China Boosting International Cooperation on the Belt and Road
Since the Belt and Road Initiative was launched in 2013, China has conceded out development cooperation and contributed to policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity based on individual countries’ needs, producing space and opportunities to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.
1. Enhancing Policy Coordination
Policy synchronization is the foundation for Belt and Road participants to reinforce political mutual trust, develop pragmatic cooperation, and integrate their interests. Based on the principle of looking for and expanding common ground while keeping and undertaking differences, China has invited foreign officials to participate in training sessions and dispatched experts and advisors to join in countries, to promote bilateral communication and understanding and create joint synergy development.
– Building platforms for the Belt and Road Initiative to merge with the development strategies of participating countries. China has held over 4,000 training conferences for officials from participating countries on Belt and Road themes such as infrastructure connectivity, industrial capacity, equipment standardization, trade facilitation, and technological standardization.
The training programs assist as a communication platform for coordinating countries’ policies within the Belt and Road framework. Participants of the programs discussed and planned conjointly on ways to connection the Belt and Road Initiative with regional and national advantages, such as Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, EU’s Europe-Asia connectivity strategy, Pakistan’s vision of a new Pakistan, Laos’ initiative to transform from a land-locked country to a land-linked country, the Philippines’ massive infrastructure projects under its Build, Build, Build program, Kazakhstan’s Bright Road initiative, and Mongolia’s Development Road program.
– Creating opportunities for regional economic and trade amalgamation. China has sent professionals and advisors abroad to offer technical consulting services and propose feasible plans for development based on an in-depth understanding of each partner country’s national conditions, policies, and laws, laying the groundwork for practical collaboration.
The China-Belarus Great Stone Industrial Park, an overseas economic and trade cooperation zone, has been hailed as “a pearl on the Silk Road Economic Belt.” China implemented technical support programs for the industrial park, shared its experience in managing development zones, and invited Belarus experts to visit the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area and the Suzhou Industrial Park. Through field trips and in-depth communication, the two countries’ experts jointly framed policies on the management, operation, investment promotion, and industrial development for the park, laying solid foundations for its long-term growth.
2. Strengthening Infrastructure Connectivity
Infrastructure connectivity is key to Belt and Road cooperation. China offers full support to participating countries in building trunk lines, including main road, railways, ports, bridges, and telecommunications networks, to create a connectivity framework comprising of six corridors, six routes, and multiple countries and ports.
– Connecting the six corridors and six routes. China supports Belt and Road participants in infrastructure connectivity projects to revive the ancient Silk Road. To keep the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and encourage overland trade between the two countries, China participated in the upgrading and expansion of the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway and the Karakoram Highway. To support the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, China helps build infrastructures such as highways, bridges, and tunnels in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, helping connectivity and integrated development between Southeast Asia and South Asia.
China’s help with constructing sections of Kyrgyzstan’s North-South highway and Tajikistan’s road revamp project on the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor has improved the local transport conditions. Connecting over 100 cities across more than 20 countries in Europe and Asia, the China Railway Express to Europe has made an outstanding contribution to stabilizing international industrial and supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic.
– Building a logistics corridor on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. China supports constructing a smooth and efficient transport corridor on the Maritime Silk Road with the key ports as significant links. With China’s assistance, the Friendship Port expansion project in Mauritania has considerably improved the handling capacity and alleviated cargo congestion and delays in the port, making it an essential trade logistics node along the Maritime Silk Road.
– Building air transport hubs. To meet the rapidly growing needs of air transport, China has assisted Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Cambodia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Togo in advancement and expanding their airports, thereby improving operational capability and safety, increasing the passenger and cargo throughput, promoting local tourism, facilitating cross-border passenger and trade flow, and bringing more opportunities for their amalgamation with the Belt and Road Initiative.
3. Fostering Closer People-to-People Ties
People-to-people friendship is the cornerstone of sound state-to-state relations, and heart-to-heart communication holds the key to more profound company. China promotes people-to-people exchanges and cultural cooperation with partner countries through projects designed to improve local people’s lives, thus increasing mutual appreciation, mutual understanding, and mutual respect and reinforcing the social foundation of the Belt and Road Initiative.
– Improving people’s lives. China has launched a series of people-oriented projects in Belt and Road countries to address such issues as housing, water supply, health care, education, rural roads, and assistance to vulnerable groups, filling gaps in infrastructure and essential public services.
China has assisted Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Djibouti in building water supply systems to ensure access to safe drinking water. It has aided Sri Lanka, Senegal, Guinea, Niger, Mozambique, South Sudan, Jamaica, Suriname, Dominica, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to improve local medical services and make it easier for local people to access medical treatment.
China has helped Belarus build government-subsidized housing to improve the living conditions of the vulnerable. From 2016 to 2019, it provided over 2,000 free cataract surgeries in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.
– Furthering people-to-people exchanges. China has invited representatives from Belt and Road countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan to engage in people-to-people exchanges in China, increasing their knowledge and understanding of China’s national conditions and culture. It has also sent youth volunteers to other Belt and Road countries such as Laos and Brunei to foster closer people-to-people ties and facilitate cultural exchanges and mutual learning.
– Strengthening cultural cooperation. China has participated in 33 projects to preserve cultural relics with 17 Belt and Road countries. These include the protection and restoration projects for Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan Buddhist pagodas in Myanmar damaged by earthquakes, and the ancient city of Khiva in Uzbekistan as joint archaeological activities at Rakhat Ancient Ruins in Kazakhstan and the Bikrampur ruins in Bangladesh.
China has launched a project known as Access to Satellite TV for 10,000 African Villages to provide digital TV connection for rural communities in more than 20 African countries, opening a new window for them to see the world. It has assisted with projects for radio and TV centers in Seychelles, Comoros, Tanzania, and Mauritius to improve local radio and television networks’ transmission capacity, making them essential vehicles for cultural communication in their respective localities.
Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.
(The views expressed in this article belong only to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy or views of World Geostrategic Insights).