As the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation concluded in Beijing on May 15, the influence and benefits of the initiative are increasing. With more countries cementing their cooperation with China, people’s lives in various aspects in nations along the route will further improve.
Smederevo Steel Mill, a century-old factory in Serbia, received a new lease of life after a Chinese company acquired it, with new employees joining the ranks and salaries increasing.
Chinese companies have established 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in more than 20 countries, contributing nearly $1.1 billion in tax and creating around 180,000 jobs. At the forum, all the countries decided to promote trade and investment along the Belt and Road to buttress regional and global economic growth. The employment rate and people’s income in countries along the route are projected to further improve.
Before the forum opened, over 20 executives from Laotian railway system came to Wuhan to learn about construction of high-speed rail while the building of the China-Laos Railway in their country is in full stride.
As the forum called for an interconnection of land, marine, and air transport systems and the internet, economic opportunities can be brought to those areas that are isolated from the current international economy, said Clare Pearson, Chair of the British Chamber of Commerce in China.
At the forum, China called for joint efforts in frontier fields such as digital economy, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and quantum computer, to drive forward the development of big data, cloud computing, and the construction of smart cities to build a 21st century digital Silk Road.
“At present, the internet penetration rate of developed countries has exceeded 80 percent, while that of developing countries is only 40 percent, and some of the least developed countries under 15 percent,” said Zhao Houlin, secretary-general of International Telecommunication Union. “Digital cooperation will allow more people alongside the Belt and Road to enjoy modern life and development opportunities.”
Education will bring hope to numerous families along the Belt and Road.
Tian Xuejun, vice-minister of education, said at the forum that China will provide government scholarship to 10, 000 freshmen every year in countries along the initiative.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said at the forum that in some African countries more people are doing banking on mobile phones than going to brick-and-mortar banks, adding that mobile banking should be encouraged.
As its mobile payment technologies progress by leaps and bounds, China is helping countries along the Belt and Road to develop inclusive finance. Ant Financial, a Chinese financial service company, is going to transport its payment technology in several more countries.
China plans to set up a big data service platform for environment protection, establish a Belt and Road international alliance for green development, and promises to provide aid to countries along the route to tackle climate change.
With advantages in renewable energy technologies, management and capital, China is capable of offering help to other developing countries to reduce dependence on fossil energy, said Li Nan, project director of the Beijing Office of World Wide Fund for Nature.
Countries along the Belt and Road have become hot destinations for Chinese outbound tourists. China has concluded agreements on mutual visa exemption with 55 countries along the route, and 22 countries unilaterally exempt visa or offer visa on arrival to Chinese citizens.
Countries along the route have also become China’s important sources of inbound tourists. It is estimated that during the 13th Five-Year Plan period, China will attract 85 million tourists from the Belt and Road countries, which will boost tourism revenue to about $110 billion.
China has signed agreements with over 60 countries on broadcast, film and television cooperation, jointly held 20 cultural exchange activities such as “National Cultural Year”, and signed 43 intergovernmental cooperation agreements.
China is to build a “health Silk Road” by enhancing cooperation with other countries along the Belt and Road. In August, a high-level seminar will be held to put forward the establishment of a Belt and Road alliance for public health and other cooperation mechanisms.
More people to benefit from globalization
Representatives from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations attended the forum.
The Belt and Road initiative links countries and regions that account for about 60 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of global GDP, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who also attended the forum.
“This initiative is open to all,” said Wang Jun, a senior researcher with China Center for International Economic Exchanges. “China will gain further development while helping other countries.”