By Luo Zhaohui | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-12-23 10:01
The concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind and the Belt and Road Initiative are part of China's approach to promote global sustainable development and common prosperity, and make important contribution to the world.
It has the same complementary purpose, philosophy and path as the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. So far, more than 140 countries and 30 international organizations have signed cooperation documents with China under the Belt and Road framework.
2030 Agenda vital for initiative
China has continued to develop policies to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative with the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, because the initiative attaches great importance to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. China was the first country to issue a national plan and a progress report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and it has been striving to promote high-quality economic and social development.
China has eradicated absolute poverty and thus achieved the poverty alleviation target of the 2030 Agenda 10 years ahead of that deadline. China has also put forward the Global Development Initiative, the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and Vision 2035, which are in line with the 2030 Agenda.
The Belt and Road Initiative has promoted economic prosperity and sustainable development. Under the initiative, a large number of highway, railway, airport and seaport projects have been carried out in Belt and Road countries, and important progress has been made in building "six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports", and the building of a multi-dimensional infrastructure network has been accelerated.
According to a World Bank report, the Belt and Road Initiative will increase the value of global trade by 6.2 percent and global income by 2.9 percent, which will greatly boost global growth.
The Belt and Road Initiative has also improved people's livelihoods and facilitated sustainable development in several countries. Currently, the 82 economic and trade cooperation zones under the Initiative have created about 300,000 local jobs. During the construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, more than 300 local enterprises were involved with local employees accounting for more than 90 percent of the workforce. Also, a large number of livelihood assistance projects including housing, water supply, medical care and education, have been implemented in countries participating in the initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative stresses the continuous pursuit of green development. China has signed documents on the Green Belt and Road Initiative with the United Nations Environment Programme, and set standards for green product certification and green infrastructure construction.
Besides, it has issued the "Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road, Belt and Road Ecological and Environmental Cooperation Plan", and the "Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road". Also, China has launched a green supply chain platform for the Belt and Road and promoted the establishment of the Belt and Road International Alliance for Green Development.
Belt and Road not a debt trap
More important, contrary to Western propaganda, no country has fallen into a debt crisis as a result of its participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, debt sustainability is of major importance to China. For instance, in 2017, China signed the "Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road" with 26 Belt and Road countries.
And in 2019, it issued the "Debt Sustainability Framework for Participating Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative" to improve the level of debt risk management and increase economic benefits from construction projects.
Sri Lanka's national debt, mostly in the form of low-interest concessional loans, to China accounts for only 12 percent of its total national external debt. And only 20 percent of the funds for the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is from debt financing.
Also, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China has been advancing the Belt and Road Initiative with unchanged policies and continuing to contribute to global sustainable development.
In terms of infrastructure connectivity, landmark projects have been proceeding smoothly. And breakthroughs have been made in more than 40 major Belt and Road projects, including the China-Laos Railway, the Budapest-Belgrade Railway and the Israeli Light Rail since last year.
Besides, in 2020, annual operations and cargo volume of China-Europe freight trains increased by 50 percent and 56 percent respectively, both record highs. While trade and investment continued to grow. China's non-financial direct investment in Belt and Road countries reached $17.8 billion, up 18.3 percent year-on-year.
Rising trade with BRI economies
Also, China's newly-signed contracted projects were valued at $141.46 billion in total, with a turnover of $91.12 billion, with the total value of China's import and export with Belt and Road partner economies reaching $9.37 trillion, up 1 percent year-on-year basis.
As for emerging digital and smart businesses, they continued to grow. China has signed memorandums of understanding with 16 countries on digital economy cooperation and worked with 22 partner countries to build the "Silk Road E-commerce" platform to facilitate unimpeded trade.
At the end of last year, the UN undersecretary-general and the executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, along with others, sold Rwandan coffee beans via livestreaming and attracted more than 10 million online viewers. Most of the coffee beans were bought by Chinese netizens with the sales being equivalent to Rwanda's total coffee bean sales in 2019.
In terms of capital financing, mutually beneficial cooperation continued to grow. The Silk Road Fund has inked 10 new projects which require an investment of $800 million. And the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has established a COVID-19 contingency fund of $13 billion and more than 30 other projects.
Advancing the co-construction under the initiative is an important element of China's international development cooperation. Similarly, helping other developing countries to meet the demands of the UN 2030 Agenda is an important part of China's global development work.
In the next step, China's international development cooperation will continue to tilt toward other Belt and Road countries, in order to boost the momentum and promote cooperation in more areas and make the initiative an important "enabler" of sustainable development worldwide.
China is playing a key role in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, by offering more than 2 billion doses of vaccines, including donating 100 million doses of vaccines to other developing countries, and contributing $100 million to COVAX.
China has been a main driver of global economic growth, and will also facilitate global economic recovery. It will help other developing countries boost their economies and achieve sustainable development through measures such as debt relief and aid, and provide $3 billion over the next three years to support other developing countries. It will also follow the trend of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and take advantage of new development opportunities offered by digitization, networking and artificial intelligence to help promote innovation in Belt and Road projects.
Frontrunner in green development
China is already a frontrunner in green development and will continue to lead the field in this regard. It has, and will continue to fulfill its international responsibility of taking measures to cope with climate change, by adhering to the use of clean energy and better protecting the environment and ecology, and sharing its green development experiences with other developing countries to realize a truly green Silk Road.
China will also increase investment in Belt and Road countries, especially to alleviate poverty, increase employment, and improve education, and implement more economic and effective livelihood projects.
The author is chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.