By Wang Yiwei
China Daily | 2018-09-05
President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative five years
ago to bridge the development gaps among countries, improve peoples'
living standards and promote sustainable, shared development. This makes
the initiative a global cooperation network that connects countries by
air, land, sea and cyberspace, and extends beyond the Eurasian continent
to Africa and Latin America.
Building infrastructure is the first priority of the Belt and Road
Initiative, as the world suffers from poor infrastructure. In
particular, the West (including the United States) lacks proper, modern
infrastructure because private capital has no interest in investing in
infrastructure. The reason: infrastructure does not make money, in the
short term at least.
But China is willing to invest in infrastructure, because it thinks long term.
may ask: Why are Western companies not interested in investing in
infrastructure while Chinese companies are? This is a key factor to
understand: If China builds a high-speed railway, for example, Chinese
companies will invest in real estate, tourism and other industries that
will benefit from the railway. So even if the railway per se does not
make money, profits could still be earned in other ways. And along the
railway, we could build economic zones and industrial parks that would
benefit the local economies.
Other developing countries want to learn from China's development
experience. And many such countries ask: How has China developed so
rapidly? Well, as we Chinese say, if you want to get rich, build a road;
if you want to get rich quickly, build a railway; and then connect them
so we can all get rich together. This is the essence of the Belt and
After infrastructure comes industry clusters, followed by economic
corridors. That infrastructure benefits the local people is a
precondition for industrialization. If you cannot have
industrialization, you remain poor. And if you are poor, you do not have
the money to invest in infrastructure－this is a vicious circle.
The Oriental Industrial Park in Ethiopia and the Suez Canal Economic
Zone in Egypt are shining examples that prove economic zones and
industrial parks benefit from infrastructure. Africa is a natural
partner of the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Tanzania-Zambia
Railway, which was completed in 1975, is a symbol of Sino-African
China has invested more than $70 billion in countries and regions
involved in the Belt and Road Initiative since its inception in 2013,
and commodity trade among them has crossed $5 trillion. China has also
set up 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones with an
investment of more than $27 billion, which have created jobs for more
than 200,000 local people. And its Silk Road Fund has facilitated the
signing of 19 projects with a committed investment of $7 billion.
In the coming five years, Chinese outbound investment in the Belt and
Road participants could reach $500 billion, and the number of overseas
trips made by Chinese tourists is expected to reach 700 million. These
developments will greatly benefit the African countries cooperating with
China on the Belt and Road Initiative.
China and African countries are also working on many other projects
such as those related to industry, finance, poverty reduction,
ecological and environmental protection, cultural and people-to-people
exchanges, and peace and security. No wonder Chinese and African leaders
have set the ambitious goal of raising China's foreign direct
investment in Africa from $32.4 billion in 2014 to $100 billion in 2020,
and increasing two-way trade from $220 billion to $400 billion.
Indeed, with the Belt and Road Initiative helping merge the Chinese
Dream with the "African Dream", a China-Africa community with a shared
future will definitely come into being.
The author is Jean Monnet Chair Professor of Renmin University of China.