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As world economic growth remains sluggish and uncertainty persists, perhaps the time has come for countries around the globe to seek mutually beneficial connectivity and cooperation rather than extreme nationalism and protectionism. From May 14 to 15, 2017, about 1,500 delegates from over 130 countries and 70 international organizations, including 29 foreign heads of state or government, gathered in Beijing for the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), aiming to chart a new course for global cooperation.
Back in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the building of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, a modern version of the ancient trade routes connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. Nearly four years later, the two-day forum turned a new page for this grandiose project that is now popularly known as the Belt and Road Initiative.
From Chinese Proposal to Global Plan
Since its inception, the Belt and Road Initiative has received positive feedback from many countries and regions because it is an open, inclusive plan offering a platform from which countries in Eurasia and beyond can strengthen economic and cultural cooperation to achieve common prosperity.
When meeting journalists at the end of the BRF, President Xi noted that a total of 68 countries and international organizations had signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with China, some of which happened during the forum. Now an international buzzword, the Belt and Road Initiative has grown from a Chinese proposal into a global plan.
By linking countries and regions that account for about 60 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of global GDP, the Initiative is a perfect example of China offering its own wisdom and solutions for global governance, opined Wang Yiwei, a professor at the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China. “It features inclusive and sustainable growth and acknowledges the development needs of different countries and regions,” he added.
Many participants of the forum gave enthusiastic approval to the Initiative. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his speech at the opening ceremony that the Initiative is helping boost economic cooperation and exchange among many countries. Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistan Parliamentary Committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), called the Initiative a “new model for global economic cooperation” and “probably the most important diplomatic and development initiative of the 21st Century.”
President Xi pointed out in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the forum: “The Belt and Road Initiative is rooted in the ancient Silk Road. It focuses on the Asian, European and African continents, but is also open to all other countries. Every country, whether in Asia, Europe, Africa or the Americas, can be an international cooperation partner within the Belt and Road Initiative. Pursuit of this Initiative is based on extensive mutual consultation, and its benefits will be shared by all.”