Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the opening ceremony of the Fifth Silk Road International Exposition and the Investment and Trade Forum for Cooperation between East and West China via video link in Xi'an, capital city of northwest China's Shaanxi Province on May 11 (XINHUA)
Adjei Peter Junior banged an African drum and danced to the exciting rhythm, with the surrounding crowd drawn to the intriguing musical instrument.
It was not the scene of a party. Rather, the manager of Ghana Opace Group was using the dance to promote the company's products such as drums and wooden handicrafts at the ongoing Fifth Silk Road International Exposition in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
"We can go all round China for business, and it is a huge market for our products," he said.
Themed "Interconnection, Contribution and Shared Benefits," the expo has attracted more than 1,900 envoys and guests from 98 countries and regions such as Slovakia, Belgium, the Republic of Korea, Tajikistan and Zambia. Joint efforts to push for deeper Belt and Road (B&R) economic cooperation are high on the agenda.
Participants at the expo said that with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the globe, the enthusiasm of the international community in jointly promoting high-quality B&R cooperation is tantamount to a resounding vote of confidence in the program.
"It reflects the great and growing interest of countries in achieving the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and re-establishing the links of the ancient Silk Road," said Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
"We must work together to find new development drivers and growth points," he said, adding that active participation in the B&R is needed to realize these goals.
Robust trade, investment links
Since the BRI was proposed in 2013, China has carried out development cooperation and contributed to policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity based on the needs of individual countries, creating space and opportunities to promote high-quality B&R cooperation.
Since 2013, China has signed cooperation agreements with a total of 140 countries and 31 international organizations under the BRI, said Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a video address to the expo.
The total trade volume between China and the B&R countries amounted to $ 9.2 trillionfrom 2013 to 2020, and combined investment by Chinese enterprises in these countries had reached $ 136 billion, according to Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen.
In this year's government work report, China pledged to jointly build the B&R with high quality, pushing cooperation on major projects in an orderly manner. The country has also vowed to promote the high-quality development of the B&R during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025).
In 2020, Malaysia's trade with China, its largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, expanded by 4.2 percent to $ 78.5 billion, accounting for 18.6 percent of its total trade volume, compared with 17.2 percent in 2019.
"We are delighted to observe positive development in bilateral trade between Malaysia and China in 2020, despite all the great challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Nur Azni Aziz, director of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation Chengdu Representative Office, at the expo.
In 2020, China remained the second-largest foreign investor in Indonesia, with the total investment value at $ 4.8 billion, rising 2.1 percent from the same period in 2019.
There is plentiful cooperative potential waiting for the two countries, said Marina Novira Anggraini, commercial counselor of the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing, citing digital services in manufacturing as a potential area where the two countries can cooperate more in the future.
Wang Yi said China will seek to create more space and identify better routes for the joint building of the B&R, thus further unleashing the potential of China's huge market, and creating more opportunities for the world.
New growth driver
Thanks to smoother trade channels under the BRI, emerging industries such as cross-border e-commerce have become bright spots in promoting the economic development of B&R countries.
"E-commerce is becoming a new and prospective economic driver for the Belt and Road development," said Teymur Nadiroghlu, trade representative at the Embassy of the Azerbaijan Republic to China, at the expo. He added that the e-commerce market enables companies from various countries to gain international exposure for their products and services.
Due to the pandemic, many brick-and-mortar stores in Kazakhstan were not able to open. Chinese businessman Yuan Zhaohui has managed to blaze a trail through win-win cooperation with his foreign partners.
His company Silkroad City Shop teamed up with over 2,000 local online influencers in Kazakhstan to promote products including home furnishings and mini electric appliance via livestreaming on social media platforms such as Instagram.
At the same time, he set up his own delivery teams in 18 cities in Kazakhstan and hired local people as couriers, which helped to reduce delivery costs while boosting local employment.
Last year, Silkroad City Shop raked in more than 200 million yuan (about $ 31.12 million) in revenue, with sales promoted by livestreaming contributing about one-tenth of the total.
Yuan stressed the role that the China-Europe freight train service played in spurring the growth of his company. "Thanks to the railway cargo service, the transportation cost can get cut in half compared to previous transport channels," he said.
Amid pressure from a supply chain shattered by COVID-19, China-Europe freight trains stand out as a competitive alternative. The number of China-Europe freight trains hit 3,398 in the first quarter of this year, up 75 percent year on year, and the number of monthly train trips has exceeded 1,000 for 11 consecutive months.
The China-Europe cargo service will be improved to spur the development of cross-border e-commerce, according to a three-year action plan released at the expo.
China will set up a green service mechanism for cross-border e-commerce firms via the China Railway Express (Chang'an), with more new routes developed to facilitate international cargo flows, the plan states.