China's COSCO Shipping Taurus docks at Piraeus port, Greece, Feb. 26, 2018. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
What do Europeans think of the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative?
For citizens in the German city of Duisburg, it is the sirens of trains travelling thousands of miles all the way from China, bringing new jobs and vitality to their city.
For Randi Vinfeldt, who runs a 27-hectare organic pig farm in Ostrup, Denmark, the initiative is a shortcut to China's huge market, where she can "get a good price" for her organic pigs.
For Dejan Gogic, a 37-year-old soya farmer from Belgrade, Serbia's capital, the initiative is a 1.8-km bridge taking its shape on the Sava River, connecting wilderness with future prosperity.
Some 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, trekking across vast steppes and deserts, opened the Silk Road connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. They were remembered not as conquerors but as friendly emissaries.
One year ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing that "history is our best teacher ... If we take the first courageous step towards each other, we can embark on a path leading to friendship, shared development, peace, harmony and a better future."
Now, with trains and ships loaded with goods from countries along the route, the initiative is increasingly seen as a bridge connecting hope and opportunity, and an express leading towards win-win results and common prosperity.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS
Proposed in 2013, the initiative is a grand infrastructure and trade project aimed at connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient Silk Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road
In late February, Germany Trade & Invest and Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) jointly published a study on the B&R Initiative, showing that 900 billion U.S. dollars had been invested in projects since 2013.
According to the study, the initiative creates a huge economic zone between Asia and Europe, serving as an important driving force for globalization.
Before China's COSCO Shipping came into the Piraeus port in Greece, the "Pearl of the Mediterranean" was listed 93 in the world ranking of cargo tonnage, and now it has climbed to the 38th. Cargoes loaded and unloaded at the port totaled 3.74 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 2016, up from 880,000 TEUs in 2010, when COSCO Shipping's subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal took over the management of Piers II and III.
COSCO Shipping is expected to help create 125,000 jobs in the region in the very near future.
In recent years, Duisburg suffered from faltering growth. With the help of the China Railway Express (CRE), volume at the Port of Duisburg grew by 30 percent in 2017, making it the fastest growing port in Germany.
More than 6,000 jobs in logistics have been created for the city, Johannes Pflug, responsible for China affairs in the Duisburg municipality, told Xinhua, adding "we are beneficiary of the CRE trains."
Matteo Bressan, an analyst at NATO Defense College Foundation based in Rome, cited various figures to show that the initiative affects billions of people and involves trillions of dollars in business.
"It is evident that with these numbers we are facing an ambitious project ... (which) encourages new forms of win-win cooperation," Bressan told Xinhua, noting that Italy faces a great opportunity to become a hub of Chinese goods with its ports.
The idea of President Xi to recreate the ancient Silk Road evokes a past characterized by trade, mutual knowledge and cultural development, Bressan said, calling the initiative "unprecedented."