China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) has become the world’s largest platform for International Cooperation, providing States, especially Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), with opportunities for development, Russian Experts have told.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the 20th meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the SCO in Beijing on Tuesday at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The meeting will be hosted via video link by Russia, which holds the rotating SCO Presidency this year.

Since President Xi proposed the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan in 2013, the BRI has found resonance and increasing support from countries around the world.

Currently, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing global economic hardships, the BRI has practical significance, said Yuri Tavrovsky, head of the Expert Council of the Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development.

“The pandemic dealt a devastating blow to all of humanity. But the consequences of a global natural disaster are felt most strongly by third world countries. They have few resources to overcome the hopeless situation of a sharp reduction in markets for their products, an increase in debt burden and a shortage of funds to combat the coronavirus and restore production,” Tavrovsky said.

Under these conditions, great hopes are pinned on China and the BRI, he added.

“As Chinese President Xi Jinping said in the opening ceremony of the fifth annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank via video link on July 28, mutual support and cooperation in solidarity are the only way for mankind to overcome crises,” Tavrovsky said.

According to Tavrovsky, the countries that have joined the BRI were pleased to see China staying committed to the ideals and goals of the initiative, and to see Beijing’s actions — resuming work on joint infrastructure and industrial projects and increasing usage of major transport infrastructure.

The expert noted that humanitarian aid from China was also “gratefully accepted” by the BRI Partners; medicine, hospital equipment, advice from and the work of doctors.

While calling the BRI “the main project of the 21st century,” Tavrovsky said that the BRI has provided the world with the largest platform for international cooperation and has become an important social product that China is able to offer.

“China has worked extensively on promoting connectivity, openness and inclusiveness,” he said.

From 2014 to 2019, China has invested 41 billion U.S. dollars in economic and trade cooperation industrial parks in these countries, Tavrovsky said, adding that the initiative has incorporated 1,800 projects in countries that inhabit 40 percent of the world’s population.

“The BRI is a very positive and promising project,” said Alexander Lomanov, deputy director at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“For seven years, the BRI has become the driving force behind the economic development of not only dozens of countries, but entire regions, even continents. These achievements have laid foundations for even more upcoming transformations,” Lomanov said.

Noting that Pakistan has benefited greatly from the BRI with huge amounts of funds being invested into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said “once this project is completed, it will have a broad and positive impact on the development of the Pakistani economy.”

“The pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the economy. But just like after the global financial crisis of 2008, China is now transforming into a leader in regards to the revival of the world economy,” said the expert.

China’s role as a driver of global economic growth, and the growth of regional economies, including South Asia and Eurasia, is gaining steam noticeably, Lomanov said.