China’s Belt and Road plan en­cour­ages in­clu­sive de­vel­op­ment

Financial Times USA - - LETTERS -

The Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co-oper­a­tion held in Bei­jing last week­end fo­cused on win­win busi­ness part­ner­ships. In Bri­tain, there has been much in­ter­est in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. But re­cently I read in the me­dia about con­cerns that this ini­tia­tive might be a one-way traf­fic (FT View, May 15). I do not think such worry is jus­ti­fied.

The claim that trains came to Europe fully loaded but re­turned to China with empty cars is in­ac­cu­rate. First-quar­ter sta­tis­tics show that China cus­toms cleared 62 trains, 2,850 con­tain­ers and 35,027 tons of cargo; empty con­tain­ers ac­counted for only 11.4 per cent. While the num­ber of con­tain­ers al­most dou­bled from last year, the per­cent­age of empty ones more than halved.

The in­crease is not only in vol­ume but also in the va­ri­ety of goods, in­clud­ing rub­ber prod­ucts, tyres, engines, gear­boxes, ro­bots and steel belts. Im­proved global economy, in­creased world trade, higher ac­cep­tance of rail trans­port and greater fa­cil­i­ta­tion of cus­toms clear­ance thanks to the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween countries ex­plain the drop in the pro­por­tion of empty con­tain­ers.

Since March 2011, China Rail­way Ex­press trains have made 3,000 trips be­tween China and Europe. Link­ing 27 Chi­nese cities in 21 prov­inces and 28 cities in 11 Euro­pean countries, they are ex­pected to make 5,000 trips every year by 2020. At the fo­rum last Sun­day, fur­ther agree­ment was reached to in­crease co-oper­a­tion on rail trans­port.

The ben­e­fits of the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive go be­yond rail con­tain­ers. It has al­ready brought en­cour­ag­ing changes nearly four years after its launch as trade with China and in­vest­ment from China have helped drive growth and cre­ate jobs in countries along the routes. From 2014 to 2016, to­tal trade be­tween China and countries along the routes had ex­ceeded $3tn. Trade in ser­vices is ris­ing in pro­por­tion, show­ing room for fur­ther growth. Chi­nese in­vest­ment in these countries to­talled more than $50bn, with Chi­nese com­pa­nies build­ing more than 50 trade and eco­nomic co-oper­a­tion zones in more than 20 countries, gen­er­at­ing $1.1bn of tax rev­enue and cre­at­ing 180,000 jobs lo­cally. At the fo­rum, China signed busi­ness and trade co-oper­a­tion agree­ments with more than 30 countries and an­nounced an in­jec­tion of an ad­di­tional Rm­b100bn ($14.5bn).

Chi­nese com­pa­nies are go­ing global, but not through a one-way ap­proach of re­lo­cat­ing in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity abroad, still less ex­port­ing out­dated and pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries. They are adopt­ing a two-way model whereby views of the host countries are fully con­sid­ered, projects dis­cussed to­gether, ac­tions taken jointly and ben­e­fits shared. This ex­ploratory phase in build­ing the Belt and Road has been highly pro­duc­tive and ben­e­fi­cial. There is now a much clearer frame­work, more spe­cific work­ing meth­ods and broader con­sen­sus. This will en­able bet­ter yields and out­comes.

Bri­tain is a key part­ner of the ini­tia­tive and well po­si­tioned to play a huge role by of­fer­ing its fi­nan­cial and le­gal ser­vices and shar­ing its think­tanks, me­dia, ed­u­ca­tional re­sources and R&D and in­no­va­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

So, the Belt and Road is a two-way traf­fic and def­i­nitely not ex­clu­sive. Rather, it is an ini­tia­tive about open, in­clu­sive and win-win co-oper­a­tion where any coun­try is wel­come to get in­volved. Am­bas­sador Liu Xiaom­ing Em­bassy of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in the UK London W1, UK

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