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Chinese Investment in Myanmar: a perspective.

Chinese Investment in Myanmar: a perspective.

Myanmar’s pushback against China, which is trying to widen its influence through the China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), among other issues has been influenced by Pakistan’s experience in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port project. Myanmar’s all-powerful generals have drawn lessons from these experiences and highlighted reservations against the Chinese investment.

 

 

The CPEC model, which has led to Pakistan’s structural dependence on China, is now being felt in the CMEC, according to an opinion piece ‘Rescuing Myanmar From the Chinese Debt Trap’ recently published in Myanmar’s leading English media outlet The Irrawaddy.

 

 

In terms of geography, the Chinese have proposed that the CMEC (part of BRI) would start from China’s pivotal Yunnan province, which shares borders with Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. From Ruili city on the China-Myanmar border, the corridor would head towards Mandalay, Myanmar’s former royal capital on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in the northern part of the country. From there, it could extend towards the east and west to Yangon New City and the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, in the western Rakhine province. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Myanmar in January, two agreements were signed - establishing the Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port (KDSP) and setting up the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). By setting up the KDSP, the Chinese are hoping to lower their dependence on the Straits of Malacca, which is China’s main trade artery, linking the Indian and the Pacific oceans: an over-reliance on which leaves China vulnerable to geo-political outside factors.

 

 

The Kyaukphyu Deep Sea Port is also critical for China’s energy security. The port houses an oil and gas pipeline, supplying energy to Yunnan. It is estimated that under an elaborate plan, China is targeting a massive investment of around $100 billion in Myanmar’s economy—a figure is over and above $62 billion funding for CPEC. China has proposed 38 projects under CMEC but Myanmar so far has approved only nine (six are outlined below). Since last year Myanmar has decided that it will only implement the projects that will be mutually beneficial.

 

Looking back at the last three decades, Chinese investment in Myanmar reached its peak during the 2010-2011 fiscal years after President Thein Sein’s government took office. In the 2011-2012 fiscal years, Chinese investment began a rapid decline after the controversial $3.6 billion China-backed Myitsone hydropower project was suspended amid public outcry over the dam’s social and environmental impacts. Myanmar continues to suspend the construction of Myitsone Dam. The dam is one of seven hydropower projects planned for the upper reaches of the Irrawaddy River as well as the Mali and N’Mai rivers, at whose confluence the Irrawaddy begins.

 

 

It is certain that China will remain to be a decisive economic influence for Myanmar which is also a potentially crucial partner in its BRI and other economic plans. In terms of foreign investment figures, China is now Myanmar’s largest investor as well as biggest trade partner.

 

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Source: The Irriawaddy, The Economic Times.

China’s Relations with Saudi Arabia:...

China’s Relations with Saudi Arabia: Economic & Strategic

Saudi Arabia did not recognise the PRC in 1949 and maintained diplomatic and trade relations with Taiwan (Republic of China [ROC]). Relations started to improve during the 1980s due to economic reforms in China which emphasised the modernisation and industrialisation of China and required China to look for new sources of energy, turning its attention to the Persian Gulf including Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and China were established in July 1990 and within the next decades grew into a strategic friendship in 2008 and a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016.

 

 

Economic & Political Ties

China sees Saudi Arabia as the largest economy in the Arab world which is a reliable large-volume oil supplier since its position is stable and not subject to international isolation and sanctions like Iran. Saudi Arabia is perceived as a reliable political partner now supporting the One China policy. China also values Saudi political support for the Chinese fight against East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) terrorism in Xinjiang due to the Saudi religious legitimacy among the global Muslim community. Changes in mutual perception have been intensified by increased cultural cooperation since the 1990s. These include tourism, student exchanges, and cultural cooperation within the BRI framework such as the people-to-people exchanges within the Saudi–Chinese Youth Forum. Political and diplomatic relations intensified after 9/11, when both countries joined the US war on terror, and after the “Arab Spring” which both China and Saudi Arabia opposed on principle, with Saudi Arabia fearing instability in the Gulf and China fearing the rise of Muslim extremism in Xinjiang province.

 

 

Trade

Saudi Arabia exports mostly oil and natural gas, petrochemicals, raw materials, and minerals to China. The latest report published by the Saudi General Authority for Statistics in February 2019 indicates that China is the top country for non-oil exports for Saudi Arabia as well as the top partner country for Saudi imports.  As a part of the BRI, Saudi companies are also investing in the north-western Hui Muslim provinces in China. China’s exports to Saudi Arabia focus mostly on machinery, infrastructure, construction industry, information technology, car industry, banking, telecommunication, and health services. In 2015, there were 158 Chinese companies established in the Saudi market and about 20,000 Chinese expats living in Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Chinese investments in Saudi Arabia as a part of the BRI include construction projects, infrastructure building, investments in joint research, and training facilities in telecommunications. The most significant projects implemented by Chinese companies in Saudi Arabia included the agreement concluded in 2009 to construct the Mecca Light Metro (MLM) by the China Railroad Construction Company. The MLM was put into operation in only sixteen months, providing a significant ease of transport for millions of Muslims joining the 2011 hajj. The project became a major success in the Muslim world and its cultural contribution to Sino–Saudi cooperation thus clearly exceeded its economic value.

 

 

Oil plays a special role in Sino–Saudi mutual relations. In March 2019, the Saudi oil exports to China surpassed those of Russia (since in 2014 it has supplied 16 per cent of China’s oil imports). China pays special attention to the comprehensive strategic development of its Saudi energy relations, focusing on Chinese investments in refineries in Saudi Arabia, Saudi investments in oil facilities in China, and Chinese participation in geological surveys in Saudi Arabia. Cooperation and joint investments between the Chinese state-owned Sinopec company and the Saudi oil company Aramco include joint exploration of natural gas in Section B in the Rub Alkhali Basin since 2004. Chinese investments in Saudi Arabia include development of the Ghawar oil field and the Yanbu joint refinery project of Aramco and Sinopec at the Red Sea launched in 2012. This project is of special importance for China given the regional instability in the Gulf as it enables it to export oil from Saudi Arabia’s west coast, without having to pass through the contested Strait of Hormuz, thus avoiding the local tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

 

 

Energy cooperation also includes Chinese assistance to the Saudi nuclear programme. China should help Saudis to build nuclear reactors based on the Sino–Saudi agreement from 2016: the first should be functioning by 2022 and fifteen more by 2032. Although their purpose is officially peaceful with the aim to provide an alternative source of energy to oil, they also have political importance in hedging against the Iranian nuclear programme.

 

 

China’s Persian Gulf Economic Diplomacy

Although China seeks to hedge its economic bets in the Persian Gulf, it is becoming much more difficult for China to balance its relationship with Iran and its partnership with Saudi Arabia. It is clear that Iran and Saudi Arabia are both competing for Chinese support in their regional aims. Trade data published by the World Bank and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development show that in 2017 total Chinese exports to Iran and Saudi Arabia were almost at the same level, USD 18.58 billion and USD 18.38 billion, respectively. Although imports from Saudi Arabia were higher than those from Iran, USD 31.76 billion versus USD 18.55 billion respectively (WITS, 2019a) In terms of oil, Saudi Arabia is the more significant supplier since in 2014 it supplied 16 per cent of China’s oil imports compared to Iran’s 9 per cent (EIA, 2015), which accounts for much of the higher level of Chinese imports from Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Outlook

China has every reason to hedge its bets in case its oil imports from one supplier or the other are impeded. Such an eventuality could easily arise from further intensification of the mid-2019 tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, which included several seizures by Iran of foreign oil tankers. The September 2019 drone attacks which cut Saudi oil output by half and temporarily reduced the global oil supply by 5 per cent thus demonstrate the need for China to ensure diversification in its suppliers and to maintain good relations with Iran as well as Saudi Arabia. Hence China is forced to continue with its strategic hedging policy in the Persian Gulf as it strives to implement the regional connectivity and national economic security goals of the BRI. By seeking to acquire more influence with Iran and Saudi Arabia and build up its economic interests in the Persian Gulf, China is steadily eroding US regional hegemony. Of crucial importance are the implementation of the BRI and the attainment of China’s comprehensive national security goals, including continued levels of energy imports from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

 

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Source: This article was originally part of a longer article from the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs: China’s “Belt and Road” Economic Diplomacy in the Persian Gulf: Strategic Hedging amidst Saudi–Iranian Regional Rivalry

The Belt and Road Initiative Progress...

The Belt and Road Initiative Progress 2019

Since 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative, with policy coordination, connectivity of infrastructure, unimpeded trade, financial integration and closer people-to-people ties as its main goals, has advanced in solid steps. Significant progress has been made, including a number of landmark early results. Participating countries have obtained tangible benefits, and their appreciation of and participation in the initiative is growing.

 

 

1. Policy coordination

Policy coordination is an important guarantee for this initiative, and an essential precondition for joint actions. Over the past five years or so, China has engaged in thorough communication and coordination with participating countries and international organizations, and reached a broad consensus on international cooperation for building the Belt and Road.

 

 

1) The Belt and Road Initiative has been incorporated into important documents of international organizations. The initiative and its core concepts have been written into documents from the United Nations, G20, APEC and other international and regional organizations. In July 2015, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization issued the "Ufa Declaration of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization", showing support for the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. In September 2016, the "G20 Leaders' Communiqué" adopted at the G20 Hangzhou Summit endorsed an initiative to establish the Global Infrastructure Connectivity Alliance. In November 2016, the 193 UN member states adopted by consensus a resolution, welcoming the Belt and Road Initiative and other economic cooperation initiatives and urging the international community to ensure a secure environment for these initiatives. In March 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2344, calling on the international community to strengthen regional economic cooperation through the Belt and Road Initiative and other development initiatives, while for the first time enshrining the concept of "a community of shared future for mankind". In January 2018, the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was held in Santiago and adopted the "Special Declaration on the Belt and Road Initiative". In July the same year, the Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) was convened in Beijing, which adopted the "Declaration of Action on China-Arab States Belt and Road Cooperation". In September the FOCAC Beijing Summit adopted the "Beijing Declaration - Toward an Even Stronger China-Africa Community with a Shared Future" and the "Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021)".

 

 

2) More and more countries and international organizations have signed intergovernmental cooperation agreements on the Belt and Road Initiative. In the B&R framework, all participating countries and international organizations, based on the principle of seeking common ground while reserving differences, have exchanged views on economic development plans and policies and discussed and agreed economic cooperation plans and measures. By the end of March 2019, the Chinese government had signed 173 cooperation agreements with 125 countries and 29 international organizations. The Belt and Road has expanded from Asia and Europe to include more new participants in Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific.

 

 

3) Coordination and cooperation in specific fields of the Belt and Road Initiative have progressed steadily. The Digital Silk Road has become an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative. China has launched the "Belt and Road Digital Economy International Cooperation Initiative" with Egypt, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. It has signed cooperation agreements with 16 countries to strengthen the construction of the Digital Silk Road. China issued the "Action Plan on Belt and Road Standard Connectivity (2018-2020)". It has signed 85 standardization cooperation agreements with 49 countries and regions. The long-term mechanism for tax cooperation between B&R countries is maturing. China co-organized the Belt and Road Initiative Tax Cooperation Conference (BRITCC) in May 2018, which published the "Astana Proposal by BRITCC Participating Jurisdictions for Enhancing Cooperation in Tax Matters", signaling that the cooperation network has expanded to 111 countries and regions. China and 49 B&R countries published the "Joint Statement on Pragmatic Cooperation in the Field of Intellectual Property Among Countries Along the Belt and Road" in August 2018. In July 2018 China hosted the Forum on the Belt and Road Legal Cooperation, which published the "Statement of the Co-Chairs of the Forum on the Belt and Road Legal Cooperation". In October 2018 China hosted the Belt and Road Energy Ministerial Conference and 18 countries jointly announced building the B&R energy partnership. In addition, China published the "Vision and Action on Jointly Promoting Agricultural Cooperation on the Belt and Road" in May 2017 and the "Vision for Maritime Cooperation Under the Belt and Road Initiative" in June the same year. China has been a strong proponent of the establishment of international commercial courts and a "one-stop" diversified resolution mechanism for international commercial disputes.

 

 

2. Infrastructure connectivity

Infrastructure connectivity is high on the B&R agenda. While committed to respecting the sovereignty and security concerns of all relevant countries, B&R countries have made concerted efforts to build an all-round, multi-level, and composite infrastructure framework centered on railways, roads, shipping, aviation, pipelines, and integrated space information networks. This framework is taking shape rapidly. It has greatly reduced the transaction costs of products, capital, information, and technologies flowing between regions, and effectively promoted the orderly flow and optimal allocation of resources among different regions. Thus it will help achieve mutually beneficial cooperation and common development.

 

 

1) Significant progress has been made in the construction of international economic cooperation corridors and passageways. The six major corridors for international economic cooperation - the New Eurasian Land Bridge, and the China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia, China-Indochina Peninsula, China-Pakistan, and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridors - connect the Asian economic circle with the European economic circle. They have played an important role in establishing and strengthening connectivity partnerships between participating countries and building an efficient and smooth Eurasian market.

 

 

- New Eurasian Land Bridge. Over the past five years or so, regional cooperation through the New Eurasian Land Bridge has widened, enhancing partnerships featuring openness, inclusiveness, and mutual benefits to a higher level and driving forward economic and trade exchanges between Asia and Europe. The "Budapest Guidelines for Cooperation Between China and Central and Eastern European Countries" and the "Sofia Guidelines for Cooperation Between China and Central and Eastern European Countries" have been published, showing that steady progress is being made in pragmatic cooperation in the frameworks of the China-EU Connectivity Platform and the Investment Plan for Europe. Construction has started on the Belgrade-Stara Pazova section of the Hungary-Serbia Railway in Serbia. The Western China-Western European International Expressway connecting western China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Western Europe is basically complete.

 

 

- China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor. China, Mongolia, and Russia have made positive efforts to build a cross-border infrastructure connectivity network consisting mainly of railways, roads and border ports. In 2018, the three countries signed the "Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing a Joint Mechanism for Advancing the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor", making further progress in improving the working mechanism of the tripartite cooperation. China's side of the Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge was completed in October 2018. Construction of the Heihe-Blagoveshchensk road bridge is progressing smoothly. A Sino-Russian enterprise consortium has completed preliminary design of the Moscow-Kazan High-Speed Railway. The "Intergovernmental Agreement on International Road Transport Along the Asian Highway Network" signed and approved by the three countries has entered into force. The China-Mongolia-Russia cross-border terrestrial cable system has been completed.

 

 

- China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor. Over the past five years or so, cooperation has advanced in energy, infrastructure connectivity, economy and trade, and industrial capacity in this corridor's framework. China has signed bilateral agreements on international road transport with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and other countries, as well as China-Pakistan-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan, China-Kazakhstan-Russia, China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan, and some other multilateral agreements on international road transport, constantly improving infrastructure construction in Central Asia and West Asia. The China-Saudi Arabia Investment Cooperation Forum has promoted industrial complementarity between the Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Vision 2030, and has concluded cooperation agreements worth more than US$28 billion. China and Iran have drawn on their strengths in various fields and are strengthening their combined forces in the fields of roads, infrastructure and energy.

 

 

- China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor. Over the past five years or so, progress has been made in infrastructure connectivity and construction of cross-border economic cooperation zones through this corridor. The Kunming-Bangkok Expressway has been completed, while the China-Laos and China-Thailand railways and some other projects are well underway. Cooperation has started in building the China-Laos Economic Corridor. More intensive efforts have been made to dovetail Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor and the Belt and Road Initiative. Economic cooperation between China and Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Viet Nam and Thailand is advancing steadily. Positive roles for the China-ASEAN (10+1) cooperation mechanism, Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism, and Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation are becoming clearer.

 

 

- China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. A cooperation plan focusing on energy, transportation infrastructure, industrial park cooperation, and Gwadar Port has been implemented in the framework of this corridor. China and Pakistan have established the Joint Cooperation Committee of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which meets regularly. Smooth progress has been made in a number of projects. Key projects, such as the road to the Gwadar Port, Peshawar-Karachi Motorway (Sukkur-Multan section), Karakoram Highway Phase II (Havelian-Thakot section), Lahore Orange Line Metro, and 1,320MW Coal-Fired Power Plants at Port Qasim have been launched. Some projects have already brought benefits. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is open to third parties for cooperation, and more countries have joined or expressed a willingness to participate.

 

 

- Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. Over the past five years or so, the four countries have worked together to build this corridor in the framework of joint working groups, and have planned a number of major projects in institutional development, infrastructure connectivity, cooperation in trade and industrial parks, cooperation and opening up in the financial market, cultural exchange, and cooperation in enhancing people's wellbeing. A Joint Committee of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor has been established. The two countries have also signed an MoU on building the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, as well as papers on a feasibility study for the Muse-Mandalay Railway, and the Framework Agreement on the Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone Deep-Sea Port Project.

 

 

 Infrastructure connectivity has been remarkably enhanced. "Access to roads will enable all sectors of the economy to prosper." Insufficient infrastructure investment is a bottleneck for economic development in developing countries. Accelerating infrastructure connectivity is a key area and core goal of the Belt and Road Initiative.

 

 

- Railways

Major progress has been made in building inter-regional and intercontinental railway networks focusing on such cooperation projects as the China-Laos Railway, China-Thailand Railway, Hungary-Serbia Railway, and Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway.

 

 

Preliminary research has advanced on the eastern route of the Pan-Asia Railway Network, the upgrade of Pakistan's Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line (also referred to as Main Line 1 or ML-1), and the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway. A pre-feasibility study on a China-Nepal cross-border railway has been completed.

 

 

After preliminary work on China Railway Express cargo trains, an international railway operation mechanism with cooperation among multiple countries has been established. Railway companies of China, Belarus, Germany, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Poland, and Russia have signed an agreement on deeper cooperation in China-Europe rail service. By the end of 2018, China-Europe rail service had connected 108 cities in 16 countries in Asia and Europe. A total of 13,000 trains had carried more than 1.1 million TEUs. Among the trains starting from China, 94 percent were fully loaded; and among those arriving in China, 71 percent were fully loaded.

 

China has cooperated with other B&R countries in customs clearance to make it more convenient and efficient for the operation of the trains. The average inspection rate and customs clearance turnover time have both decreased by 50 percent.

 

 

- Roads

Trial operations have been carried out on nonstop transport on the China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan, China-Russia (Dalian-Novosibirsk) and China-Viet Nam roads. In February 2018, regular operation began on the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan highway. China-Viet Nam Beilun River Bridge II has been completed and opened to traffic.

 

 

China formally joined the Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention). It has signed 18 bilateral and multilateral international transport facilitation agreements with 15 B&R countries, including the "Intergovernmental Agreement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States on the Facilitation of International Road Transport". Positive progress has been made in implementing the GMS "Agreement for the Facilitation of Cross-Border Transport of Goods and People".

 

 

- Ports

In Pakistan's Gwadar Port, routes for regular container liners have been opened and supporting facilities in the starting area of the Gwadar Free Trade Zone completed, attracting more than 30 companies into the area. Preliminary work has been completed for Sri Lanka's Hamban-tota Port Special Economic Zone, including defining the zone's industrial functions and making conceptual plans. An important transit hub has been completed at the Port of Piraeus in Greece, and Phase III construction is to be completed. Khalifa Port Container Terminal Phase II in the United Arab Emirates officially opened in December 2018. China has signed 38 bilateral and regional shipping agreements with 47 B&R countries. China's Ningbo Shipping Exchange has made constant efforts to improve the Maritime Silk Road Freight Index and released the China-CEEC Trade Index (CCTI) and the Ningbo Port Index.

 

 

- Air transport

China has signed bilateral intergovernmental air transport agreements with 126 countries and regions. It has expanded arrangements for air traffic rights with Luxembourg, Russia, Armenia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Israel, Mongolia, Malaysia, and Egypt. Over the past five years or so, 1,239 new international routes have opened between China and other B&R countries, accounting for 69.1 percent of the total of China's new international routes over that period.

 

 

- Energy facilities

China has signed a large number of cooperation framework agreements and MoUs with other B&R countries, and has carried out extensive cooperation in the fields of electricity, oil and gas, nuclear power, new energy, and coal. It works with relevant countries to ensure the safe operation of oil and gas pipeline networks and optimize the configuration of energy resources between countries and regions.

The China-Russia crude oil pipeline and the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline have maintained stable operation. Certain sections of the eastern route of the China-Russia natural gas pipeline will enter service in December 2019 and the entire eastern route will be completed and enter service in 2024. China-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines have been completed.

 

 

- Communication facilities

Significant progress has been made in the construction of China-Myanmar, China-Pakistan, China-Kyrgyzstan, and China-Russia cross-border fiber optic cables for information transmission. China and the International Telecommunication Union signed a "Letter of Intent to Strengthen Cooperation on Telecommunications and Information Net works Within the Framework of the Belt and Road Initiative". China has also signed cooperation agreements with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan on fiber optic cables, which represent the practical launch of the Silk Road Fiber Optic Cable project.

 

 

3. Unimpeded trade

Unimpeded trade is an important goal of the Belt and Road Initiative. The efforts invested in the initiative have liberalized and facilitated trade and investment in the participating countries and regions, lowered the costs of trade and business, and released growth potential, enabling the participants to engage in broader and deeper economic globalization.

 

 

1) Greater liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment. China has issued the "Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation Along the Belt and Road", to which 83 countries and international organizations have subscribed. Cooperation in border inspection and quarantine has deepened. Since the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in May 2017, China has signed more than 100 cooperation agreements with other B&R countries, granting access to some 50 types of agricultural products and food after inspection and quarantine. Express customs clearance services for agricultural products between China and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have reduced the clearance time by 90 percent. China has further expanded sectors accepting foreign investment to create a business environment of high international standards. It has opened 12 pilot free trade zones for global business and experimented with free trade ports to attract investment from participating countries of the Belt and Road Initiative. China's average tariffs have dropped from 15.3 percent when it joined the World Trade Organization to 7.5 percent today. China has signed or upgraded free trade agreements with ASEAN,

 

 

Singapore, Pakistan, Georgia and other countries and regions, and signed an economic and trade cooperation agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. A network of free trade areas involving China and other B&R countries has taken shape.

 

 

2) Expanding trade. From 2013 to 2018 the value of trade between China and other B&R countries surpassed US$6 trillion, accounting for 27.4 percent of China's total trade in goods and growing faster than the country's overall foreign trade. In 2018 the value of trade in goods between China and other B&R countries reached US$1.3 trillion, growing by 16.4 percent year on year. Trade in services between China and other B&R countries has seen steady progress, growing by 18.4 percent from 2016 to reach US$97.76 billion in 2017. The figure accounted for 14.1 percent of China's total trade in services, 1.6 percentage points higher than in 2016. According to a World Bank study that analyzes the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on trade in 71 potentially participating countries, the initiative increases trade flows among participating countries by up to 4.1 percent.

 

 

3) Faster pace of trade model innovation. New trade models such as cross-border e-commerce are becoming an important driver of trade. In 2018 the total value of retail goods imported and exported through the cross-border e-commerce platform of China Customs reached US$20.3 billion, growing by 50 percent year on year. Exports were US$8.48 billion, growing by 67 percent year on year, and imports were US$11.87 billion, growing by 39.8 percent year on year. As Silk Road e-commerce prospers, China has established cooperation mechanisms for bilateral e-commerce with 17 countries, created agreements on e-commerce cooperation under the BRICS and other multilateral frameworks, and made solid progress in finding overseas partners for Chinese businesses and developing Chinese brands.

 

 

4. Financial integration

Financial integration is an important pillar of the Belt and Road Initiative. Exploring investment and financing models, international multilateral financial institutions and commercial banks have played an innovative role in expanding the channels of diversified financing, providing stable, transparent and quality financial support for the Belt and Road Initiative.

 

 

1) Exploring new models of international investment and financing. Boasting huge cooperation potential in infrastructure construction and industrial capacity, the Belt and Road Initiative is in urgent need of finance. The sovereign wealth funds and investment funds of the participating countries are playing a bigger part. In recent years the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority of the UAE, China Investment Corporation and other sovereign wealth funds have markedly increased investment in major emerging economies participating in the initiative. The China-EU Joint Investment Fund, which began operation in July 2018 with an injected capital of EUR500 million from the Silk Road Fund and the European Investment Fund, has helped the Belt and Road Initiative to dovetail with the Investment Plan for Europe.

 

 

2) Growing support from multilateral financial cooperation. China's Ministry of Finance and its counterparts in 27 countries including Argentina, Russia, Indonesia, the UK, and Singapore have endorsed the "Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road". According to the Principles, the countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative support channeling of financial resources to serve the real economy of countries and regions involved, with priority given to such areas as infrastructure connectivity, trade and investment, and industrial cooperation, among others. The People's Bank of China has rolled out joint financing programs with the International Finance Corporation under the World Bank Group, Inter-American Development Bank, African Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other multilateral development institutions. By the end of 2018 these institutions had invested in more than 100 programs in over 70 countries and regions. Established in November 2017, the China-CEEC Bank Consortium includes 14 financial institutions from China, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, and nine other Central and Eastern European countries. In July 2018 the China-Arab States Bank Consortium was founded, followed by the China-Africa Financial Cooperation Consortium established in September; each was the first multilateral financial cooperation mechanism between China and the respective area.

 

 

3) Closer cooperation between financial institutions. In building the Belt and Road, policy-backed export credit insurance, which has wide coverage, plays a special role in supporting infrastructure and basic industries. The strengths of commercial banks lie in taking deposits from wider sources, corporate financing, financial products, trade agency, and trust services. By the end of 2018 the China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation had endorsed US$600 billion on export to and investment in the participating countries. Chinese-financed banks, such as the Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, and China Construction Bank, have formed extensive agent banking relations with the participating countries. Commerzbank became the first German bank to join the banking mechanism of the Belt and Road Initiative when it signed an MoU on cooperation with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

 

 

4) Improved financial market system. The initiative's participating countries have made continued efforts to consolidate and improve financial cooperation for long-term benefits and win-win outcomes. With a steady supply of innovative financial products, channels for financing the Belt and Road Initiative have expanded substantially. China has continued to open up its interbank bond market. By the end of 2018 about RMB200 billion of Panda bonds had been issued. The Export-Import Bank of China issued a RMB2 billion green bond for global investors, and the BRICS New Development Bank issued a RMB3 billion green bond to support the green development of the Belt and Road Initiative. Stock equity, business and technical cooperation between securities and futures exchanges has advanced. The Shanghai Stock Exchange, Deutsche B?rse Group, and China Financial Futures Exchange jointly founded the China Europe International Exchange in 2015, and the Shanghai Stock Exchange and Astana International Financial Center Authority of Kazakhstan have signed an agreement to co-invest in building the Astana International Exchange.

 

 

5) Deeper financial connectivity. Eleven Chinese-funded banks have set up 76 first-grade institutions in 28 B&R countries, and 50 banks from 22 B&R countries have opened 7 corporate banks, 19 branches, and 34 representative offices in China. Two Chinese-funded securities firms have established joint ventures in Singapore and Laos. China has made bilateral currency swap arrangements with more than 20 B&R countries and Renminbi clearing arrangements with 7 B&R countries, and signed cooperation agreements with the financial supervision authorities of 35 B&R countries. The Reminbi's functions as a currency for international payment, investment, trade, and reserve have been strengthened. The Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) now covers some 40 countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. The China-IMF Capacity Development Center and the Research Center for the Belt and Road Financial and Economic Development have been founded.

 

 

5. Closer people-to-people ties

People-to-people ties are the cultural foundation for building the Belt and Road. It is the common dream of all peoples to enjoy a peaceful and prosperous life. Over the past five years or so, the B&R countries have carried out diplomatic activities and cultural exchanges of various forms in wide fields, enhancing mutual understanding and recognition and laying a solid cultural foundation for furthering the initiative.

 

 

1) Diverse forms of cultural exchange. China and other B&R countries have hosted events such as arts festivals, film festivals, music festivals, cultural relics exhibitions, and book fairs, and have jointly launched new publishing, radio, film and television programs, as well as translating and introducing each other's media programs. The Silk Road International League of Theaters, Silk Road International Museum Alliance, Network of Silk Road Arts Festivals, Silk Road International Library Alliance, and Silk Road International Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries have been established. China, CEE countries, ASEAN countries, Russia, Nepal, Greece, Egypt, and South Africa have hosted activities to celebrate the cultures of B&R countries in different years, and developed about a dozen cultural exchange brands such as the "Silk Road Tour" and "Chinese/African Cultures in Focus". Major cultural festivals and expos have been launched such as the Silk Road (Dunhuang) International Cultural Expo, Silk Road International Arts Festival, and Maritime Silk Road International Arts Festival, and 17 Chinese culture centers have been set up in B&R countries. China has signed cooperation agreements on the protection of cultural heritage with Indonesia, Myanmar, Serbia, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia. Through a combined effort from China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Silk Roads: The Routes Network of Chang'an-Tian Shan Corridor has become a UNESCO World Heritage site. Steady progress has been made in the Belt and Road News Alliance. The Silk Road NGO Cooperation Network, with 310 members, has become an important platform for non-governmental cooperation.

 

 

2) Fruitful results in education and training. The Chinese Government Scholarship - Silk Road Program has been set up, and China has signed agreements with 24 B&R countries on the mutual recognition of higher education degrees. In 2017, 38,700 students from other B&R countries studied in China on scholarships provided by the Chinese government, accounting for 66 percent of all students receiving such scholarships. Other B&R scholarships are provided in the Hong Kong and Macao SARs. China has opened 153 Confucius Institutes and 149 Confucius Classrooms in 54 B&R countries. The Chinese Academy of Sciences offers scholarships in Master's and Doctorate programs to other B&R countries, and runs science and technology training courses which have trained some 5,000 students from other B&R countries.

 

 

3) Expanding cooperation in tourism. China has held joint year of tourism with many other B&R countries, initiating cooperation mechanisms such as the Silk Road Tourism Promotion Union, Maritime Silk Road Tourism Promotion Alliance, and Tea Road International Tourism Alliance. China has signed mutual visa exemption agreements for different types of passport with 57 B&R countries, and concluded 19 agreements or arrangements to streamline visa application procedures with 15 countries. In 2018 outbound Chinese tourists numbered 150 million, and inbound foreign tourists numbered 30.54 million. Russia, Myanmar, Viet Nam, Mongolia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore were the main sources of tourists for China.

 

 

4) Deeper cooperation in health and medicine. Since the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China has signed 56 agreements on cooperation in the health sector with countries such as Mongolia and Afghanistan, international organizations such as the World Health Organization, and NGOs such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In August 2017 the Belt and Road High-Level Meeting for Health Cooperation: Towards a Health Silk Road was held in Beijing, which issued the "Beijing Communiqué of the Belt and Road Health Cooperation". China has carried out cooperation on the prevention and control of AIDS, malaria, dengue, flu, and tuberculosis with Lancang-Mekong countries; on the prevention and control of echinococcosis, plague and other zoonoses with Central Asian countries; and on the prevention and control of polio with Western Asian countries. China has dispatched ophthalmology teams to Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Sri Lanka to carry out the "Brightness Action" program, and shortterm medical teams to island countries such as Fiji, Tonga, Micronesia, and Vanuatu in the Pacific. It has established traditional Chinese medicine centers in 35 B&R countries, and 43 international TCM cooperation bases.

 

 

5) Ongoing effort in disaster relief, assistance, and poverty alleviation. Since the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China has provided RMB2 billion in emergency food assistance to developing countries participating in the initiative, injected an additional US$1 billion to the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, and implemented 100 Happy Home Projects, 100 Anti-Poverty Projects, and 100 Health Recovery Projects. China has participated in 8 joint programs for the protection of cultural relics with 6 countries, and 15 joint archeological activities with 12 countries. China has provided Laos and other countries with seismic monitoring equipment to improve their early warning and disaster alleviation capacity. China has initiated 24 cooperation programs with civil society organizations in Cambodia and Nepal, in an effort to improve the lives of local people.

 

 

6. Industrial cooperation

The Belt and Road Initiative draws investment from diverse sources, encourages third-party market cooperation, and aims to build industry, supply, service, and value chains that benefit all and are shared by all, so as to provide new growth drivers for faster development in the participating countries.

 

 

1) Stable growth in China's direct investment in B&R countries. From 2013 to 2018 China's direct investment in B&R countries surpassed US$90 billion, realizing a turnover of US$400 billion in foreign contracted projects in these countries. In 2018 Chinese businesses made a total of US$15.6 billion in non-financial direct investment in B&R countries, growing by 8.9 percent year on year and accounting for 13 percent of China's total non-financial FDI during the same period. The turnover of foreign contracted projects in B&R countries reached US$89.3 billion, or 53 percent of the total turnover of foreign contracted projects in the same period. According to a World Bank study, the transportation network proposed by the Belt and Road Initiative can lead to a 4.97-percent increase in total FDI flows to B&R countries, a 4.36-percent increase in FDI flows within B&R countries, a 4.63-percent increase in FDI flows from OECD countries, and a 5.75-percent increase in FDI flows from non-B&R countries.

 

 

2) Steady progress in international cooperation on industrial development and third-party markets. As faster growth in B&R countries has generated huge market demands on international industrial cooperation, China has taken active measures to boost market-oriented industrial cooperation with relevant countries in all areas, so as to upgrade the industrial structure and raise the level of industries in these countries. Currently China has signed agreements on industrial cooperation with more than 40 countries including Kazakhstan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Brazil. It has dovetailed industrial cooperation programs with regional organizations such as the ASEAN, African Union, and CELAC. China has signed third-party market cooperation agreements with France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Portugal.

 

 

3) Vigorous development in cooperation parks and zones. Applying market principles and complying with laws, Chinese businesses of all types have joined in the development of cooperation parks and zones in other B&R countries, sharing China's best practices and the experience it has gained in development zones and industrial parks during reform and opening up. In addition to promoting the local economy, these have also created new sources of tax revenue and jobs in the countries involved. China has established the China-Kazakhstan Khorgos International Border Cooperation Center, and the China-Laos Mohan-Boten Cross-Border Economic Cooperation Zone; more cross-border economic cooperation zones with other countries are being planned or built.

 

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Source: This article is an English version summary of the full text of a report titled "The Belt and Road Initiative: Progress, Contributions and Prospects" released by the Office of the Leading Group for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, April 2019.

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