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over the past decade, the BRI cooperation has made remarkable achievements, injecting new impetus into the global economy, creating new opportunities for global development and blazing a new path for all humanity to realize modernization.
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed to jointly build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which are now known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the trans-national cooperation under the framework of the BRI has ever since extended from the Eurasian continent to Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific.
Ten years on, the BRI has evolved from a vision into reality, from general framework into concrete projects, becoming the world’s most popular international public good and the largest international cooperation platform.
By June 2023, China had signed more than 200 BRI cooperation agreements with more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations across five continents. And over 20 specialized multilateral cooperation platforms were established under the BRI.
Why is the BRI so popular? The answer lies in the fact that the BRI responds to the expectation of all the participating countries to achieve shared development and prosperity and aspiration of all peoples for better life.
“The BRI pursues development, promotes win-win outcomes, and inspires hope,” President Xi told participants attending the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which decodes the BRI’s success in the past ten years.
Pursuing common development
Global development faces multiple challenges, such as sluggish economic recovery, surging de-globalization, imbalanced economic development, and increasing wealth inequality. To make things worse, rising unilateralism, protectionism and hegemonism are hampering global cooperation and recovery.
The BRI offers the world a timely and practical solution infused with Chinese wisdom to those challenges.
The BRI is committed to enhancing policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity in an effort to promote global development that is balanced, coordinated, inclusive and shared by all.
Over the past decade, China and BRI partners have endeavored to build a global network of connectivity consisting of economic corridors, international transportation routes and information highway as well as railways, roads, airports, seaports, pipelines and power grids.
The network, known for its multi-channels of the land, the ocean, the sky and the Internet, has effectively facilitated the flow of capital, technology, commodities, and professionals among the countries involved and created better environments for development.
During the ten years, BRI cooperation in various fields such as transportation, agriculture, energy, communication, education and healthcare has helped the participating countries make good returns, which has reinforced their capacity of development, and addressed the significant bottlenecks restricting their economic growth.
They included such BRI landmark projects as the China-Laos Railway which has turned landlocked Laos into a land transport hub, Kenya’s Mombasa-Nairobi Railway which contributes 2 percent to the African nation’s economic growth, and Indonesia’s Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, the first high-speed railway in Southeast Asia, which plays a pivotal role in narrowing regional development gaps and promoting economic integration of the region, while greatly improving local people’s lives.
As a Chinese saying goes: “Don’t just give a man fish; teach him how to catch fish.” This is what the BRI aims to help the participating countries create more jobs and reduce poverty as soon as possible. China has so far dispatched more than 2,000 agricultural experts and technicians to over 70 participating countries and introduced more than 1,500 agricultural technologies such as Juncao and hybrid rice in the BRI countries. The establishment of Luban Workshops and vocational schools under the BRI has also helped the countries to cultivate professionals from local poor people.
“I acknowledge that my story and dreams would be irrelevant, were it not for the BRI, which has truly opened doors for my career,” said Mirriam Gakii Kirimi, a young woman currently working as an interpreter for Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau which contracts to build road and dam projects in Kenya.
Over the past decade, Belt and Road cooperation has also galvanized up to 1 trillion U.S. dollars of investment globally and created more than 3,000 projects and 420,000 jobs for the participating countries.
The World Bank has estimated that by 2030, BRI-related investments could lift 7.6 million out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, British scholar Martin Jacques described the BRI as an “epic project, epic narrative, and epic reflection on Chinese history,” observing that it is transforming the global agenda, offering developing countries a new path to prosperity.
The BRI provides a critical and effective way to help developing countries achieve sustainable development, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
New path to modernization
Belt and Road cooperation was proposed by China, but its benefits and opportunities are for the world to share. The BRI aims to open up a new path for all humanity to realize modernization.
“The modernization we are pursuing is not for China alone, but for all developing countries through our joint efforts,” Xi said when elaborating China’s vision to pursue global modernization, adding that it is to enhance peaceful development and mutually beneficial cooperation and bring prosperity to all.
Historically, the economic globalization dominated by a few rich countries has never contributed to the common development and many developing countries have benefited little and even lost their capacity for independent development, making it hard for them to access the track of modernization.
Thanks to the BRI, many developing countries have gained increasing access to global markets, eased their financing problems for much-needed infrastructure projects, filled an “infrastructure deficit,” strengthened their comparative advantages, and boosted their capacity for independent economic development.
The BRI dovetails with regional and global development plans and initiatives, including the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
According to Turkish Ambassador to China Ismail Hakki Musa, only a few imagined that the BRI would have such influence and force to transform the world in economic, infrastructure and development areas. “Today everyone is aware of the fact that this is an unprecedented achievement,” he said.
Jiri Paroubek, former prime minister of the Czech Republic, said the BRI will help many countries of the developing world to increase their development, and also the living standards of the people.
Fairer global governance
The BRI’s success since its inception is based on its core principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits that promote multilateralism as well as equitable and just global governance.
Those principles have become recognized globally, with reference in important documents from international organizations and bodies like the United Nations and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
The BRI has gradually formed a new vision of global development and governance, with development-oriented, open cooperation, multilateral consultation and harmonious coexistence as the underlying principles, said a research report entitled “The Belt and Road Development Studies — A Synergy Approach to Global Development”.
The BRI is not a solo endeavor by China, but a collaborative effort involving all participating countries. Under BRI framework, all countries, irrespective of size, strength and wealth, are equal participants, contributors and beneficiaries.
Advocating consultation rather than confrontation, removing walls rather than erecting walls, integration rather than decoupling, and inclusiveness rather than exclusion, the BRI sets a new paradigm for state-to-state relations that shapes the international order towards greater justice and equality.
The BRI demonstrates a completely new model of international relations, where countries are able to build mutually beneficial economic partnerships without any political pressure, said Kirill Babaev, director of the Institute of China and Modern Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“What has happened over the last decade then is a profound shift from a unipolar world to a multipolar one,” said Martin Albrow, a fellow of the British Academy of Social Sciences. “In this China has been a major contributor, for its influence in the world through building new channels of communication has grown enormously.”
The BRI does not have a set of broad ideological conditions to which countries must adhere in order to participate. “The BRI model allows countries to develop projects with China that are specific to their needs,” said Annita Montoute, acting director of the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago.
The BRI rejects zero-sum thinking and discards the Cold War mentality of ideological rivalry and geopolitical competition. It transcends differences in ideologies and social systems, enabling different countries to share opportunities, realize common development and prosperity.
At the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October 2023, Xi announced eight major steps to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, including further improving connectivity, supporting an open world economy, promoting green development, and advancing scitech innovation.
As a long-term, transnational and systematic global project of the 21st century, the BRI, robust and fruitful in its first decade, will be full of dynamism and vitality in the years ahead.
Embarking on the new journey toward its second decade, the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation will demonstrate greater creativity and vitality, become more open and inclusive, and generate new opportunities for both China and the rest of the world.