The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has completed its first ten years during which it has become a “grand path” of common development, connecting unlimited “hearts and minds” around the globe due to which more than 152 countries have joined it so far.
The BRI has also become “symbol” of economic globalization disseminating spirits of modernization, openness, qualitative industrial development and immense growth of the human capital among the BRI member countries.
Undoubtedly, it has become the biggest “push-forward” super machine of trans-regional connectivity which will be further strengthened through persuasions of “digitalization”, “diversification”, “industrialization”, “green energy transformation” and last but not the least, “sustainable supply chains” in the next decade.
It has become “super highway” of “human connectivity” and the biggest stimulator of “humanism” in the world. It is indeed vivid reflection of “multiculturalism” promoting spirits of just international cooperation, dialogue, diplomacy and development in all the member countries of the BRI. Thus the BRI has become mega project of “unlimited potential” which will be further explored and channelized in the next decade.
Pakistan is among the first countries that joined the BRI and the CPEC has become “icon” of energy power generation, infrastructure development, agriculture cooperation, special economic free zones, rails, ports and communication development and, notably, the biggest source of human capital nurturing and capacity building system in the country.
During the last 10 years, the CPEC has added more than 2,500 kilometres of motorways to the existing network of rural transportation and added 10,000 megawatts of generation capacity to the national grid. It also added 4,000 electricity transmission lines to the existing network.
Most recently, the policy-makers have published a document entitled “Vision and Actions for High-Quality Belt and Road Cooperation: Brighter Prospects for the Next Decade”. It specified the key new areas and new directions for the BRI in the next 10 years.
Obviously, it focuses on “green” and “digital development”, as well as the stability and sustainability of supply chains which will further strengthen its regional as well as global status in the next decade. Innovation, the digital economy and green development will be further explored to inject vitality and momentum into the BRI.
Over the past decade, the BRI has prioritized policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people ties as strategic priorities. Looking ahead, key sectors in the next decade are anticipated to include green development, new forms and models of digital cooperation, technology innovation, and international cooperation in health.
Promotion of the organic integration of trade and the latest technologies, including internet, Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and block-chain will also play a key role in the next decade.
Critical analysis reveals that China’s extensive experience in digital infrastructure construction, digital development and a huge number of digitalized industries will open a window of opportunity for all the BRI member countries in the next decade. Cooperation on AI governance and rules, and research and development of AI technology would be a win-win proposition. As a result, enhancing the resilience of industrial and supply chains and expanding the scope of free trade agreements will be a focus of BRI cooperation in the future. Consequently, deepening international cooperation under the BRI will provide significant impetus to the operations of the global industrial and supply chains.
According to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), in the past 10 years, the total import and export volume of China and BRI partner countries has reached $19.1 trillion, while two-way investment has exceeded $380 billion, demonstrating the inherent capacity of the BRI to stimulate the global trading system.
A total of 79,900 China-Europe Railway Express trains have reached over 200 cities in 25 European countries, establishing itself as a ‘golden channel’ for stabilizing the global supply chain. Undoubtedly, the BRI will continue to bring increasing benefits to partner countries, wealth and strength to the Global South and alter the geopolitical balance between East and West in the next decade.
In summary, China has been tirelessly working jointly to resolve the global development deficit and offer inclusive development that delivers benefits to all through BRI. In this regard, the most recently held Xi-Biden meeting is the prime example of the Chinese wisdom comprising international cooperation, economic globalization, modernization and openness dismantling clutches of the western protectionism. So far, China has signed more than 200 documents with 152 countries and 32 international organizations on cooperation under the BRI, covering 83% of the countries with which China has established diplomatic relations.
It is crystal clear that the West is jealous of BRI and accused China of engaging in the so-called Debt Trap Diplomacy (DTD) to discredit the initiative. Ironically, there are no scientific studies that there is evidence of a so-called debt trap. It seems that Europe’s “Global Gateway” and the US’ Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment are only highlighting the US-led western world’s “small yard, high fence” approach of walling itself off from global cooperation.
China is a powerful manufacturer power which is “blessed” with almost all the company categories of industries in the world. It has consistent policies and is willing to cooperate. Thus, China has the ability to continue to promote the BRI and safeguard the interests of participating countries, contrary to what the West, particularly the US, claims to be a debt trap.
Interestingly, the first high-speed railway in Indonesia, the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway has been commenced in October. The operation of railways such as the China-Laos Railway, Hungary-Serbia Railway, Mongolia-Russia Railway and Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway has made railway construction an important aspect of jointly building the BRI and international capacity cooperation which will be further strengthened in the decade.
The opening and operation of the Lekki Port in Nigeria, the largest deep-water port in West Africa, built by a Chinese company has become great blessing for the largest economy in Africa.
At present, 52 African countries and the African Union Commission have signed BRI cooperation documents with China, making Africa one of the most important continents participating in the initiative. The GCC is another one of the biggest beneficiaries of the BRI.
It is predicted that heart and mind connectivity of the BRI will be further harmonized in the next decade despite the western narrative of DTD through the Chinese higher values of humanity and humanism.
—The writer is Executive Director, Centre for South Asia & International Studies, Islamabad, regional expert China, BRI & CPEC & senior analyst, world affairs, Pakistan Observer, Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan.