SCIO briefing on 'The Belt and Road Initiative: Progress, Contributions and Prospects'

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Xiao Weiming, director general of the Department of General Affairs at the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative;

Song Lihong, director general of the Comprehensive Department at the Ministry of Commerce

Hu Kaihong, spokesperson for the State Council Information Office of China

April 22, 2019

Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to this press conference. Today, the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) issued "The Belt and Road Initiative: Progress, Contributions and Prospects," and its text has been published by the Xinhua News Agency. To offer more information about the document, we are delighted to welcome two of the officials involved to update you on the development of the BRI and to answer your questions. They are Mr. Xiao Weiming, director general of the Department of General Affairs at the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative; and Mr. Song Lihong, director general of the Comprehensive Department at the Ministry of Commerce. Now, I'll give the floor to Mr. Xiao.

Xiao Weiming:

Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the press, when General Secretary Xi Jinping visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in 2013, he proposed the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, known for the Belt and Road. This has received a positive response and widespread support, and has been followed with great interest by the international community. To promote the implementation of this major initiative, the Chinese government has set up a leading group and established the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative within the National Development and Reform Commission.

Ahead of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), being approved by the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, the Office of the Leading Group has released the book "The Belt and Road Initiative: Progress, Contributions and Prospects." This is the third time for the Chinese government to publish the progress of BRI project construction, which is also one of the major achievements of the second BRF. From an objective, rational and fair perspective, the report has summarized the experience of building the BRI over more than five years as a way to further enhance the international community's understanding of this joint building initiative, and to promote mutual political trust, economic integration and people-to-people connectivity among different countries. The BRI also aims to work together with the international community to cope with the challenges facing the global economy, to create new development opportunities, to seek new driving forces for development, to realize advantageous complementarities and mutual benefits, and to work together toward the jointly building of the community with shared future for mankind — so that a new journey of BRI construction can soon be embarked upon.

The report contains around 18,000 words and consists of four parts: Preface, Progress, Contributions, and Prospects. It will be published in Chinese, English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. Today, I will present the Chinese and English versions to you. The other six versions will be issued soon.

The report pointed out that the BRI adheres to the principle of joint construction through consultation to bring benefits to all, and has achieved remarkable results in the past five years. All participants have benefited from the BRI and have a growing sense of identity and engagement with the initiative. This corresponds with an old Chinese saying: the peach and the plum do not speak, yet a path is born beneath them (a sincere man attracts admiration). 

In terms of policy coordination, the Belt and Road Initiative and its core concepts have been written into relevant documents of organizations including the United Nations, the G20, APEC and other regional organizations. So far, China has signed more than 170 cooperation documents with more than 150 countries and international organizations, including the China-Mongolia-Russia cooperation plan, and bilateral cooperation plans with Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Laos, Czech Republic, Hungary and Brunei.

In terms of facilities connectivity, the construction of six international economic cooperation corridors has been steadily advanced, playing an important role in establishing and strengthening interconnected partnerships among countries and building an efficient and smooth market for Asia and Europe. The China-Laos Railway, the Sino-Thai Railway, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, and the Hungary-Serbia high-speed railway have all solidly advanced. Projects such as Gwadar Port, Port of Hambantota, Port of Piraeus and Port of Halifa are progressing smoothly. Significant progress has been made in energy cooperation ¬– electricity, oil and gas, nuclear power, new energy, coal, etc. – and the construction of cross-border optical cable information channels. As of the end of March, the China-Europe freight rail service network has exceeded 14,000 trips.

In terms of smooth trade, China launched the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation along the Belt and Road -- so far, 83 countries and international organizations have been actively involved. China has signed or upgraded the free trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore, Pakistan, Georgia and other countries and regions. Since the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China has signed more than 100 customs inspection and quarantine cooperation documents with countries along the route, and has achieved food quarantine access for more than 50 kinds of agricultural products.

In terms of financial and monetary integration, China, together with 27 countries, has endorsed the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road. The People's Bank of China has worked with multilateral development institutions to finance over 100 projects stretching across more than 70 countries and regions. The China-IMF Capacity Development Center and the Belt and Road Financial Development Research Center have been inaugurated. So far, 11 Chinese banks have established 76 first-level institutions in 28 countries along the Road. The cross-border RMB payment services have expanded to cover nearly 40 countries and regions along the Road.

In terms of people-to-people ties, China established the Silk Road Chinese government scholarships, and signed agreements with 24 countries along the Belt and Road route granting mutual recognition of higher education degrees and diplomas. China also concluded visa abolition agreements with 57 countries along the Belt and Road covering different types of passports, and reached 19 agreements with 15 countries to simplify visa procedures. The country also established overseas traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) centers and 43 bases for international cooperation on TCM in 35 countries along the Belt and Road.

In terms of industrial cooperation, from 2013 to 2018, direct investment from Chinese enterprises to countries along the route hit US$90 billion and the turnover of foreign contracted projects surpassed US$400 billion. China has signed capacity cooperation agreements with more than 40 countries and signed third-party market cooperation agreements with France, Italy, Spain, Japan and Portugal, to name a few.

The report stresses the initiative is from China, but it belongs to the world. It is rooted in history, but oriented towards the future. It focuses on the Asian, European and African continents, but is open to all partners. In a world undergoing major development, transformation and adjustments; peace, development and cooperation still remain the trend of the times. While the BRI projects are currently being carried out in a steadily and meticulous manner, China stands ready to work with all the parties to promote the implementation of BRI, turning the Belt and Road into a route of peace, prosperity, openness, green, innovation, civilization and integrity. Thank you.

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