China will continue to promote cooperation on development strategies of participating economies.
The Belt and Road Initiative will continue to make the Chinese and partner economies more competitive, narrowing development gaps between landlocked countries and coastal regions, officials and business leaders say.
China will work toward building major international corridors and deepen cooperation on streamlining customs clearance in markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative, and expand industrial capacity cooperation with other countries, Premier Li Keqiang said in the annual Government Work Report delivered on March 5.[Special coverage]
Under the government plan, China will continue to promote international cooperation on the initiative and complementarity between the development strategies and plans of participating economies.
"Facts have proved that China has become part of international efforts to pursue common development and prosperity for countries and regions that need to gain new growth momentum via what they have and are good at," says Xu Lirong, a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress and chairman of China COSCO Shipping Corp.
Xu says container throughput accounts for 75 percent of Shanghai Port's total business, of which container throughput from countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative accounts for 35 percent. This growth momentum has been encouraging, he says.
Trade among China and countries involved in the initiative amounted to 7.4 trillion yuan (.17 trillion; 949 billion euros; EUR843 billion) in 2017, surging by 17.8 percent year-on-year, data from the Ministry of Commerce show.
Breakthroughs were also made last year in free trade with countries involved in the initiative, with China signing agreements with Georgia and the Maldives, and officially launching free trade negotiations with Moldova and Mauritius. China has pledged to work for an early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Vice-Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen says the initiative is not an attempt by China to exert its economic and political influence globally.
Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the 13th National People's Congress this year, adds: "The Belt and Road Initiative is a proposal for economic cooperation. It focuses on connectivity and aims at achieving win-win outcomes, hoping to create more opportunities for global economic growth and shared prosperity of all countries."
Zhang says the initiative is guided by the principle of pursuing shared benefits through consultation and collaboration, and all participants are equal partners in this process. It is an open and inclusive platform, he says, adding that it doesn't exclude or target any country and is open to all who are interested.
"The initiative seeks to reinvigorate trading routes between China and others. It combines China's unparalleled strength in building infrastructure, manufacturing and service facilities in many of the economies involved in the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road," says Li Jianhong, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and chairman of China Merchants Group.
From a global perspective, bilateral and multilateral projects for infrastructure and production capacity expansion have come to be the hallmarks of the initiative, Li says.
The launch of a series of big-ticket projects including the high-speed railway project in Indonesia, port expansion work in Greece and Djibouti, a railway linking China and Thailand, the Karachi expressway and a China-Belarus industrial park are examples of achievements under the initiative so far.
Many more such game-changing projects are in the pipeline: China will speed up the construction of railways, highways, telecommunications networks, power grids, ports, industrial cooperation parks and energy infrastructure, as well as help to strengthen the rules and standards of countries involved in the initiative, according to the government plan.