(Photo: MA XUEJING/LI MIN/SU JINGBO/CHINA DAILY)
Sustained focus on infrastructure overcomes perception that China's visionary drive for transcontinental development is an attempt at global dominance
The Belt and Road Initiative will continue to make emerging economies more competitive, narrowing the developmental inequity between landlocked countries and coastal regions, said business leaders and trade experts. [Special coverage]
"Facts prove that China has become part of international efforts to pursue common development and common prosperity for countries and regions that need to gain new growth momentum via what they have and are good at," Yu Jianlong, secretary-general of the Beijing-based China Chamber of International Commerce, said.
And Yu contended that the initiative is not an attempt by China to exert its economic and political influence globally.
In 2013, China proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to build infrastructure, service and trade networks connecting more than60countries and regions in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Known as the Belt and Road Initiative, it aspires to improve the lives of around 4.4 billion people or 63 percent of the world's population. The initiative has gained support from over 100 economies and international organizations, with nearly 50 cooperation agreements signed between governments since 2013.
From a global perspective, bilateral and multilateral cooperation projects for infrastructure and production capacity expansion have come to be the hallmarks of the initiative.
But, the initiative has been perceived in some quarters as China's attempt to rise as a 21st century global superpower.
"China has been deliberately accused by certain foreign media of practising neo-colonialism in some countries, exploiting energy resources and other minerals and supporting authoritarian regimes," said He Jingtong, a business professor at Nankai University in Tianjin.
"I think none of this holds water. If you look at history, tell me when has China been a colonial power? If it hasn't been in the past, why should it be now?"
He said there are areas, of course, where there might be competition with companies from developed markets; but there is also a desire to identify areas for cooperation.Unfortunately, that has not received much attention.
The launch of a series of big-ticket projects like the high-speed railway projects in Indonesia, port expansion work in Djibouti and nuclear power facility in the United Kingdom are all shining examples of the achievements under the initiative so far.
Many more such game-changing projects are in the pipeline.
China has invested more than billion in economies covered by the Belt and Road Initiative, data from the National Development and Reform Commission show.
Argentine Ambassador to China, Diego Ramiro Guelar, said the South American country will increase efforts to develop its energy and transport infrastructure over the next 30 years, thanks in large part to the bilateral partnership and participation in the initiative.
"China has big companies and rich experience to push forward development in railways, roads, water conservation and energy in Argentina," Guelar said.
In terms of developing regional connectivity and infrastructure development, China is working in aviation, power, rail, road and telecommunications projects with participating economies. Chinese companies are also working with foreign partners such as Volvo Construction Equipment, United Technologies Corp and ABB Group to develop infrastructure in various economies covered by the initiative.
The focus on infrastructure development has been unswerving and all-encompassing.