At Belt and Road Forum president calls for a partnership of ‘global connectivity’. Andrew Moody reports
Connecting countries that can then work together to create a more prosperous future is one of the central aims of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping said. “We should forge a global connectivity partnership to achieve common development and prosperity,” he said at the opening of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the China National Convention Centre in Beijing on April 26. “As long as we work together to help each other, even if thousands of miles apart, we will certainly be able to fi nd a mutually benefi cial and win-win road,” he said. In addition, at the conclusion of a leaders’ roundtable meeting on April 27, Mr Xi told the media that the BRI has “opened a gateway to opportunities for common prosperity”. Nearly 40 heads of state or government, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, took part in the three-day forum, which had the theme “Belt and Road co-operation: Shaping a brighter shared future”. About 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries as well as 90 international organisations also took part. Deals worth a total of $64 billion were concluded and signed during the forum. Since the initiative was proposed by Mr Xi in 2013, the value of trade between China and participating countries has exceeded $6 trillion, with investments of more than $80 billion and 300,000 jobs created. Mr Xi also spoke of some international concerns about the BRI and said it was important to focus on green and sustainable development. “The goals of high-standard, livelihood-improving and sustainable development should be achieved,” Mr Xi said in his keynote opening address. The meeting ended with the issuing of a joint communique of the leaders’ roundtable that stressed the need for sustainable development, encouraging energy e‑ ciency and the use of clean energy technology in the development of infrastructure so that additional environmental pressures are not put on the planet. The communique also said projects needed to be economically viable, and there should be a role for multilateral development banks and other financial institutions, not just Chinese ones, to provide financial support for projects. It also said the initiative supported jointly fi ghting corruption and would work towards zero tolerance of it. At the conclusion of the leaders’ roundtable on April 27, Mr Xi told the media that international collaboration was vital if the Belt and Road was to produce lasting results. “We all supported the idea of developing a global partnership for connectivity and agreed to strengthen co-operation mechanisms. We all supported more pragmatic co-operation to achieve more concrete outcomes.” Mr Xi was upbeat about what had been achieved at the forum. “We spoke positively of the progress and significance of co-operation under the BRI. We shared the view that co-operation under the BRI has opened a gateway to opportunities for common prosperity.” Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, who attended the event, said the Belt and Road had come of age at the forum.