Since the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative was proposed four years ago, China has expanded its “circle of friends” in the B&R region with fruitful achievements in infrastructure construction and capacity cooperation, seeking further development in the future.
Put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the initiative aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
Statistics from China’s Ministry of Commerce indicated that China’s direct investment in 53 countries along the routes reached 14.53 billion U.S. dollar and the total value of contracts China signed with 61 related countries amounted to over 126 billion dollars in 2016.
The B&R has delivered promising early results that have benefited other countries and regions — showing the great development potential of the initiative, according to Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng.
In the spirit of regional connectivity, China has initiated railway, road, civil aviation, electricity and telecommunications projects across the B&R, said Gao in February.
“Because of new infrastructure projects, the B&R region’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 grew by 4.6 percent, exceeding the developing economy’s average growth of 3.6 percent,” said Lu Yao, capital projects and infrastructure director of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers China.
China has signed more than 130 bilateral and regional transport agreements with countries involved in the B&R, according to the Ministry of Transport.
The on-going Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway (HSR) project in Indonesia, an investment of 5.1 billion U.S. dollars, was officiated by Indonesian President Joko Widodo in January last year.
The mega project, a significant achievement in the early stage of the B&R, is the first overseas HSR project that brought along a full set of its systems, total elements and industrial chains, said Xie Feng, Chinese ambassador to Indonesia.
The 142-km-long railway project would make passengers experience shortened traveling time of around half an hour between Jakarta and Bandung, spurring economic activities along the line.
Chinese investment in Indonesia not only brings capital and technology, but also creates numerous job opportunities and adds the people’s prosperity, said Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization.
The development of overseas HSR projects will accelerate circulation of logistics and personnel, promote local economy and achieve mutual benefits and win-win results, according to Huang Qiang, lead researcher at China Academy of Railway Sciences.
Chinese businesses helped build 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in about 20 countries along the B&R with a combined investment surpassing 18.5 billion dollars, generating nearly 1.1 billion dollars in tax revenue and about 180,000 jobs in those countries, Gao said.
More than 1,000 Chinese corporations have entered these zones, generating output value of 50.9 billion dollars, according to Zhao Jinping, director-general of the research department of foreign economic relations at the Development Research Center of the State Council.
The Thai-China Industrial Park in Rayong, located some 200 km from Bangkok, is now the biggest center of industrial cluster, manufacturing and export of China’s traditional industries in ASEAN countries.
“We helped expand development space and also filled the gap of optical fiber technology in Thailand,” said Wang Jianyi, president of Futong Group, which is based in southeast China.
So far, the industrial park has attracted about 90 corporations with agreements of 2.5-billion-dollar investments. It has generated tax revenue of 120 million dollars and offered more than 20,000 local jobs.