Li Qiaoyi explains in People’s Daily how the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative could better work

silkroadIILi Qiaoyi writes in People’s Daily

China’s the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative could offer a new growth engine for the country’s economy as it enters a “new normal” of slower yet more balanced growth, lawmakers and political advisors have said during the ongoing two sessions. Reminiscent of China’s prominent involvement in the ancient Silk Road trading route, the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative was envisioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visits to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in 2013, referring to the building of a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The initiative offers unprecedented opportunities to push for the development of a green economy, Wang Wenbiao, chairman of Elion Resources Group and a political advisor, said on Sunday at the launch of the Ecological Silk Road Investment Fund.The fund, founded by firms and institutions including Elion Resources, China Oceanwide Holdings Group, Ping An Bank, and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Administrative Committee, is the first private fund devoted to investment in a green economy in countries and regions covered by the ‘Belt and Road’  initiative.

Major issues facing the Silk Road Economic Belt include scarcity of water, soil erosion and desertification, so investment in environmental measures and green energy is a priority, according to Wang.The fund aims to raise 30 billion yuan ($4.79 billion), with an initial 5 billon yuan planned for an ecological project building solar power stations in North China’s Hebei Province.Danish Ambassador to China Friis Arne Petersen said on Monday at a press conference in Beijing that the initiative would be open and inclusive.

The ‘Belt and Road’ initiative shows China’s willingness to connect with the rest of Asia and countries along the road and belt, even as far as Europe, he said. The launch of the Ecological Silk Road Investment Fund came after the creation of a $40 billion Silk Road Fund, which was announced by President Xi in November 2014, and is designed to improve trading and transportation links in Asia.

Such efforts are considered the latest measures to bring the initiative to fruition. The ‘Belt and Road’ initiative needs to be linked with regional development and opening-up as part of the broad-based efforts to keep growth steady while advancing the economy’s restructuring and upgrading, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in the annual government work report delivered on March 5.

China’s future growth, will depend increasingly on the country opening-up to less developed economies and a greater focus on developing China’s western regions, with the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative mapping out the vision for the road ahead, Zhang Yansheng, secretary-general of the Academic Committee of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told a forum in Beijing on Saturday.This will involve increasing exports of China’s capital and transferring overcapacity in sectors such as iron, steel and cement to developing markets included in the “Belt and Road” initiative, Chan King-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong China Chamber of Commerce and a political advisor, said at the same forum.

Various regions in China have already shown great interest in joining the initiative. For instance, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region aims to build itself into a transportation hub and a logistics center linking China, Central Asia, West Asia, South Asia and Europe through a network of railways, roads and airlines, Huang Wei, vice chairman of the autonomous region and a deputy to the National People’s Congress, told the Global Times on Saturday.

China has negotiated with various countries involved in the initiative over a batch of projects that are either being planned or have already started, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng told reporters on Saturday. Over the next decade, China’s investment in countries included in the initiative will reach $1.6 trillion, Zhou Liqun, chairman of China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation, estimated at a forum in Beijing in January.