Chinese Commerce Minister Delivers an Overview on Belt and Road Initiative

On the sidelines of the “Two Sessions” of the 13th National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan spoke to the media on March 11, addressing in particular the worldwide impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI,) and plans for development in Africa.

Overall, as reported by Xinhua, Zhong said that more than 140 countries have participated in, or responded to, the initiative since it was proposed five years ago. In 2017, trade volume between China and countries along the BRI amounted to 7.4 trillion yuan (about $1.2 trillion) surging 17.8% year on year, and outpacing the 14.2% increase in China’s total foreign trade last year, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Feb. 28. Zhong also reported that China’s outbound direct investment registered a sharp drop of 29.4% to around $120 billion, after the government cracked down on speculative investments in property, sports, and entertainment.

Zhong made five points concerning the BRI:

  1. It is a new, world infrastructure platform. Of special note, the first-ever conference of the CIIE (China International Import Expo) will be held in in November in Shanghai, and 150,000 business attendees have already registered for it.
  2. New innovation centers planned for the BRI will be “shiny pearls” on the Silk Road string of pearls.
  3. E-commerce will be furthered along the BRI corridors, involving big data, cloud computing, and other digital features.
  4. Trade and investment will benefit from liberalization through the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
  5. Major foreign assistance measures, as Pres. Xi Jinping has called for, will be conducted, such as the Happy Home Projects, the Anti-Poverty Projects, and Health Projects.

On Africa, Zhong emphasized three aspects:

  • The BRI will be aligned with the African Union and other multilateral, regional programs.
  • Africa’s ability to grow “by itself,” will be furthered by projects for job creation and poverty alleviation.
  • Coordination will be enhanced between national ministries and third parties, to mobilize the resources for poverty alleviation.