BRI boosts equitable world economic growth

Economic cooperation has been the admirable priority focus of a dynamic, pragmatic and outward-looking China in the past 10 years, despite the world’s stormy geopolitical environment wracked by internecine political and ideological conflicts, economic uncertainties, and the cataclysmic pandemic crisis. 

This trade-focused outlook of China has been exemplified by its visionary Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has become a strong driving force for more inclusive, equitable and sustainable world economic growth, especially benefiting developing nations of the Global South.

Manifesting China’s hope for building “a community with a shared future for mankind”, the BRI has initiated and implemented infrastructure, trade, technology and socioeconomic projects and cooperation with the participation of 149 countries and 32 organizations. These are 52 countries in Africa, 38 in Asia, 27 in Europe, 12 in North America, 11 in the Pacific, and nine in South America. Apart from becoming a great equalizer by providing economic options for many developing countries, what to me is also very commendable is that the initiative is open to all countries — even those targeted by US-led Western sanctions like Cuba, Nicaragua and Syria, which were welcomed into the inclusive and nonpolitical BRI.

In contrast to past centuries’ economic powers in the West and belatedly Japan in the 19th century, which had used colonial conquests to expand their economic reach, China expands its global reach via market-oriented exports and imports, BRI investments and development loans. Indeed, China has no history of colonization, even at the height of its economic ascendancy as the world’s wealthiest civilization in the past. Today, China is trailblazing economic globalization via BRI. China’s outbound foreign direct investment of $82 billion in 2012 had dramatically increased to $154 billion by 2020, thus making China the world’s top overseas investor.

Modern-day China’s BRI and trade-focused engagement with the world come from its illustrious ancient mercantile tradition and the highly entrepreneurial ethos of the Chinese people as epitomized by the historic Silk Road and Maritime Silk Route. Therefore, it is apt that BRI has been called the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The old Silk Road between the East and the West passed through Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, while the ancient Maritime Silk Road between China and Southeast Asia long predated the arrival of Western colonizers. The long-time presence of entrepreneurial and peace-loving ethnic-Chinese communities in Southeast Asia is a legacy of this Maritime Silk Road.

In the 21st century, despite difficulties like trade wars launched by some Western countries, destabilizing wars, ideological animosities and other obstacles, the BRI has steadfastly accomplished resounding success through the political will and pragmatism of Chinese leaders combined with the perseverance, unity and great entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people.

BRI has gained numerous achievements in the past 10 years that contributed to global progress:

• Providing much-needed alternative capital (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank, Silk Road Fund, etc), high technology and new economic opportunities to numerous countries, especially developing nations of the Global South.

• Forging over 3,000 cooperation projects.

• Alleviating poverty, liberating 40 million from poverty.

• Creating 420,000 jobs across countries and regions.

• Helping reduce the wide chasm of income gaps and regional development imbalances in many parts of the globe.

• Constructing modern transportation systems.

• Increasing the volume, speed, efficiencies and diversity of global trade.

• Improving and lowering costs of telecommunications.

• Helping debt sustainability for developing countries, debunking malicious black propaganda of certain countries on so-called “debt traps”. University of Basel economics Professor Helmut Reisen, counselor at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Centre, wrote: “China has become, by a large margin, the largest creditor in the group of ‘new’ donors active in Africa. ‘Old’ donors are accusing China of ‘freeriding’ on the development efforts deployed by the international community and impairing debt sustainability in low-income countries (notwithstanding the fact that China has also granted debt relief). This policy brief … argues that the ‘free-riding’ concern is misplaced. … China is found to have a positive impact on debt tolerance through stimulating exports, infrastructure investment and GNP.”

• Expanding industrial and other strategic supply chains worldwide.

• Supporting green and sustainable development.

• Promoting more dialogue, understanding, mutually beneficial win-win cooperation and people-to-people exchanges among different cultures, countries and regions, thus contributing to social harmony, stability and world peace.

The author is moderator of the Pandesal Forum, a multi-award-winning writer, economics and politics analyst, author of five books, columnist of the Philippine Star newspaper, and chairman of the Anvil Business Club.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.