B&R Forum to build broader consensus
Multilateral cooperation to be boosted: expert
Published: Apr 14, 2017 11:38 PM

Containers are seen at Yiwu West Railway Station in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province, Dec. 28, 2016. The China-Europe container trains have become a major transportation channel of the international logistics industry, and also powerful support for the development of the Belt and Road initiative. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

The upcoming Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, to be held in May in Beijing, will serve as a favorable platform for countries to build broader consensus, Chinese experts said. 

Ding Jianping, a finance professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Friday that "the forum will focus on theoretical discussions on the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative and try to reach consensus on important strategic issues by combining views from different countries."

Echoing Ding, Xu Hongcai, deputy chief economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchange, said that the forum will promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation and some specific projects may be finalized during the event.

"The level and scale of the Belt and Road Forum is expected to surpass the scale of the Group of 20 summit that China hosted in Hangzhou in 2016. The forum will transform the initiative into an institution, which will develop global economic policy for multilateral cooperation," Pang Zhongying, director of the Center for the Study of Global Governance at the Renmin University of China, said in an earlier interview.

Over 1,200 representatives, including the leaders of more than 20 countries and 50 international organizations, will gather in Beijing for the first Belt and Road Forum, the Xinhua News Agency reported. A number of projects, deals and long-term initiatives are expected to be pushed forward, while a mechanism for long-term cooperation will be discussed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he will attend the Belt and Road Forum. Other previous reports said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will also attend the forum. 

Universally beneficial

People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, on Friday ran an article, reviewing the progress of the B&R initiative and the huge benefits it has brought to China.

"While protectionism and unilateralism are rising, the Belt and Road initiative has become the common cause which will help rebalance economic globalization by making it more universally beneficial and inclusive," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on the sidelines of the annual two sessions held in March.

Since the initiative was proposed, it has won support from over 100 countries and international organizations, with the signing of nearly 50 inter-governmental agreements of cooperation.

According to a report co-authored by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and China Bond Rating, the value of all infrastructure projects in 66 countries and regions covered under the initiative in 2016 was under $500 billion, citing accounting firm PwC. 

The CASS report also said that a total of 56 economic and trade cooperation zones have already been built by Chinese businesses in 20 B&R countries, generating nearly $1.1 billion in tax revenue and creating 180,000 local jobs.

Ye Hang, a professor at the College of Economics of Zhejiang University, told the Global Times on Friday that the initiative has not only benefited the Chinese economy by stimulating investment and solving excessive capacities, it has also significantly benefited the global economy by reducing the cost of global trade and strengthening connections between different economies.

According to Ye, the B&R initiative also has challenges, especially political constraints from different countries, so many projects would take a relatively long time to complete. "But I believe that as long as the political hurdles are removed, the projects will speed up," Ye said.

Ding pointed out that "so far many Belt and Road initiative projects are still in the process of execution and some are full of risks, therefore, we shouldn't rush into those projects and should carefully evaluate all the risks."