President Xi Jinping's recent comments on the Belt and Road
Initiative are welcomed and the project is expected to open up more
opportunities for involved countries and regions, experts said.
The initiative heralds a clear vision by China that recognizes the
realities of a multipolar world. The common development and the building
of a community of shared destiny for mankind may very well depend
heavily on the success of South-South and North-South cooperation
opportunities created by the plan, said Jon Taylor, professor of
political science of the University of St. Thomas in Houston. "Two
things have impressed me when it comes to the Belt and Road Initiative."
He said the first is China's emphasis on creating infrastructure that
is aimed at improving trade, development, and prosperity between Asia,
Europe and Africa.
The second has been the creation of a series of free trade agreements
along the route, creating economic connectivity stretching from Beijing
to Budapest, Dali to Dar-es-Salaam, Hangzhou to Helsinki, Shanghai to
St. Petersburg. And, perhaps very soon, from Anshan to Anchorage, Taylor
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Xi's proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative.
In a meeting to mark the occasion in Beijing on Monday, Xi said China
will uphold dialogue and coordination, pursue shared growth, seek
win-win cooperation and boost communication with countries who support
The vision is set up for long-term success. While infrastructure and
free trade agreements are important, all five pillars of the initiative -
policy coordination, connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial
integration, and people-to-people ties - are just as impressive, Taylor
said while commenting on Xi's remarks.
The initiative does not aim at a geopolitical or military alliance,
nor will it establish a small bloc or set up a "China club", Xi said at
"I think that it's foolhardy for anyone to think that the BRI is some
sort of an exclusive bloc or a 'China Club'," said Taylor. Far from it.
The goal of the initiative is to enhance both regional cooperation and
global governance mechanisms through win-win cooperation.
"That is not the hallmark of a China-centric club or suggestive of exclusivity."
Bob Wekesa, a senior lecturer with the Department of Journalism and
Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, said the
initiative proposed by president Xi in 2013 aims at connecting Asia,
Europe and Africa using overland corridors and shipping lanes to boost
The maritime "road" starting from South China and touching the ports
of Djibouti and Kenya's Mombasa are critical entry points into
sub-Saharan Africa. Once on land, it will use roads and railways to
facilitate transportation of goods to and from the hinterlands, thus
boosting the continent's participation in global trade.
"This inherently feeds into Africa Union's grandiose plans spelt out
in its development blueprint Agenda 2063 of point-to-point linkages
across the continent," said Wekesa.
The accelerated infrastructure development strongly complements the push toward intra-Africa trade.
"The effort to power up industrialization and ultimately embark on
the journey to sustainable growth in Africa is hinged on improved
infrastructure," said Wekesa.
Xi's comments on the initiative not constituting a "China club" or a
closed initiative, from a UK perspective, is welcomed as it opens up
many and varied opportunities for UK businesses now and post-Brexit,
said Julian Beer, deputy vice-chancellor of Birmingham City University.
"These opportunities exist within the geographical footprint of the
Belt and Road, working with both the Chinese and their partners but
also, with the UK failing outside of the 'main road', it maintains and
creates mutually beneficial investment and trading opportunities for
us," said Beer.
"We welcome China's Belt and Road Initiative as this will certainly
open a vast array of economic development opportunities for the ASEAN
region," said Theresa Mundita S. Lim, executive director of ASEAN Center
"We see the corresponding economic gains and collaborations coming
from this massive global initiative can also generate more support for
the conservation of biodiversity, particularly in the ASEAN region that
caters to more than 630 million people and to almost 20 percent of the
world's known species."
While promoting regional interconnectivity and international
cooperation as it aligns with the Sustainable Development Goal 17, and
in the rundown toward 2020 when China will host the 15th Meeting of
Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, it
is expected that the BRI will be able to take into account the values
for biodiversity conservation at the core of its development processes.
It is highly anticipated that infrastructure experts and planners will
work closely with conservationists to ensure that this giant
infrastructure development will not threaten but contribute to the
sustainable use of biodiversity of the region. In fact, it could even
promote it through innovative designs.