Making it work

By Li Qiaoyi Source:Global Times Published: 2015-3-10 22:08:01

High hopes for 'One Belt, One Road' initiative

As China moves toward a "new normal" in its economic development, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative could offer an important growth engine. Ways to implement the initiative have been discussed during the ongoing two sessions.

Trucks lined up at a port in Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu Province on March 7 Photo: IC

China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative could offer a new growth engine for the country's economy as it enters a "new normal" of slower yet more balanced growth, lawmakers and political advisors have said during the ongoing two sessions.

Reminiscent of China's prominent involvement in the ancient Silk Road trading route, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative was envisioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visits to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in 2013, referring to the building of a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The initiative offers unprecedented opportunities to push for the development of a green economy, Wang Wenbiao, chairman of Elion Resources Group and a political advisor, said on Sunday at the launch of the Ecological Silk Road Investment Fund.

The fund, founded by firms and institutions including Elion Resources, China Oceanwide Holdings Group, Ping An Bank, and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Administrative Committee, is the first private fund devoted to investment in a green economy in countries and regions covered by the "One Belt, One Road" initiative.

Major issues facing the Silk Road Economic Belt include scarcity of water, soil erosion and desertification, so investment in environmental measures and green energy is a priority, according to Wang.

The fund aims to raise 30 billion yuan ($4.79 billion), with an initial 5 billon yuan planned for an ecological project building solar power stations in North China's Hebei Province.

The initial capital of 5 billion yuan will soon be available, said Liu Guochen, who is responsible for manaing the fund. Overseas capital may also be included in future fundraising, Liu told the Global Times on Sunday.

Danish Ambassador to China Friis Arne Petersen said on Monday at a press conference in Beijing that the initiative would be open and inclusive.

The "One Belt, One Road" initiative shows China's willingness to connect with the rest of Asia and countries along the road and belt, even as far as Europe, he said.

The launch of the Ecological Silk Road Investment Fund came after the creation of a $40 billion Silk Road Fund, which was announced by President Xi in November 2014, and is designed to improve trading and transportation links in Asia.

Such efforts are considered the latest measures to bring the initiative to fruition.

The "One Belt, One Road" initiative needs to be linked with regional development and opening-up as part of the broad-based efforts to keep growth steady while advancing the economy's restructuring and upgrading, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in the annual government work report delivered on Thursday.

In the government work report, the premier revised down the eagerly anticipated annual economic growth target to an 11-year-low of 7 percent for 2015.

Driving future growth

China's reform and opening-up over the past three decades has been mainly focused on reforms in its eastern coastal regions and opening to Western developed markets, and this has contributed a lot to the economic growth in China, Zhang Yansheng, secretary-general of the Academic Committee of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told a forum in Beijing on Saturday.

Future growth, however, will depend increasingly on the country opening-up to less developed economies and a greater focus on developing China's western regions, with the "One Belt, One Road" initiative mapping out the vision for the road ahead, Zhang said.

This will involve increasing exports of China's capital and transferring overcapacity in sectors such as iron, steel and cement to developing markets included in the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, Chan King-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong China Chamber of Commerce and a political advisor, said at the same forum.

Various regions in China have already shown great interest in joining the initiative.

For instance, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region aims to build itself into a transportation hub and a logistics center linking China, Central Asia, West Asia, South Asia and Europe through a network of railways, roads and airlines, Huang Wei, vice chairman of the autonomous region and a deputy to the National People's Congress, told the Global Times on Saturday.

The region plans to establish an industrial zone with a cluster of 10 key industries including machinery and textile manufacturing, Huang disclosed, noting that this will help Xinjiang see an improvement in infrastructure and local livelihoods, while also consolidating national solidarity.

South China's Guangdong Province has also finished drafting local plans to implement the initiative, the official Shanghai Securities Journal reported on Monday, citing Li Chunhong, director of the Guangdong Provincial Development and Reform Commission.

Business opportunities

China has negotiated with various countries involved in the initiative over a batch of projects that are either being planned or have already started, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng told reporters on Saturday.

Over the next decade, China's investment in countries included in the initiative will reach $1.6 trillion, Zhou Liqun, chairman of China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation, estimated at a forum in Beijing in January.

Chinese firms have also expressed enthusiasm about participating in the national initiative.

In addition to massive investment in infrastructure projects like railways and ports, the construction of information technology infrastructure should also be an important part of the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, spurring the overseas expansion of Chinese IT enterprises, Yang Yuanqing, chairman and CEO of Lenovo Group and a political advisor, said in his proposal, which was sent to the Global Times on Friday.

The proposal has been submitted to the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Projects linked to the initiative will be increasingly popular with private companies, Yuan Yafei, founder and chairman of Nanjing-based conglomerate Sanpower Group, told the Global Times on March 3.

Zhang at the NDRC said that efforts would be required to reassure countries involved in the initiative about the contribution China intends to make to local economic growth and employment, as well as to dismiss fears that China might exploit natural resources or damage local environments.

In response to misunderstandings by some foreign scholars and media reports that have described the initiative as a Chinese version of the Marshall Plan, Lü Xinhua, spokesman for the CPPCC, told a news conference on March 2 that the Chinese initiative "pursues common development of countries with different ethnicities, religions and cultures."

In comparison, the Marshall Plan, a US-sponsored assistance program that helped set the European economy in motion after World War II, is considered to have had political purposes with a raft of conditions attached.

Yu Jincui and Song Shengxia contributed to the story

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