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From Ikenna Emewu in Beijing
At the inaugural speech of Chinese president of the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF) on Sunday, Xi Jinping tasked world leaders to align with the BRF platform and see it as a body for world’s peace and economic progress.
Itemizing the direct economic gains of the body that is fast crystallizing into the second largest global economic platform after the World Bank, he said: “Total trade between China and other Belt and Road countries in 2014-2016 exceeded US$3tr, and China’s investment in these countries also surpassed US$50b. Chinese companies have set up 56 economic cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating some US$1.1 billion of tax revenue and 180,000 jobs for them. I was told that for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries alone, customs clearance time for agricultural produce exporting to China is cut by 90%.
Xi said also that: “First, we should build the Belt and Road into a road for world peace. The ancient silk routes thrived in times of peace, but lost vigour in times of war. The pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative requires a peaceful and stable environment. We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation; and we should forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance. All countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other’s development paths and social systems, and each other’s core interests and major concerns.”
Like in stock taking, he said the body that has yet to complete four years and with about 60 countries already subscribed to it has been a channel for peace, development, investment, cultural exchange and promotion of diplomatic accord among members.
He also noted that: “Some regions along the ancient Silk Road used to be land of milk and honey. Yet today, these places are often associated with conflict, turbulence, crisis and challenge. Such state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. We should foster the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and create a security environment built and shared by all. We should work to resolve hotspot issues through political means, and promote mediation in the spirit of justice. We should intensify counter-terrorism efforts, address both its symptoms and root causes, and strive to eradicate poverty, backwardness and social injustice. “Second, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of prosperity. Development holds the master key to solving all problems. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should focus on the fundamental issue of development, release the growth potential of various countries and achieve economic integration and interconnected development and deliver benefits to all.”
The Forum with the target of connectivity in economic and other cooperation between Asia, Africa, Europe and South America is to be implemented on five broad dimensions – policy connectivity, infrastructure connectivity, trade connectivity, financial connectivity and people-to-people (P2P) connectivity between the members.
Illustrating on the five arms of the Initiative, Xi said: “Infrastructure connectivity is the foundation of development through cooperation. We should promote land, maritime, air and cyberspace connectivity, concentrate our efforts on key passageways, cities and projects and connect networks of highways, railways and sea ports. The goal of building six major economic corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative has been set, and we should endeavor to meet it. We need to seize opportunities presented by the new round of change in energy mix and the revolution in energy technologies to develop global energy interconnection and achieve green and low-carbon development. We should improve trans-regional logistics network and promote connectivity of policies, rules and standards so as to provide institutional safeguards for enhancing connectivity.”