China's investment in Belt and Road countries up 38.6 pct

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China's investment in Belt and Road Initiative countries soared 38.6 percent year on year as the country's outbound direct investment (ODI) reached a record high in 2015, official data showed Thursday.

Investment in Belt and Road countries stood at 18.93 billion U.S. dollars and represented 13 percent of the country's ODI last year, according to Zhang Xiangchen, deputy international trade representative with China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC).

Zhang told reporters at a news conference that Belt and Road investment is essential to the fast development of China's ODI.

China's ODI hit an all-time high of 145.67 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, exceeding the 135.6 billion in foreign direct investment it received, making it a net capital exporter for the first time, Zhang said.

It is the world's second-largest source of outbound investment, exceeded only by the United States, Zhang said.

The initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road -- a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

As of July, Chinese enterprises had established 52 economic cooperation zones in the countries while paying 900 million dollars in taxes and creating nearly 70,000 local jobs.

The MOC said earlier the Belt and Road Initiative had boosted business cooperation between Chinese and foreign firms. During the first eight months of 2016, nearly 4,000 engineering contracts were signed by Chinese companies in 61 countries along the routes, with combined contract value of 69.82 billion U.S. dollars.

China needs to fully take advantage of the international market and resources as its economy and companies transform, said Zhang, adding that Chinese firms are keen to become active players in global innovation, manufacturing and the market. Endi

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