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Belt and Road Initiative, A Joint Endeavor for shared Prosperity
By Ning Fukui, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the Kingdom of Thailand
The ancient Silk Road is a route linking several major civilizations 2000 years ago through trade and cultural exchanges. Entering into the second decade of the 21st century, the Silk Road is revitalized by the Initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative, BRI) proposed by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Public product instead of national agenda

The BRI is proposed by China, but it targeted both the Chinese and the world long existed economic structure problems. It provides a vision with traditional oriental wisdom and modern thinking for regional and world economic cooperation and integration. By proposing broad trans-regional connectivity efforts, BRI is trying to present a perspective of interconnected Euro-Asia continent and beyond, with a view of strengthening the flow of economic factors and bringing prosperity to all. By proposing unprecedented transnational economic corridors, BRI is aiming for the widest participation in the global value chain and bringing industrial and innovative capacities to the developing countries. Five areas including policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people contacts are identified by BRI as priorities for joint actions.

  Supplemented with financing tools like Silk Road Fund and AIIB, BRI is deemed as a well designed public product for economic cooperation and integration. Active responses and participation from the international community had made BRI far beyond a national initiative. It has been recognized as a visionary and operational solution for pulling the world out of economic sluggish and for bringing the Euro-Asia continent into a more balanced, inclusive and sustainable development.

Economic initiative instead of game changer

While presenting a grand strategy for cross-regional development, BRI tried to use economic rebalance to generate new impetus for growth. In China, eastern and coastal areas have taken the lead in economic reform and opening up, while the middle and western provinces are relatively behind. At the global level, East Asia and Europe are the two most dynamic economic centers in the Euro-Aisa continent, while the South Aisa, Central Asia and Middle East have more potentials still to be unleashed. Diffusion the development benefits from the developed areas to the under ones and putting through the connections of the east-west economic centers would release great geographical and resources potential. Based on such assumption, BRI identified seamless connectivity as the driving force for economic re-balancing. Cross-border networks in terms of rail and road transport, energy pipelines, power grid, information and telecommunication nets are promising for the flow of goods, capital and people and could significantly raise the efficiency for resources allocation and extend the value chain to more remote regions.

The BRI embraces its partners to carry on the connectivity agenda in line with their national priorities, and it supports the multilateral connectivity arrangement implementation such as the Asia Highway Network Agreement, the Tran-Asia Railway Agreement, by providing political support, investment guidance, cross border facilitation etc. There is no hidden agenda for BRI. What BRI pursuing is a kind of new partnership based on equal-footing consultation, mutual respect and trust, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. BRI is carried forward under the existing international order. The rules and laws under the current multilateral systems are well observed. The Euro-Asia continent has never been so motivated and so full of hope for connectivity in all fronts and at all levels. BRI's contribution to such positive scenario are well regarded. Those who keep talking about BRI's geopolitical implications or China's hegemony ambitions really need to change their cold war mentality.    

Plan and build jointly for the benefit of all

The BRI is designed as a framework for cooperation instead of one mega project. BRI just set the vision and action direction. Partners to BRI will plan and build the connectivity plan and identify the cooperation model jointly. Various projects which might widen the Belt and broaden the Road could be filled into the framework. Respecting sovereignty and following market rules are basic principles for BRI cooperation. As for China, we will never impose any project to any country. Meanwhile, as the second largest economy in the world, we are willing to provide necessary support and contribution for projects subjected to the BRI framework.

Early Achievements encouraging

So far, over 100 countries and international organizations have given active responses to BRI. Over 40 countries and international organizations have signed cooperation agreements with China on BRI cooperation. By synergizing each other's strategies and plans on connectivity, enhancing production capacity cooperation and promoting people-to-people exchange, a number of landmark projects were agreed upon and kicked off. AIIB loaned US$5.3 billion to projects related to BRI. The Silk Road Fund pool reached $40 billion and had launched batches of investment projects. China is engaged in industrial cooperation with more than 20 countries in building at least 56 trade and economic cooperation zones with over US$18.5 billion of investment, which has generated nearly US$1.1 billion in tax revenue and created 180,000 jobs for the host countries. Chinese enterprises have so far invested more than US$50 billion to countries along the BRI, which promoted local economy and created great job opportunities, delivering real benefits to the people of relevant countries. Only last year, China's trade volume with the countries along the route hit $1 trillion, and its direct investment in these countries amounted to US$14.5 billion. 

In a few days, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing. Leaders or senior representatives from more than 110 countries and 30 international organizations will attend the Forum. The event will further build political consensus on BRI, brainstorm interconnected development strategyaddress the regional and global economic challenges, deepen partnership, and bring about a new landscape of development and prosperity for all. This would be a important milestone for advancing BRI. Either for the substance to be discussed or for the political and symbolic message to be released, the Forum deserves due attention both for media and for public.

Thailand is an important country on the route of BRI and an important partner for BRI cooperation due to its geographic location and its all-round traditional ties with China. As an important component to BRI, China-Thailand Railway Project is of great significance for both countries. As Belt refers to, the railway would not only improve connectivity, but also bring economic zones and industry parks along two sides of the way, driving the development of northeastern area of Thailand. Of course, this needs entrepreneurs' enthusiasm and governmental policy guidance. The Thai government attaches great importance to the event and 5 ministers will attend the Forum in Beijing. The Chinese side highly appreciates it and is looking forward to Thailand's unique contribution to the coming BRI Forum. We have full confidence that, through such engagement, a further strengthened China-Thai partnership on BRI would be built, the China-Thai economical cooperation and culture and people exchange would be raised to new heights.

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