Added On March 14, 2017
Hello you are watching Talk China on CNC World. I’m Xie E
And I am Sean Haines
During this year’s two sessions, one of the highlights would be the Belt and Road Initiative. It was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, as a way to link trade and development around the world.
Since then, the idea has been seized upon by the international community keen for growth.
And Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke about the initiative earlier on the press conference on the sidelines of the two sessions. Take a listen.
WANG YI – FROM ECONOMY REPORT 2017/03/08
“The Belt and Road Initiative has been so successful because it meets the partner countries' urgent desire for more mutually beneficial cooperation and follows the open and inclusive principle of planning together, building together and benefiting together. With protectionism and unilateralism on the rise, the Belt and Road Initiative is a common cause where the participating countries roll up their sleeves and pitch in together. The initiative will help to rebalance economic globalization and make it more inclusive and equitable. It also represents an important attempt at building a community of shared future for all humankind.”
So, Sean, I think my first question will be, how aware were you about this Initiative?
Sure, well I think the world is aware of this Initiative. It seems to appear from the air. It just appeared. It's something the world is go behind quite quickly at the same time.
Well, before we go any further, I think we should just take a step back and ask “What is the Belt and Road”?
PKG – INTRODUCTION OF BELT AND ROAD. CHINESE LEADERS. CONSTRUCTION. RAILWAYS. PORTS. CONTAINERS. MAPS. INDUSTRY. ETC.
In September 2013, President Xi Jingping announced a new development strategy
The idea resurrects a successful part of Eurasian history.
Around 2000 years ago, ancient civilizations began to trade along a route stretching from Europe in the West, to China in the East.
The trade was very active, with horses, pottery, and new ideas being shared along its length. Silk was the most prized – hence the name Silk Road.
The modern Belt & Road Initiative looks to rebuild and strengthen trade along these routes.
The Silk Road Economic Belt flows from China, to Pakistan, to Central Asia, to the Middle East, and to Europe over land.
Meanwhile the Maritime Silk Road crosses the seas to the Arabian peninsular and reaches as far as Africa.
In total, it covers 4.4 billion people or 63 percent of the global population.
Since its announcement China has signed cooperation agreements with more than 40 countries and international organizations.
In 2016, 56 new economic trade zones were set up in 20 countries – at an investment of 18.5 billion dollars.
Chinese companies followed suit, and last year signed contracts worth 126 billion dollars with countries along the route – up 36 percent year on year.
The investment has been used to upgrade infrastructure including railways, road, super-ports, airports, and power stations.
This development has had a profound effect on trade. Last year, the amount of goods between China and the Belt & Road countries topped 6.3 trillion yuan – over 900 billion dollars. And more growth is expected to come.
So, now, we just heard a lot of impressive numbers, but how does the Belt and Road Initiative work in practice?
Sure, so if you were to look at a map of the world, these routes go through some of the poorest parts. What this Initiative does is looks and says these aren't poor countries, these are countries with a large amount of potential for development.
All they need are better railways, more consistent power, better roads, Internet, business parks, with this kind of upgrades, the countries become richer, people become richer. Everybody wins.
Right, actuall win-win situation. So this Initiative was announced more than three years ago. Can you show us how much progress has been made?
It's quite a lot actually. A surprising amount considering the vast amount of countries we are talking about.
You have to deal with politics of these countries and also vast amount of investment. So far I think it's about 40 countries have signed up the agreement 100 further approved.
Right, and I learned that the first train from China reached Britain this year and a pass through the Himalayas to Nepal’s capital reopened this year.
Sure, also travel between Kazakhstan and China has been cut from 40 hours to 30. And of course trade is up.
Right. And I think the trains and railways have played an important role in this Initiative. And this Initiative is not just for Eurasia, or over land.
The Maritime Silk Road also goes to India, the Middle East and even to Africa. And I think this follows the some of the most remarkable voyages of Chinese history — like the ones led by Zheng He in Ming dynasty.
Sure, so the Chinese have been visiting Africa for over 2000 years. The modern Maritime Silk Road strategy looks to upgrade these routes as well, and make it a little bit easier for goods to flow back and forth over the Indian sea.
But of course, you also have to get goods from African cities to the sea itself.
So China has been heavily investing railways in East Africa. Last year, China opened a 750km railway linking Ethiopia with Djibouti.
And it’s mid way through construction on a 3.8 billion railway linking Nairobi, the capital of Kenya to Mombassa.
It's not just railway though. So, it's also been going further than the investment and building. And it has been training the staff itself.
So, it has been flying workers from Kenya to Chinese universities training these people up in valuable skills how to run a railway itself.
Right, that’s exactly what a Chinese proverb has said. If you give a man fish, he eats it for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, he will never go hungry. So, that's exactly what the Chinese government has been doing with these win-win projects in Africa. And I think to talk about these railway projects, they are pretty huge. So, where does the investment the money in general come in. And I think one of the key financier will be the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
So this Bank – AIIB, was put together very quickly. Announced 2013. Launched 2014. And opened for business at the start of last year.
It already has 50 member countries, contributing 100 billion U.S. dollars put towards developments into infrastructure projects around the world.
And the international commitment for the scheme has continued this week.
On the sidelines of these Two Sessions, it was announced that more than 20 heads of state and 1,200 people have already signed up to attend the Belt and Road Forum which is to be held in Beijing in May.
And International reaction seems warm. But for a deeper insight, we spoke to a number of senior world policymakers, and asked for their views.
SOUNDBITE:ADMASSU TADESSE, President and CEO of TDB bank
"It is a bold initiative and we understand China is passionate about trade as part of our world as well as the rest of the Asian region. We have always understood that infrastructure is very important part of trade agenda, so having a strategic road like that that cuts across Asia and connects Africa to Asia through that mechanism is always very welcomed."
MOHAMMAD H. EMADI
“I THINK THAT THE ‘ONE BELT……And new world order.”
“The most important…aligns with a global policy.”
So, to sum up. What would you say is the international reaction to this Initiative.
It's pretty receptive. China connects the world ask them very politely. We have this idea for the future and will make you a little bit richer. Would you like to share it with us? It's receptive China is pushing on an open door with this one.
Right, that's a perfect idea to sum up or to wrap up our talk today. And this is Talk China. Thank you for watching. I’m Xie E .
And I’m Sean Haines. See you next time.