On Belt and Road to quality development

Some critics claim the Belt and Road Initiative is a much hyped project, but without sound field research or in-depth studies. Such critics ignore, deliberately or otherwise, the objective facts. To their disappointment, however, the Belt and Road construction has made great achievements in the past half a dozen years. And the results are there for all to see.

Indeed, the Belt and Road was proposed by China. But it has influenced the world, with the past six years witnessing four major transformations in its construction.

First, the cooperation philosophy has transformed from a national proposal to a global consensus. As of now, 136 countries and 30 international organizations have signed 195 cooperation agreements with China, and the initiative and its core concepts have been included in United Nations, G20, APEC and other multilateral organizations’ documents.

Second, the cooperation structure has transformed from a blueprint to a solid working mechanism. The interconnection structure of “six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports” has basically taken shape thanks to the joint efforts of all parties.

Third, the cooperation field has transformed from infrastructure to energy, digital economy, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges, with the total trade volume in goods between China and other Belt and Road countries exceeding $6 trillion at an average annual growth rate higher than China’s foreign trade.

Fourth, the cooperation vision has changed from building an economic platform to building a platform for a community with a shared future for mankind, which reflects China’s community consciousness and philosophy of mutual help in fair weather and in foul, and responsibility sharing.

As such, the potential for the Belt and Road Initiative’s high-quality development is promising.

Since quantitative accumulation leads to qualitative transformation, China needs to not only pay attention to quantitative development, but also address the problem of quality. At present, promoting the initiative’s high-quality development is a natural extension of China’s economic policy and a realistic need to boost the world economy.

From my perspective, “high-quality development” refers to sustainable development driven by economic vitality, innovation and competitiveness, which would improve the efficiency of total production factors, upgrade the national economic structure and balance the national economy.

In the context of co-construction, high-quality development of the Belt and Road is an offshoot of the principle of “consultation, contribution and shared benefits”, and an organic combination of ideas, systems and actions amid a high level of openness and interconnection.

The pursuit of new economic development concepts and new impetus for economic development has become the common aspiration of the international community and regional organizations such as ASEAN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union.

The Belt and Road Initiative, apart from being aligned with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, has also been incorporated into the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) and the Government Work Report, and therefore has become a major policy for China’s economic development. Plus, the Asian belt and road Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund have formed a financial support system for the initiative.

But if the initiative brings opportunities, it also brings challenges. So we need to make full use of the opportunities and address the challenges, as it could become even more difficult to promote the initiative in the future owing to rising trade protectionism and unilateralism in several countries.

On the domestic front, China needs to balance the relationship between the initiative’s overall promotion and key breakthroughs, and overall planning and long-term success, in order to boost economic development and strengthen ecological protection. China also needs to establish a scientific and objective evaluation system to ensure the high-quality development of the Belt and Road.

(The author is executive director of the China Academy of Belt and Road Initiative and a professor at the Beijing International Studies University. )

For more information, visit: Belt and Road Official Website

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