The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, held in Beijing late last month, yielded a list of 283 deliverables. In terms of numbers, the second Belt and Road forum may have produced just four more deliverables than the 279 by the first forum two years ago, but in terms of quality, the second edition has produced more remarkable results.
The list of deliverables comprises six categories: initiatives proposed or launched by the Chinese side; bilateral and multilateral documents signed during or immediately before the second forum; multilateral cooperation mechanisms under the Belt and Road framework; investment projects or project lists; financing projects; and projects of local authorities and enterprises.
While the first Belt and Road forum held in May 2017 helped China to change the outside world’s perception on the Belt and Road Initiative－from “suspicion” to “understanding” to “endorsement”, the second has helped advance the Belt and Road Initiative from one “based on talks and communications” to one driven by the aspirations of the Belt and Road partner countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a project with an extremely high degree of openness. But since it is also a complex initiative, it needs a broader, higher and more solid platform to proceed. And the results achieved at the second Belt and Road forum will help all the partner countries to build such a platform.
Thanks to the cooperation measures it has taken, such as the issuance of Silk Road bonds and the implementation of the Silk Road scholarship program, and its vow to host the second China International Import Expo, China has been playing a leading role in deepening cooperation under the Belt and Road framework.
Other Belt and Road projects, however, have been made possible by the joint contribution of China and other countries and international organizations, including the signing of some documents, launching of the green action initiative, and working out a South-South cooperation plan to tackle climate change.
As for multilateral cooperation platforms established before or during the second Belt and Road forum, the achievements largely reflect “five factors”: policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people exchanges. For example, the establishment of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road port cooperation mechanism between China and 13 other countries is to a large extent a response to the demand for better infrastructure connectivity, while the establishment of the China-Latin America development financial cooperation mechanism by China Development Bank reflects a big step taken toward promoting mutual financial integration.
Besides, quite a few of the deliverables yielded by the second Belt and Road forum are focused on how to strengthen and make good use of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The investment projects and project lists are based on cooperation between countries, but with greater focus on specific projects, especially on international production capacity cooperation between China and Belt and Road partner countries. Objectively speaking, without the Belt and Road Initiative, some projects might never have been launched, and even if they were, their scale, speed and flexibility would not be as good as the current ones.
Some of the projects on the list are of regional and global significance. For example, the pan-Asian railway network, whose construction China, Thailand, Laos and other Asian countries have decided to expedite, will be beneficial for countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia because it would promote the flow of production factors.
The financing projects include infrastructure projects such as roads, electricity, railways and bridges, as well as industrial development projects such as automobile manufacturing and steel plants. The makeup of diversified investors, which include the China Development Bank, the China-Africa Development Fund and the Export-Import Bank of China, as well as Credit Suisse, Export-Import Bank of Korea, and banks from Panama, Sri Lanka and some other countries, suggests extensive fund participation in Belt and Road projects.
The 279 deliverables produced by the first Belt and Road forum have been implemented because of the hard work as well as the pragmatic attitude of all the parties involved. And while the 283 deliverables of the second forum are indeed gratifying, it will take a lot of hard work to implement them successfully.
Indeed, establishing a coordination mechanism and using scientific methods to implement them could produce fruitful results and push the Belt and Road Initiative forward.
(The author is a senior research fellow at and deputy director of the Institute of International Market, Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.)