Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive takes to the skies

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Wed­nes­day in Bei­jing.

More than 400 gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in­dus­try lead­ers and ex­perts from 24 na­tions and re­gions are tak­ing part in the two-day meet­ing.

China built 15 new air­ports and ex­panded 28 ex­ist­ing ones in prov­inces in­volved in the ini­tia­tive dur­ing the past two years, he noted. A to­tal of 4.7 bil­lion yuan was al­lo­cated to these prov­inces over the same pe­riod to up­grade air traf­fic con­trol in­stal­la­tions and equip­ment, he said.

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, a de­vel­op­ment strat­egy pro­posed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt, which will link China with Europe via Cen­tral and Western Asia, and the 21st Cen­tu­ryMar­itime Silk Road, which stretches from south­ernChina to South­east Asia, South Asia, Africa and Europe.

The am­bi­tious ini­tia­tive is ex­pected to ben­e­fit about 4.4 bil­lion peo­ple in 65 coun­tries.

Coun­tries within the scope of the ini­tia­tive have an ag­gre­gate GDP of $21 tril­lion, ac­count­ing for 29 per­cent of the world’s to­tal. In 2014, China’s to­tal trade with these na­tions and re­gions reached $1.12 tril­lion, roughly 25 per­cent of the coun­try’s over­all global trade that year, Li said.

He forecast that fig­ure would dou­ble within the com­ing decade.

Twenty-four out of 83 new air routes planned to be opened this sum­mer and au­tumn by Chi­nese air­lines will link cities in China and ar­eas cov­ered by the ini­tia­tive, in­clud­ing four coun­tries that nowhavenoair links with­China, ac­cord­ing to Li.

Air trans­porta­tion has sev­eral ad­van­tages that can help speed up the for­ma­tion of the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road. The nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture can be built faster and at a lower cost than roads and rail­ways, it is safer and faster, and it has a smaller im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, Li ex­plained.

The CAAC has pledged to fur­ther open the coun­try’s airspace to car­ri­ers from Cen­tral and South Asia to al­low for more di­rect air links.

China will also help coun­tries along the trade routes train 500 civil avi­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als in the com­ing five years, he added.

Wang Ya’nan, deputy ed­i­torin-chief of Aerospace Knowl­edge mag­a­zine, said air trans­porta­tion is the best way to im­prove con­nec­tiv­itya­mong re­lated na­tions and re­gions.

“Con­nec­tiv­ity is no doubt the very foun­da­tion for trade, tourism as well as other forms of ex­change. Many coun­tries along the Belt and Road are closed off by moun­tains and deserts, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to build roads or rail­ways within a short pe­riod of time. As a re­sult, air trans­porta­tion has huge po­ten­tial in the ini­tia­tive,” he said.

Li Xiao­qun, a re­searcher at the Civil Avi­a­tion Man­age­ment In­sti­tute of China, urged the civil avi­a­tion sec­tor to seize the op­por­tu­ni­ties gen­er­ated by the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive to ex­pand their oper­a­tions and net­works world­wide.

YUAN JINGZHI /FOR CHINA DAILY

A pas­sen­ger jet­liner at Xianyang In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Xi’an, Shaanxi province. China built 15 new air­ports and ex­panded 28 ex­ist­ing ones in prov­inces in­volved in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive in the past two years.

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