China’s “circle of friends” under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) has been expanding over the past six years. Under the scheme, a slew of projects have taken root in participating countries, delivering not only development opportunities to these countries, but also a stronger sense of happiness to ordinary people.
China’s trade volume with BRI countries surpassed $6 trillion, and the country has invested more than $80 billion in co-construction of the BRI. The 82 overseas cooperative parks jointly built by China and countries along the route have created nearly 300,000 jobs for local communities.
The success of the BRI lies in the fact that the initiative provides a pragmatic solution to the ever-changing world.
In March 2019, Italy became the first G7 power to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China to join the BRI. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte believes that the Belt & Road Initiative is an excellent opportunity for Italy.
In fact, more countries have expressed their hope to take part in the co-construction of the Belt & Road. The reason is that development has become a shared aspiration of all nations as global governance faces difficulties.
The BRI will not be a solo project for China but a real chorus comprising of all countries along the routes. This is the reason it has become the most welcomed public product that China offers the world.
The construction of the Belt & Road focuses on economic development and doesn’t seek political goals; it is based on opening up and cooperation and is above protectionism. The Belt & Road construction is dedicated to achieving mutually-beneficial cooperation and win-win results, not zero-sum outcomes. In addition, it upholds international rules and doesn’t aim to start a new model.
The China-Europe freight trains are a concrete outcome of the BRI.
By August 2019, the China-Europe freight trains dubbed Yixin’ou in Chinese (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe) had opened ten routes, covering 35 countries, and had transported a total of 63,000 TEUs of goods.
Infrastructure connectivity is another highlight of the BRI. In Uzbekistan, Chinese builders and local people cut through a railway tunnel in 900 days.
Africa’s first electrified railway, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, has been operational for more than one year. The railway reduces travel time from a week by land transportation to just over ten hours.
The success of the BRI also lies in the fact that the initiative advocates openness, cooperation and win-win outcomes.
The cooperation between China’s Three Gorges Corp and Portuguese power company, EDP, Energias de Portugal, is a typical example of win-win partnerships.
By the end of 2011, there were only two Chinese enterprises in Portugal: ZTE and Huawei. After the Three Gorges Corp became the largest shareholder of the Portuguese power company, cooperation between banking systems in both countries started to improve.
So far, nearly 20 Chinese companies have set up businesses in Portugal. Statistics indicated that they had invested a total of 8.3 billion euros in Portugal by the end of September 2018.
“Our cooperation with the Portugal power company enables us to learn advanced technologies, and develop third-party markets,” said Wu Shengliang, the Executive Vice President of China Three Gorges International.
Crayfish, a popular delicacy in China, is not as sought after in Egypt. Thanks to the BRI, catching crayfish has become an essential source of income for local fishermen.
From 2014 to 2018, China imported 80 percent of crayfish from Egypt. A fisherman who earns a living this way said he bought three cars with the money generated by crayfish fishing.
China attaches importance to building closer people-to-people bonds in the process of Belt & Road co-construction. In fact, numerous stories about people-to-people relationships have come out in the past few years.
In 2017, Laotian musician Vilayphone Vongphachanh wrote a song about the BRI. In the same year, a 55 year-old taxi driver decorated her taxi with several Belt & Road slogans and used her car as a publicity tool.
The Belt & Road Initiative, if implemented fully, could lift 32 million people out of moderate poverty – those who live on less than $3.20 a day, World Bank analysis found.
It could boost global trade by up to 6.2 percent, and up to 9.7 percent for corridor economies. Global income could increase by as much as 2.9 percent.