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Consuls general in Shanghai share their opinions and understanding of China’s Belt and Road initiative

Source:Global Times
Editor's Note: 

Since it was first proposed in 2013, China's Belt and Road(B&R) initiative has attracted many countries and regions around the world to forge a partnership and boost global development in a concerted way. The Global Timesrecently interviewed seven consuls general in Shanghai about their understandings of the changes in their jurisdiction areas in China and impacts on their own countries brought along by the B&R as well as their own personal expectations of the initiative. 

Guergana Guermanoff Consul General of New Zealand Photo: Global Times

The B&R initiative is a very important activity introduced by China and it has a regional and global focus. 

New Zealand is exploring ways in which we can be best involved in the initiative.

Connectivity is a very strong feature in our relationship. The themes of this initiative include the connectivity of people, trade, investment, and transport and air links, which are solid themes that already exist in the China and New Zealand bilateral relationship. We would like to know how to better build on that foundation.

We have strong connections through our successful trading relationship, active people-to-people links through education and tourism and regular daily flights between our two countries, operated by Air New Zealand and a number of Chinese airlines.

There are a lot of Chinese people living, studying, visiting and doing business in New Zealand, and there is a growing number of New Zealanders doing the same here in China.

We have regular high-level exchanges between the leaders of our countries, so connectivity at the political level is very strong as well. We are looking at if there are any other areas that we can develop based on the strong foundation that we have.

We expect to see that our links will continue to grow. We have interests, for instance, in working together on issues about environment sustainability. We are also interested in pursuing trade relationships that have a very positive social impact, which means all people need to benefit from trade connections.

Therefore, we hope we can further develop together with China in terms of people well-being and environmental well-being.

Rashed Matar Alqemzi Consul General of the UAE Photo: Global Times

In March, the UAE's DP World signed an agreement with Zhejiang Province to facilitate cargo shipment between Yiwu, the world's largest distribution center for small commodities, and Dubai, the UAE city which transfers 80 percent of the goods sold to the Middle East.

This joint effort will enhance the efficiency of customs clearance and allow business people to ship goods in a more convenient way, which will increase business cooperation between Yiwu, the UAE, Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The B&R initiative has brought along changes in education, infrastructure and payment services in the UAE. In December 2015, the UAE and China signed an education agreement to enhance bilateral exchanges with students, teachers and languages. As of today, the UAE have opened two Chinese-learning schools in our country.

Agreements for construction projects worth billions of dollars have also been contracted between the two countries. One with China's shipping company Cosco, for instance, will add a lot of things of value to both countries.

Chinese companies are actively participating in the UAE's development and making major contributions to large infrastructure projects in the country. Dubai companies are also investing in several Chinese cities such as Hong Kong, Tianjin, Qingdao and Yantai.

China's UnionPay and Alipay are already accepted in the UAE. In June 2018, Dubai signed a deal with WeChat to accept WeChat payments.

Talking with China, there are a lot of huge opportunities in different fields including trade, tourism, retails, logistics, real estate, the renewable energy and hi-tech which will benefit both UAE and China.

Therese Healy Consul General of Ireland Photo: Global Times

I have noticed quite a big change in eastern China since the B&R initiative has been introduced. I think one of the central tenets of the initiative is connectivity. China has made a lot of progress in building the physical infrastructure systems that allowed its neighbors to have their gradual connectivity not just with China but with the rest of the world.

Another aspect of this connectivity goes back to people exchanges. I see a lot of initiatives in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi provinces bringing people together. I have been invited to quite a number of events where youth have come together and discussed ideas that are preoccupying their minds.

China is bringing all these people together at regular intervals, making sure that they know each other and hear from each other. And they go back to their own countries or regions, sharing those ideas with their own colleagues and friends. 

The initiative has brought us an understanding of importance of connectivity, a better sense of what China considers to be important and how we plan to interact with everyone in the coming years. 

We look forward to discussing further with China's leadership how to improve our understanding of the B&R initiative as well as investigating how to best push forward our cooperation through finding suitable projects for cooperation. 

From my perspective, the more personal ­connections we make, the greater understanding we have. In an ever-more turbulent world, the most important thing for us is to understand our neighbors, our near neighbors and our faraway neighbors.

Sabri Tunç Angili Consul General of Turkey Photo: Global Times

Since the B&R initiative was launched by China, we started to receive more Chinese investments, and the majority of them are coming from my consulate's jurisdiction in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.

The second change in my jurisdiction area is that their interests toward Turkey, not only the economic side but also the cultural and academic sides, have rapidly increased. For instance, at a Shanghai university, we now have a Turkish study center. Zhejiang University also decided to open a Turkish language department.

The first impact of the initiative on Turkey is also on the investment side. If we look at the trend of Chinese investment in Turkey, we see a rapid increase after 2013. The total amount of Chinese investment now is around $2 billion. 

Now we are trying to make some big infrastructure projects with Chinese companies. The most important is to expand the rail network in Turkey with the technology of Chinese high speed trains and Turkish engineering.

The second impact is on the tourism side. In comparison to 2017, we are seeing a significant increase in Chinese tourists visiting turkey.

Currently, Turkish Airlines is flying from Shanghai to Istanbul daily. As people-to-people exchange is an important pillar of the B&R, I believe more direct flights from China to Turkey will be opened with the spirit of the initiative.

A Chinese proverb says "The ocean is vast because it does not deny any river." The true spirit of the B&R can be explained in one word: partnership.

This partnership, among governments, among companies, among universities and most important of all among people, is the best way to achieve enduring peace and cooperation.

Siti Nugraha Mauludiah Consul General of Indonesia Photo: Global Times

There were a lot of changes brought about by the Belt and Road initiative in the past five years. 

One of the changes is investment. The amount of investment from China to Indonesia has increased. 

In 2013, it was only 1.4 percent of the total foreign investment in Indonesia. In 2017, it amounted to 10.4 percent.

Investments are focusing on Indonesia's initiative and its role of maritime fulcrum where investments are concentrated on ports and toll roads at the north part of Indonesia.

The relationship between Indonesia and China is a good one and the development of China has benefited Indonesia. 

For instance, more and more Indonesian products are getting into the growing Chinese market. 

In terms of trade, Indonesia had always had a trade deficit with China. But in 2017, the trade deficit decreased by 38 percent. I am sure it is because of the initiative.

Moreover, some technology put in place in Indonesia was brought by Chinese investors. 

The plan of the initiative is not limited. We have identified four areas and regions that would benefit from the initiative, namely North Sumatra, North Kalimantan, North Sulawesi and Bali.

In these regions there will be projects offered under the B&R. 

This would benefit not only Indonesians in those areas but also all people in the whole country. 

When the high-speed train project finishes, it will boost economic growth both in Bandung of Jakarta and towns along the train lines.


Eyal Propper Consul General of Israel Photo: Global Times

We would like to take part in the B&R. I am going to different cities to discuss with local authorities and businessmen about different initiatives relating to the initiative. 

Shanghai International Port (Group) Co, Ltd (SIPG) is building a new port in Haifa of Israel. It will be operated by the SIPG for the next 25 years. 

This is a very important cooperation between China and Israel under the framework of the initiative. 

We have seen a lot of cooperation in education as well. University of Haifa is today in a very close cooperation with East China Normal University in Shanghai. 

We are going to promote more cooperation between Israeli universities and universities in Shanghai and other Chinese cities. I believe this is going to further foster people-to-people exchanges as well as cooperation in researches, science and technology.

The initiative is bringing together East Asia, West Asia and Europe. Israel is a country situated between Europe and Asia. China from the East is looking to the West. 

Israel would like to take part in the initiative and continue our close bilateral cooperation to bring into more regional and international cooperation.

I would like to see more integration in both land and maritime transportation, by which Israel can be a very good bridge between China and Europe. Ships going from China by sea can sail through Israeli ports to other places. There will be a rail going from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, so it can make transportation between China, Middle East and Europe more efficient and cost effective.

Bojan Skoda Consul General of Slovenia Photo: Global Times

The B&R initiative is a fantastic idea. Europe and Asia must be connected better than they are connected now. With this initiative ongoing, communications are getting better and people travel much more than they used to.

Slovenia has set up agreements with different Chinese cities like Hangzhou and Shanghai on many joint projects in sports, culture and communications. When I came here, there were just six Slovenian students; now there are 200. More and more Slovenians are studying Chinese and Chinese people studying Slovenian. Now people are able to study Slovenian in Beijing at a university, and we also have four Confucius Institutes in Slovenia.

 It has brought more investment in transport, logistics and Slovenian airports, production and of course more tourists. A lot of new deals in economy are on the horizon. We are discussing how to establish flights from Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, Xi'an and Wenzhou to Slovenia.

The B&R has explored a new dimension of relations between China and Slovenia. But we need to put more efforts into education and cultural exchanges. I would like to see more Slovenian events in China and more Chinese events in Slovenia. Education and exchange are crucial.


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