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The Belt and Road Initiative fuels globalization and sustainable development
By Hu Biliang  ·  2019-10-15  ·   Source: NO.42 OCTOBER 17, 2019
The construction site of the Hunutlu Thermal Power Plant in Adana, China's biggest direct investment project in Turkey, on September 22 (XINHUA)

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to help people around the world enjoy a better life. With this new platform, China is ready to conduct closer cooperation with other countries and contribute more to solving major global issues.

Positive influence

Committed to building a community with a shared future for humanity, China has always been a staunch supporter of globalization. It has opened its market wider to the outside world and strengthened cooperation with other countries in trade, investment, finance, science, education and people-to-people exchanges.

Belt and Road practices in the past six years show that the initiative can directly drive globalization. Under the current situation, it is important to promote the continuous development of the trend, and in particular, its transformation and upgrading.

The initiative provides a completely open and inclusive platform. Whether a country is rich or poor, big or small, located in Africa, Asia, Latin America or Europe, it can participate in the initiative, which is not about regionalism or geopolitics. Each country can, through cooperation on an equal, voluntary and mutually beneficial basis, promote common development. This is consistent with the spirit of globalization to break isolation and advance global integration.

Since the core of the initiative lies in achieving better connectivity in areas such as transport and communication, goods and services, and capital and personnel, it is conductive to the free flow of various elements on a global scale and the expansion of international trade, investment and tourism. This faster growth will positively influence the progress of globalization.

The initiative also focuses on strengthening infrastructure by providing adequate financing. Since many developing countries badly need financing for infrastructure, Belt and Road construction is beneficial to them, especially poorer ones. By pushing forward the initiative, balanced development of all countries is likely to be achieved. In this way, a new type of globalization that benefits more people will gradually emerge.

Visitors play a drum at Egypt's booth during the Eighth Shandong International Cultural Industries Fair in Jinan, east China's Shandong Province, on September 19 (XINHUA)

Complementary role

There are other intractable global problems waiting to be solved, such as the current global governance system itself, which needs to be improved and reformed.

More countries should play a role in global governance according to the changing world situation. At the same time, major countries that have yet to play a full role should take on more responsibilities. In this way, we can gradually achieve the goal that the world should be governed by all.

Given difficulties in reforming the current system, specific public goods and services can be provided to fill the gaps.

Reform of the current system is needed, while new and complementary solutions are of equal importance.

Providing adequate financing for infrastructure to less developed countries should be the focus of international institutions such as the World Bank, but due to various reasons, they are incapable of doing so. The gap between supply and demand remains huge and cannot be solved in the short term.

Against this backdrop, China and other countries can finance infrastructure construction through innovative means, promote economic development, and provide new employment opportunities for low-income populations under the Belt and Road Initiative.

China has also done a lot of work and accumulated extensive experience in poverty alleviation. Through the initiative, other developing countries can carry out cooperation with China to alleviate and eventually eliminate poverty in a faster and better way.

Shared benefits

The UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by 193 member states at a summit held in September 2015 and officially launched in 2016, has set 17 goals. They mainly include boosting economic development, promoting social development, protecting the environment, safeguarding justice and building effective institutions, and strengthening global partnerships.

From the perspective of boosting economic development, the agenda goals are related to major economic sectors such as agriculture, industry, energy and consumption, and emphasize sustainable development, decent jobs and full employment.

The construction of industrial and agricultural parks and international production capacity cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative can promote agricultural and industrial development, while energy, infrastructure and trade remain its key areas.

China's experience in these fields affirms that modern information technology should be closely integrated with these sectors' production processes to achieve intelligent development. In this process, high standards of environmental protection should always be adhered to. Economic development should never be carried out at the cost of environmental damage. These principles have been included in a document on building a green Belt and Road released in May 2017.

The UN agenda also takes into consideration issues such as education, water supply, sanitation, housing, the well-being of the people, the rights of women and children and, ultimately, the eradication of poverty in all its forms. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, water and power supply is given prominence in infrastructure construction, while education and women's and children's rights are an important element of social development. Since inclusive gains are difficult to achieve, countries still need to work together to benefit all.

The agenda also considers the protection of terrestrial ecosystems, forests and biodiversity, desertification control, the sustainable use of ocean and marine resources, and most importantly, coping with climate change. These points have been mentioned in the guideline for promoting a green Belt and Road, which also emphasizes the need to strengthen coordination, provide funds (including the use of China's Green Development Fund and Silk Road Fund, and public-private partnership financing) and cultivate talent.

Belt and Road participating countries have yet to explore the establishment of international institutions; instead, they are focused on system and project construction, industrial development, environmental protection and economic and social cooperation. With the further development of the initiative, ways to form better institutional arrangements should be put on the agenda to enhance the complementary role of this platform to current global governance.

The UN agenda has proposed a global partnership to revitalize sustainable development. By the end of July, 136 countries and 30 international organizations had established partnerships with China under the Belt and Road Initiative. Such an international cooperation network has actually built a new global partnership, laying a solid foundation that we can make full use of and align closely with the UN agenda to make contributions to global sustainable development.

The author is professor of economics and director of the Belt and Road Research Institute at the Beijing Normal University

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com

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