A top-level planning group met on Feb 1 to map out priorities to shape new trade routes in Eurasia, a move analysts say sends a clear signal to the world that the country’s major preparations are nearing completion for the so-called “Belt and Road” initiatives.
Members of the Leading Group on the Construction of the Belt and Road attended a meeting on Feb 1 in Beijing that focused on the project.
The idea for the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land-based trade route, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road for shipping, was first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013.
At a year-end roundup in December, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said that “more than 50 countries have made proactive responses” to the concept.
Influential figures attending the meeting included one member of Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee and two members of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee. The meeting decided “arrangements and deployment regarding the major items and priority missions in pressing ahead with Belt and Road construction in 2015 and beyond”, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli chaired the meeting and called for nationwide efforts to get the megaprojects off to a good start. Observers estimated that another batch of priority projects will be made public later this year as components of the project, with the whole project likely to roll out in concrete terms this year.
Chen Fengying, a senior researcher in world economy studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the meeting of a range of key officials shows that “the planning of the project is mostly in place, and the blueprint is already set. The year 2015 could be defined as the first year of bringing the project to reality.”
Beijing has designated the project as one of the three priority strategies for the annual Central Economic Work Conference, a December gathering to shape the country’s economic policies.
At local levels, enthusiasm for joining the project is on the rise. More than 20 provinces have stated their readiness to participate. Several funding programs supporting the strategic project - including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund - have shown signs of acceleration since last year.
Ma Jiali, a researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the “economic benefits brought by the project should be guaranteed and recognized by the beneficiaries”.