Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday announced a package of proposals to advance high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at a key forum widely considered a milestone in promoting win-win cooperation.
The international community should join hands to work out a "meticulous painting" of the BRI to continuously promote its high-quality development toward a bright future, Xi said in a keynote speech at the opening of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF).
About 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organizations attended the event. Among them were nearly 40 heads of state and government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Chilean President Eduardo Pinera, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the opening ceremony.
The principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits should be upheld, said Xi, stressing open, green and clean approaches, as well as goals of high-standard, livelihood-improving and sustainable development.
"The BRI will not become an exclusive club," Xi said.
Proposed by Xi in 2013, the BRI has opened up new space for world economy with better-than-expected results. In less than six years, the BRI has been extended from Asia and Europe to Africa, Americas and Oceania. The collective action under the BRI is unprecedented in history.
"We should forge a global connectivity partnership to achieve common development and prosperity," Xi said. "As long as we work together to help each other, even if thousands of miles apart, we will certainly be able to find a mutually beneficial and win-win road."
Addressing B&R concerns, Xi announced a series of ambitious and concrete measures, including building infrastructure of high quality, sustainability, risk resilience, reasonable pricing, inclusiveness and accessibility.
China will also negotiate and sign high-standard free trade agreements with more countries and support massive personnel exchanges among B&R countries, according to Xi.
"At the time of trade tensions and rising protectionism, keeping the door open for trade and investment is a stabilizer of global economy. And this is what the BRI can exemplify," said Arancha Gonzalez, executive director of the International Trade Center.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the BRI is an important manifestation of China's leadership in international affairs.
Experts believe that the number and quality of outcomes of this forum will be greater and the BRI will proceed from a new height to inject even stronger momentum into building a community with a shared future for humanity.
LEGEND OF 21ST CENTURY
Since the 2008 financial crisis, the world has focused on pushing the sluggish economy into a new growth cycle, but multilateralism and the free trade system have encountered setbacks.
Since its inception, the BRI has received unprecedented strong endorsement and support. The vision has been included in documents of major international institutions, such as the UN and the G20, and covered by think tank studies of different countries and financial reports from multinational corporations.
Over the past six years, Xi has frequently promoted the BRI on various international platforms. He also visited the sites of BRI projects during his overseas visits.
So far, more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. From 2013 to 2018, the trade volume between China and other B&R countries surpassed 6 trillion U.S. dollars, and China's investment in B&R countries exceeds 90 billion dollars.
Thanks to the BRI, eastern Africa has its own expressway, the Maldives has its first inter-island bridge, Belarus can produce sedans and the number of freight trains between China and Europe is on the rise. The once rusted Greek port of Piraeus has become one of the world's fastest-growing container terminals.
Mahathir said the BRI is a great initiative with huge potential, which will not only help deal with the infrastructure and transport bottlenecks that are impeding the development of different countries, but also address the problem of unbalanced development among countries and promote cultural dialogue and exchanges.
The vision of making development people-centered has run through the process of building the B&R.
Xi in his keynote speech called for focusing on eradicating poverty, increasing employment and improving people's livelihoods, so that the BRI would better benefit all people and make a tangible contribution to local economic and social development while ensuring commercial and financial sustainability.
The practice has proven that the BRI is in line with the "strong desire of the people of all countries for a better life." China helped Uzbekistan build a tunnel in 900 days, creating a less difficult way for people in the remote Andijan region to get to the capital. In Pakistan, the once remote and quiet port of Gwadar is booming with urban construction, creating jobs that bring new hope for life. Streetlights now illuminate Myanmar's once dark streets in Kyau Pyo.
China has strengthened cooperation with the UN in the areas of green development, child care, climate change, agriculture, health, disaster reduction and water resources and has worked hard to narrow the development gap.
According to the latest report of the BRF Advisory Council, the BRI and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have many things in common with the potential to derive mutual synergy.
"We see the BRI as the most relevant project today in the world, in the context of South-South cooperation, which would contribute to fairer globalization, and fairer globalization is the best way to have a future of shared prosperity among the different nations of the world," UN chief Guterres said.
MORE OPEN CHINA
The BRI has not only advanced China's opening-up and development but also created new opportunities for the development of all countries.
Xi announced a series of major reform and opening-up measures to be taken by China: broadening market access for foreign investment, strengthening international cooperation in intellectual property rights protection, increasing imports of goods and services on a larger scale, more effectively implementing international macroeconomic policy coordination, and attaching greater importance to the implementation of the opening-up policies.
China will set up a number of new free trade pilot zones, strengthen the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of foreign intellectual property owners, prohibit forced technology transfer, further reduce tariffs, avoid beggar-thy-neighbor exchange rate depreciation, establish a binding mechanism for the implementation of international agreements, and treat all enterprises and operators fairly.
He also expressed the hope that all countries in the world can create a favorable investment environment, treat Chinese enterprises, overseas students and scholars on an equal footing, and provide a fair and friendly environment for their normal international exchanges and cooperation.
"A more open China will further integrate itself into the world, and deliver greater progress and prosperity for both China and the world at large," Xi said.
Chairman of China-Italy Chamber of Commerce Davide Cucino who is attending the forum said that nobody should doubt how positive the BRI idea is, and there is a heated discussion in Europe about how to join the B&R. "Sooner or later, all countries will embrace the initiative."