The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 has attracted the participation of an increasing number of countries and international organizations. Five years on, the initiative has evolved from a vision into concrete actions. It represents China's contribution to improving global economic governance, promoting common development and prosperity and pushing for the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind.
The Belt and Road Initiative and its core concepts of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits have been written into the documents of major international organizations including the United Nations. A total of 103 countries and international organizations have signed 118 cooperative agreements with China regarding the initiative. Last year the First Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing drew state and government leaders from 29 countries and over 1,600 representatives from more than 140 countries and 80 international organizations.
China's trade volume with Belt and Road countries has exceeded $5 trillion over the past five years and its direct investment in these countries has surpassed $70 billion. Economic and trade cooperation zones established by Chinese companies in these countries have created over 240,000 jobs. China's outbound direct investment (ODI) has become an important engine driving global ODI growth.
Moreover, China attaches great importance to financing development along the Belt and Road routes. Chinese financial institutions have accelerated internationalization, with 11 banks establishing 71 branches overseas. The country has carried out financing cooperation with a number of multilateral development banks including the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. China has also established mechanisms for settling international commercial disputes involving the initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative has also made the Chinese market more accessible to foreign traders and investors. It has injected new impetus to the expansion of China's opening up, thus contributing to the emergence of a new opening-up scenario encompassing both coastal and inland regions as well as east and west China.
Nevertheless, there has been some skepticism surrounding the Belt and Road Initiative among some in the international community. The experience of the last five years indicates that the initiative is highly relevant and appealing, as more and more countries get involved and its attractiveness continues to grow. With efforts from all participants, the Belt and Road Initiative is set to break new ground and benefit more people around the world in the coming years.