The Belt and Road

Infrastructure construction should match with the development of the industry, Director General of the BRI Centre

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On May 30, African and Chinese officials spoke highly of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a positive impetus to further drive the momentum in China-Africa cooperation.

They made the joint remarks during the Belt and Road Dialogue for China-Africa Cooperation, which was jointly organized by the African Union (AU) and the Chinese Mission to the AU in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

Zhai Dongsheng, Director General of the Belt and Road Initiative Centre, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China, made four proposals for China-Africa cooperation during the dialogue.

He said that the infrastructure construction should be moderately advanced, but it should not be too pre-mature as it needs to match closely with the development of the industry.

The following is the full text of the keynote address of Zhai Dongsheng at the Belt and Road Dialogue for China-Africa Cooperation.

Keynote address at the Belt and Road Dialogue for China-Africa Cooperation

By Zhai Dongsheng, Director General of the Belt and Road Initiative Centre, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China

May 30, 2019 Addis Ababa

Dear Ambassador Liu Yuxi, Commissioner Amani, Political dignities, Distinguished guests, Good Afternoon!

First of all, Let me congratulate for the opening of the Belt and Road Dialogue for China-Africa Cooperation today, and I also congratulate for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement  (AfCFTA) to come into force today, which is a great thing for China and Africa joint cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

In April this year, China successfully held the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. This forum focuses on the joint development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and emphasizes that the BRI cooperation should be open, green and clean, following a high-standard, people-centered, and sustainable approach. These are the basic requirements for China’s next phase of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, pursuing high quality in both cooperation results and cooperation processes. This is not only a response to the international community’s concerns on Belt and Road cooperation, but also a higher requirement to the Chinese overseas companies. China is actively adding higher pressure on itself and has firm confidence, determination and capability to fulfill its commitments, and we welcome the international community, including the AU to inspect, and we also hope to work together for practical implementation.  For the past two days, during my discussions with AU officials and Think-Tank experts, they all expressed the hope for China-Africa cooperation to bring benefits to SME growth and youth employment; I think this is both compulsory and viable.

This forum further identified the key focus for Belt and Road cooperation, that is, full scale comprehensive connectivity. It includes both hard infrastructural connectivity such as transportation, energy, telecommunication, water conservancy, municipal construction, and soft connectivity related to strategy, policy, rules and standards. Just like the hard disk and software in a computer, infrastructural connectivity and soft connectivity are equally important.

The forum also proposed that we should strengthen the cooperation mechanism for the Belt and Road Initiative, and build a global interconnected partnership. Chinese traditional medical science clearly indicates that physical health requires a free flowing circulatory system and pleasant emotions. Similarly, we believe that if both the hard connectivity between various geographical regions and the soft connectivity between the mankind’s thoughts and civilizations are to be realized, then the challenges faced by mankind, such as poverty, hunger and conflicts will be addressed accordingly.

Many African countries’ development paths, national and natural conditions are similar to those of China. Therefore, we are on the same wavelength and should learn from each other, assist each other and benefit from each other for even better win-win results.

After more than 40 years of rapid growth through reform and opening up, only China has formed the  industry system with complete categories in the world. The agricultural production capacity is so strong to the extent that we have completely met the basic needs like food and clothing for 1.4 billion people. The industrial production capacity is also very strong with manufacturing capacity ranking number one in the world in terms of many products. Furthermore, industrial technologies such as aerospace, high-speed rail, clean energy, supercomputer, are world leading; the new digital economy featured with e-commerce and mobile payment that emerged in recent years is at leading position; China’s desertification governance, disaster prevention and reduction, prevention and control of infectious diseases are also in the forefront of the world. At the initial stage of the reform and opening up, China gave priority to the development of infrastructure, which effectively guaranteed the tremendous development of the economy and society. In the process of construction, it also cultivated a large-scale and capable construction team. More importantly, in the 41 years of reform and opening up, China has accumulated effective experience and ideas for developing the economy and improving people’s livelihood and well-being, which have aroused the interest of many African friends.  Many African countries are in the early stages of industrialization and urbanization, and many industries are waiting for prosperity with huge market demands. China is very aware of the urgency and fully appreciates the grand ideals of AU and African countries in building infrastructure, developing industry and agriculture, and improving people’s living standards. China’s supply capacity is particularly suitable for Africa’s needs in this regard.

I’d like to make four proposals for China-Africa cooperation as follows:

Firstly, we should strengthen the two sides’ strategic planning coordination, and implement them one by one with strong determination. China has proposed that the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative has basically completed its blueprint design stage and entered into a new stage of intensive implementation and detailed execution. China’s next step is to implement various plans and policies thoroughly, including strategic cooperation plans, infrastructure construction plans, capacity cooperation plans, which have been signed by African Union and African countries with the Chinese government and its various departments including the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). These plans should be transformed into investment cooperation projects, and become visible, tangible, and enjoyable results with benefits to be shared by ordinary people.

Secondly, against surging trade unilateralism and protectionism, China is accelerating the transformation of foreign trade investment structure. Under the BRI framework for international cooperation, China will strengthen trade and investment cooperation with infrastructure construction, industries investment and industrial park construction in Southeast Asian and African countries to reduce dependence on certain individual country markets. China also actively advocates the expansion of imports:  On the one hand, this is the demand for China’s own development; on the other hand, it also serves the purpose to balance the import and export between China and its partner countries. China’s foreign exchange reserves are very large but too much foreign exchange is neither economic nor scientific. At the same time, those partner countries also need to expand exports to earn foreign exchange for further import and repayment of the debts arising from infrastructure construction and, consequently China will also gain benefits. I hope that China and Africa will strengthen and accelerate cooperation in trade and investment.

Thirdly, we should promote more synergistic, deeper and more detailed cooperation between China and Africa. This is the conclusion I made after discussions yesterday with AU officials and some local political dignities, as well as talks with HESPI (The Horn Economic and Social Policy Institute) think tank experts today. For example, we agreed that the infrastructure construction should be moderately advanced, but it should not be too pre-mature as it needs to match closely with the development of the industry. In order to develop digital economy, we must first build telecommunication network facilities, improve network coverage and network speed, reduce information costs, and improve the penetration rate of computers and mobile phones. It is necessary for us not only to cooperate in the development of manufacturing, but also to cooperate in the development of logistics, finance, tourism and other service industries. The development of all industries requires talents to support. The common difficulty faced by Chinese companies for cooperation in Africa is that it is difficult to recruit suitable talents locally. Therefore, China and Africa should also strengthen cooperation in higher education and vocational education, and train more engineering and technical talents, management talents and skilled workers that are suitable for their own development needs. Chinese companies must involve local technical management talents during the engineering design stage and train them. It is necessary not only to get the project constructed well, but also to operate and maintain it well after the completion of the project so that we can really do good deeds in good ways.

Fourthly, China welcomes all countries with cooperation will to participate in the BRI actively, including enterprises from the project destination countries and developed countries in Europe and America. China also welcomes all large multinational corporations and international financial institutions to get involved in this great initiative.  China has signed third-party market cooperation documents with more than 10 countries including France, Japan and Singapore. We welcome these countries to join China and participate in African construction.

Finally, I wish this dialogue a complete success. Thank you!

Guizhou quickens pace in joining Belt and Road Initiative

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Southwest China’s Guizhou Province has exported 1.97 million tonnes of cargo, worth 10.2 billion yuan (about 1.5 billion U.S. dollars), to countries along the Belt and Road since April last year, according to the province’s department of commerce Wednesday.

After the Guizhou section of the land-sea freight route opened to traffic in April last year, local products such as white spirit, fertilizers, tires and tea have been popular sellers in foreign markets along the Belt and Road, said the commerce.

On May 20, Guizhou’s first supply chain management company was set up to reduce logistics costs along the land-sea freight route and promote trade and cultural exchanges among countries and regions along the Belt and Road.

The land-sea freight route is part of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, a trade and logistics passage jointly built by western Chinese provincial regions and Singapore under the framework of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity.

By the end of March, the land-sea freight route had seen 901 trips, transporting 440 million U.S. dollars worth of auto parts, construction materials, porcelain, chemical products, grains and frozen goods.

It links 166 ports in 71 countries and regions worldwide.

Zambian leader says BRI to facilitate Africa trade

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Zambia says that cooperation on the Chinese-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will help African countries to strengthen trade with China and beyond.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu said on Wednesday that China has demonstrated its commitment to build infrastructure that will link and create synergies for trade across the world.

The Zambian leader was speaking in an interview with journalists after he toured exhibition stands at an enterprises expo featuring multiple economic sectors which is being held in Kitwe city on the Copperbelt Province under the theme: “Innovative Partnerships for Empowerment and Growth.”

Lungu said Zambia will continue to strengthen bilateral relations with China in various economic sectors that include infrastructure development that will be of benefit to the Zambian people.

According to Lungu, the African Union (AU) is in support of the BRI, adding that Zambia as a member of the AU has also taken a similar route.

BRI creates win-win situation for European, Chinese companies

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China’s Belt and Road Initiative creates a win-win situation for the participating European and Chinese companies by expanding the range of cooperation opportunities, the organizer of the world’s biggest trade fair for logistics, mobility, information technology and supply chain management told Xinhua here on Wednesday.

“Transport logistic 2019” opened its doors at the Messe Munchen exhibition ground on Tuesday and will last until June 7. The fair is held every two years in the capital of Bavaria.

“There are many good panel discussions about the hot topics of the logistics industry here. One of them is definitely the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” said Stefan Rummel, managing director of Messe Munchen.

“There are more and more interconnected logistics networks between Europe and China,” he added.

This year’s event has attracted around 2,300 exhibitors from around the world. Sixty-four exhibitors came from China, almost twice as many as in 2017, Rummel said.

The Chinese exhibitors are looking for partners in Europe. The fair is also a very good opportunity for European companies to establish business ties with China, he said.

“This strategic Belt and Road Initiative is being executed more and more with all the countries along the new Silk Road,” Rummel said.

During the fair, major market players discuss Europe’s opportunities in the context of the BRI. Other issues include the shortage of skilled workers, the application of artificial intelligence, paths to smart city logistics and the specific logistics trends on road and rail, water and air.

Rummel identified the uncertain economic situation in Europe, Brexit and the trade war between the U.S. and China as the toughest challenges faced by the logistics industry today.

“My impression is that the (logistics) industry is a little bit more cautious currently. They are waiting to see what will happen between the U.S. and China,” Rummel said.

Rummel believed that logistics companies have a huge potential for the future, especially if they can make use of new technologies like artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.

As the organizer of the fair, Rummel is very satisfied and he is very confident that more and more Chinese logistics companies will take part in the next fair.

In 2017, 2,162 exhibitors from 62 countries and regions attended the “Transport Logistic” fair, drawing more than 60,726 visitors from 123 countries and regions.

China-proposed BRI aligns well with EAEU

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The alignment of China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is expected to be a hot topic at this year’s International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in the Russian city of St. Petersburg from June 6 to 8.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Russia, as well as the 5th anniversary of the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the 25th anniversary of the Eurasian idea.

Leaders of both China and Russia pay great attention to the cooperation between the two countries in this respect.

In May 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a joint declaration on cooperation in linking the Silk Road Economic Belt and the EAEU, drawing a new blueprint for the development of bilateral relations.

(CGTN Infographic)

In October 2016, China and the EAEU started one-year negotiations on trade and economic cooperation including five rounds of talks, three meetings of joint working groups and two ministerial consultations.

On May 17, 2018, China and the EAEU signed an agreement on trade and economic cooperation, covering customs cooperation, trade facilitation, and intellectual property rights along with new topics like e-commerce. This is the first major systematic arrangement ever reached between the two sides.

This February, Putin said Russia will continue to strengthen the synergy of the EAEU with the BRI in his address to Russia’s Federal Assembly.

DATA TELLS PROMISING COOPERATION PROSPECT

China is a major trading partner of the EAEU. The trade volume between China and the EAEU increased by 23 percent in 2018, accounting for 16.76 percent of the total, according to Russian news agency sputniknews.

Statistics from the Eurasian Economic Commission showed that as of the end of 2017, China’s cumulative investment in the EAEU was approximately 14 billion U.S. dollars.

Trade between China and Russia, a major member of the EAEU reached 107.06 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, up 27.1 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Commerce. In the first quarter of this year, trade between the two countries reached 23.9 billion U.S. dollars, up 9.8 percent compared to the same period last year.

The bilateral trade between the two countries will keep the momentum in 2019. Meanwhile, mutual investment maintains steady growth with huge potential.

BRI AND EAEU HAND IN HAND

The EAEU and the BRI bear similarities in many ways. For example, both ideas give priority to the economic and trade cooperation among Eurasian countries, and focus on improving infrastructure in the region.

The EAEU is seen as a major player in the world’s energy, raw material, arms, and agriculture production sectors. The China-initiated BRI, on the other hand, is set to bolster connectivity across the world. The China Rail Express, especially, serves as a bridge for growing cooperation between China and Europe. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) also brings the country’s infrastructure expertise into full play.

The BRI, proposed in 2013, aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. The initiative includes the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

Established in 2015, the EAEU includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, aiming to optimize the flow of goods and services among its members.

BRI progress brings benefits to participating countries: Serbian legislator

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Serbian member of parliament Zarko Obradovic speaks during an interview with Xinhua in Belgrade, Serbia, June 4, 2019. (Xinhua/Nemanja Cabric)

The benefits of taking part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been apparent for the participating countries, said a Serbian legislator.

Serbian member of parliament Zarko Obradovic called the BRI a “development project based on win-win cooperation,” saying that it is a “valuable project” for his country as it helps “develop our economy and raise the living standard of our citizens.”

The initiative has brought Serbia infrastructural projects of roads, energy, railway, as well as investments and presence of Chinese companies, said Obradovic, who is also head of Serbian Parliamentary Friendship Group with China.

The legislator said that China proposed this initiative for everyone to participate in and to harvest win-win results, changing the situation in which great powers were “the ones that were able to gain something, while for smaller countries, there were almost no benefits.”

“More and more positive effects … become visible as (the) initiative develops,” he said, “many countries will independently bring their own decisions (on) whether or not and at what level they want to partake in the realization, and they will not look upon the interests of great powers, but their own.”

“China has a very strong economy, (and it) cooperates with numerous countries,” he said. However, “some U.S. officials were claiming that it (the BRI) has become a threat.”

Obradovic said that besides hindering the BRI progress, the United States is also aiming to slow down China’s development.

As regards the U.S.-initiated trade disputes with China, the Serbian lawmaker said he believes that the trade frictions between the two largest economies will turn like a boomerang to harm the U.S. economy, as well as the global economy.

The United States should engage in peaceful negotiations with China and help prevent further global instability, he said. “China only continues with its consistent attitude that all problems should be solved solely through dialogue.”

“It would be a good solution for everyone that dialogue remains the only means of problem solving,” he noted.

China, Russia agree to upgrade relations for new era

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin while posing for photos ahead of their talks in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019. (Xinhua/Ding Haitao)

China and Russia agreed on Wednesday to upgrade their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.

The decision was made at a meeting between visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

During the meeting, the two heads of state highly evaluated the development of bilateral ties over the past 70 years, agreed to uphold the notion of good neighborliness and win-win cooperation, develop a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era in a bid to take bilateral ties to a higher level and better benefit the peoples of the two countries and the world as well.

Xi noted that it is his first state visit to Russia following his re-election as Chinese president last year, and is the eighth time he travelled to the country since 2013, saying that the China-Russia relationship is seeing a continuous, steady and sound development at a high level, and is at its best in history.

Both sides, said Xi, have firmly supported each other in their efforts to defend respective core interests and nurtured strong political and strategic mutual trust, adding that they have actively pushed forward all-around cooperation as internal driving forces of bilateral ties are emerging, and the convergence of the two countries’ interests is deepening.

China and Russia have played active roles in international affairs and global governance, and made important contributions to maintaining world peace and stability as well as international fairness and justice, he said.

The Chinese leader noted that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the China-Russia diplomatic relationship, calling it a milestone and a new starting point.

Acknowledging the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, Xi said China and Russia shoulder an even greater expectation from the peoples of the two countries and the international community.

He added that the Chinese side is ready to join Russia in amplifying the positive effect of the two countries’ high level of political relationship, bringing more benefits of bilateral cooperation to the two peoples, and presenting more China-Russia options for global affairs.

Noting that the world today is becoming increasingly uncertain and unstable, Xi said enhancing the China-Russia relationship is the call of history, and a firm strategic choice by both sides.

He called on the two sides to strengthen strategic communication and coordination, and further their mutual support on issues regarding their respective core interests.

Xi also urged the two countries to further promote their economic and trade cooperation, push forward cooperation on major strategic projects as well as in emerging fields at the same time, and boost cooperation at local levels, and in economy and trade, investment, energy, technology, aerospace, inter-connectivity, agriculture and finance sectors.

The two sides, according to Xi, should actively push forward their cooperation to dock the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasian Economic Union so as to promote regional economic integration.

To step up people-to-people exchanges, Xi said the plan for the China-Russia year of scientific and technological innovation from 2020 to 2021 should be well designed.

He said China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, are going to continue working with the international community to safeguard the international order that is based on the international law with the UN at the core, maintain multilateral trading system and make new contributions to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Putin warmly welcomed Xi for his visit, saying that with joint efforts from both sides since the establishment of diplomatic ties 70 years ago, the Russia-China relationship has reached an unprecedented high level, and the two countries’ all-around exchanges and cooperation have been fruitful.

The Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination has not only benefited the two peoples, but has also become an important force for safeguarding global security and strategic stability, he said.

Putin called on the two countries not to be complacent about what they have achieved, but be dedicated to bettering their bilateral relations.

Xi’s visit is of great significance in the complicated and volatile international situation, and it will inject strong impetus into the development of the Russia-China ties in the new era, Putin said.

Russia and China should continue to strengthen coordination on major international and regional issues, jointly deal with the challenges of unilateralism and protectionism, and maintain global peace and stability.

The Russian leader said his country is committed to deepening cooperation with China in the fields of economy and trade, agriculture, finance, science and technology, environment protection, telecommunications and infrastructure construction.

Russia is willing to boost interactions at local levels, and promote exchanges in education, culture and tourism, according to him.

Putin also said Russia is ready to provide China with sufficient oil and gas, and export more soybeans and other farm produce to China, and expects a faster alignment between the Eurasian Economic Union and the BRI.

Also at the meeting, Xi and Putin were briefed by officials from both countries on bilateral cooperation in priority areas, and they exchanged views on the Korean Peninsula situation, the Iran nuclear issue and the Venezuela issue, among others.

The two heads of state agreed to step up communication and coordination in the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BRICS, the APEC, and the G20 to jointly safeguard multilateralism and the norms of international relations.

Following the meeting, Xi and Putin signed the statements on elevating bilateral ties to the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era, and on strengthening contemporary global strategic stability.

According to the joint statement on the strategic partnership, the China-Russian relationship has entered a new era, and is facing new opportunities for greater development.

It said that the goal of such a new kind of partnership is for both sides to give more support to each other as they seek to take their own development paths, preserve respective core interests, and protect sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Therefore, said the statement, the two sides will closely coordinate with each other in aligning their development strategies, expand mutually beneficial cooperation in economy and trade, as well as investment, and further tap into the potential of bilateral ties.

The statement also said the two sides will give full play to the guiding role of the two heads of state in developing bilateral ties, and will regard political, security, practical, people-to-people exchanges, as well as international coordination cooperation as priorities of the China-Russia partnership.

The two leaders, after their meeting, have also witnessed the signing of a number of cooperation documents, met the press, visited an exhibition of cars produced by Great Wall Motors’ plant in Russia’s Tula region, and attended the inauguration ceremony of the panda house in Moscow Zoo.

Before their meeting, Putin held a grand welcome ceremony for Xi at the Kremlin.

Chinese company commended for excellent performance in Moscow metro construction

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China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) has greatly advanced the metro construction in Moscow as they conquered challenges one after another and made constant progress, said a Russian scholar at a recent forum commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia.

The Russian scholar Isaev Alexander Sergeevich, a senior research fellow of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IFES RAS), noted that Moscow has a grand planning for metro construction but suffered insufficient capabilities, and the new technologies and equipment brought by the Chinese experts and technicians have well met the urgent demand of the Russian side.

It is a tangible measure that explains why China-Russia relations have won wide supports, Sergeevich said.

The tunnel between Vernadskyi Prospekt and Michurinskyi Prospekt stations of a Moscow metro line undertaken by CRCC was recently holed through. “This is the first time for a Chinese company to build a metro line in Moscow,” said Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin when inspecting the construction site.

“The metro line will effectively ease the traffic pressure of the capital and bring more convenience to the people upon completion,” the mayor said.

Commenced from last June, the tunnel project features complicated procedures, and the soil strata are different from those in China. Besides, it crosses through a large number of buildings, with severe challenges posed by underneath stations, rivers, as well as the record-setting heavy snowfalls in Moscow.

Completing the task in such an environment, the Chinese construction team showcased the high performance of the Chinese equipment and their outstanding skills and management.

Moscow metro is one of the world’s busiest metro systems, transporting more than eight million passengers each day.

The bid to build a 4.6-km section of the “Large Circle Line” in Moscow was won by the CRCC two years ago. It marked the first time for Russia to introduce a Chinese company for a metro line project, and also the first project ever in Europe undertaken by a Chinese construction team with Chinese technology and equipment.

“The Chinese company brought advanced technology and experiences to us,” said Deputy Mayor of Moscow Marat Khusnullin. He also praised Chinese constructors for their excellent performance in constructing several complicated sections of the metro line.

The CRCC has more than 1,000 managing staff and workers at the project site, and about half of them are Russians.

“Many Chinese students studied subway construction in Soviet Union in early 1950s and Soviet experts helped design the first metro line in Beijing. We are now working at the home of our ‘teachers’,” said Xue Liqiang, the manager of the CRCC subway project in Moscow.

China and Russia expanded their cooperation as the project progressed. The CRCC Russia led and completed the design of three metro stations last February, and the design plan was approved by Russia’s national accreditation commission, the country’s top design management agency.

In the plan, the Michurinskyi station, which is hailed as “the most beautiful underground palace”, is designed in Chinese style featuring plum blossoms, cloud patterns and Chinese red color. The design and managing team of the CRCC studied Moscow’s metro design codes, and made the sketched constructions with Chinese characteristics under the cooperation with the Beijing Urban Engineering Design & Research Institute Co., Ltd.

“The project combines China’s advanced technologies and Russia’s outstanding designing technics. It promotes mutual learning of both sides, and enhances the capability of engineering design and management,” said CRCC Russia chairman Meng Tao.

“Chinese companies are both a constructor and a major cooperative partner of Moscow. Russia and China still have a large space for cooperation in such projects as auxiliary facilities along the Moscow River, old industrial zones upgrading and the construction of new urban area,” said Khusnullin.

“It’s hoped that Russia can have more cooperation with its Chinese partners and continuously inject vitality to the common development of both sides,” the deputy mayor said.

BRI will have a synergistic effect with China-Japan-South Korea FTZ

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The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will have a synergistic effect with the proposed trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) among China, Japan and South Korea, as the latter is now on a fast track, Chinese analysts said on Tuesday.

The comments come amid an escalating trade war between China and the US and announced efforts to fast-track the negotiations on the important free trade zone (FTZ) among the three Northeast Asian countries, on which 15 rounds of negotiations have been held.

South Korea and Japan stand to benefit from the further progress of the BRI, which aims to boost connectivity among Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond. Moreover, the participation of South Korea and Japan in some of the BRI projects has expanded those projects’ influence, analysts noted.

The China-Japan-South Korea FTA is the most important one being pursued by China in terms of economic size, according to media reports in April. An FTZ among the three Asian neighbors will also be the most important FTZ for Chinese exports.

Officials from China, Japan and South Korea are calling for further efforts to accelerate talks about an FTA.

Chinese analysts said the FTA will have special meaning in a time of US trade protectionism, unilateralism and bullying practices.

“It would be a trade deal among three of the world’s top 11 economies, that’s its significance,” Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce’s International Market Research Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Wu Minghua, a Shanghai-based independent analyst in the shipping industry, said an FTZ will be a major complement to the BRI.

“So far, the BRI is about looking west. An FTZ among the three countries will serve as an important foothold at the eastern end of the initiative,” Wu told the Global Times on Tuesday.  

More exciting is the fact that in a number of industries, including shipping, the three countries enjoy a high level of connectivity and have equal development standing, which means that the market can absorb the openness brought by an FTZ with few hiccups, Wu said.

It will also be interesting to see whether the FTZ will enjoy some of the financial arrangements that prevail in the countries and regions in the routes of the BRI, Wu said.

MUTUAL BOOST

Nowhere is this cooperation more true than in Lianyungang Port, East China’s Jiangsu Province, the eastern end of the Eurasian land bridge and a major BRI port. Here, companies from Japan and South Korea are utilizing the sea-over-land trade artery that goes across the Eurasian landmass to Amsterdam. Their use of this trade route has increased its activity and brought down its costs, helping expand the influence of the BRI, Bai said. An FTA could lead to further development in this direction.

“Given that an FTA can bring down tariffs and facilitate trade, Japanese and South Korean companies can further participate in the BRI,” a person at the port told the Global Times on condition of anonymity on Tuesday.

Sun Yuanxin, a deputy director of the Research Institute for the Shanghai FTZ at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said that the promotion of an FTZ is brought forward by agreeing on trade rules, while the promotion of the BRI is driven forward by key projects. However, “both are efforts aimed at promoting international economic cooperation.”

“In a world of uncertainty and volatility, Asian countries have a unique chance to show the world how solidarity can be achieved through communication,” Sun told the Global Times on Tuesday.

This year is the 20th anniversary of a trilateral cooperation mechanism among the three countries. During these two decades, trilateral trade has grown more than fivefold to $720 billion from $130 billion, media reported.

Xi’s visit to open new prospects for China-Russia ties

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A Russian girl learns Chinese calligraphy at a Spring Festival celebration held by the China Culture Center in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Bai Xueqi)

China-Russia relations are set to embrace yet another “highlight moment” as Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Russia on Wednesday for a new state visit and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

During the trip, Xi and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, are expected to draw a blueprint for the future development of bilateral ties, and lift the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination to a new stage.

A VISIT SIGNIFICANT TO RELATIONS

Expectations are running high for the three-day tour, which comes as China-Russia relations are now standing at a new starting point 70 years after the two countries established diplomatic ties.

Xi and Putin will review the achievements and experience in the development of the bilateral relationship over the past seven decades, chart the course for its future development, and further elevate the China-Russia partnership, said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui at a press briefing.

The two leaders, according to Zhang, will also sign or witness the signing of important cooperation documents, and attend a gathering celebrating the 70 anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties.

Thanks to the strategic guidance by the two heads of state and joint efforts of both sides, recent decades have seen the China-Russia partnership upgraded multiple times.

Xi’s visit, said Zhang, will “consolidate the political foundation of Sino-Russian relations, reaffirm their mutual support to each other on issues involving respective core and major concerns, and ensure the ties will not be affected by any change in the international situation.”

The visit will “be of milestone significance in the development of bilateral relations,” and “surely promote greater development … under the new situation,” Zhang added.

COOPERATION YIELDS FRUITS

As bilateral relations grow closer, practical cooperation between the two neighboring large countries has also been advancing on the fast track.

Bilateral trade hit a record high of over 100 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, up 27.1 percent year-on-year, the highest pace among the top 10 trading partners of China.

Cooperation has been deepening in energy, nuclear power and aerospace sectors. The first ship carrying liquefied natural gas from Russia’s Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic traversed the sea to China last summer, and millions of tons more will be supplied every year. A second line of the China-Russia oil pipeline began commercial operation in 2018, and the east-route natural gas pipeline is expected to supply gas to China by the end of this year.

The two countries have also inked a package of deals to expand nuclear cooperation, and their joint development of a wide-body long-haul passenger jet is making steady progress.

New domains of cooperation keep emerging, including digital economy, small- and medium-sized enterprises, high technology, Far East development and Arctic exploration.

In addition, people-to-people exchanges are booming. The friendship between the two peoples has been cemented through a rich variety of programs at national and local levels in such areas as culture, language, tourism, media and youth.

The Russia-China friendship absolutely serves the long-term interests of both countries and their peoples, said Dmitry Novikov, first deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma.

Bilateral cooperation, which is at “the highest level in history,” provides “an advanced cooperation model” for today’s world, he added.

The strategic partnership not only benefits the two countries, but plays a key role on the global stage for promoting win-win cooperation, illustrated by the joint efforts made to establish the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the trilateral cooperation among China, Mongolia and Russia, and their coordination within the frameworks of BRICS, Group of 20 and others.

FOR A FAIR, SAFER WORLD

During the visit, Xi will attend SPIEF for the first time, where he will address a plenary session and expound China’s stance on sustainable development.

Xi’s attendance has been lauded by Russian media as conferring a special status to the forum.

As trade protectionism and unilateralism are mounting, the Chinese president is also expected to reaffirm Beijing’s readiness to work with all parties to promote multilateralism and improve global governance for the common development and prosperity of the global village.

The annual high-profile international business gathering has provided a platform for Russia, which has been suffering harsh economic and financial sanctions from the West, to advocate fair competition and oppose protectionism.

China has been sending high-level delegations to the forum for consecutive years and voiced unswerving support for an open world economy and a multilateral trading system.

In the last few years, synergizing the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a trending subject on the SPIEF agenda.

Yaroslav Lissovolik, chief economist of the Eurasian Development Bank, noted that dovetailing the EAEU with the BRI will promote economic growth and integration of Russia and other Eurasian nations, adding that the BRI plays a key role in the global integration process and boosts the development of transport and logistics in developing countries.

On the world stage, China-Russia coordination has become an indispensable and irreplaceable force in helping solve major global and regional hot-button issues, against the backdrop of a world that has been undergoing complicated and profound changes.

As an exemplar of win-win cooperation, good neighborliness and harmonious coexistence between major countries, China and Russia are staunch supporters of multilateralism dedicated to safeguarding international law and the basic norms in international relations, preserving global strategic stability, and helping make the world order more just and reasonable.

Looking into the future, Sergei Luzyanin, director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said Russia and China will continue to deepen their strategic partnership and jointly safeguard world peace and security.

As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi once said, when China and Russia stand together, the world will be a safer and more peaceful and stable place.

The Belt and Road