Shen Zhifei, Chinese Ambassador to Lithuania
On the Occasion of the Opening of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation
As early as in Ancient Roman time, the Chinese have explored and opened up routes of trade that linked western China, central and western Asia and the Mediterranean countries, the Silk Road. More than two thousand years ago, European merchants also opened routes of trade and commerce from the Baltic region through central Europe to Mediterranean countries, the Amber Road. The two roads were ever interlinked and converged in Europe. Leveraging its location on the Amber Road, Baltic region became the converging point of commerce and cultural exchange between Asia and Europe, promoting trade connectivity and interaction of civilizations of the Eurasia continent. The ancient Silk Road furthermore stood as an important bridge for economic and cultural exchanges between the East and the West.
As amber is endowed with natural beauty over millennia, the spirit of the Silk Road has been carried forward from generation to generation. Following the trend of the times for peace, development and win-win cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been translated from an envisioned concept into real action and progress on the ground. Promoting development of participating countries and benefiting the people, the BRI has also infused new vigor into the ancient Amber Road.
The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation(BRF) opened in Beijing today. The BRF is the platform with the highest standard for international cooperation under the framework of the BRI, as well as an international event with landmark significance. Nearly 5,000 foreign guests from more than 150 countries and 90 international organizations participate in the forum. Foreign representatives attending the forum are from all sectors of society including governments, non-governmental organizations, business circles and academic institutions from various regions of the five continents.
Since the BRI was put forth by President Xi Jinping in September 2013, China and participating countries have been working hard to enhance connectivity in policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people ties, guided by the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. The BRI has grown into an international cooperative platform with extensive participation and an international popular public product today, contributing to lasting peace and prosperity of the world.
First, the principle of “extensive consultation” featuring treating each other as equals and following market rules. While the BRI is launched by China, its benefits can be shared by the world. The BRI is a new path of state-to-state relations based on dialogue rather than confrontation, partnership rather than alliance，representing an approach to international cooperation featuring mutual respect, justice and equity. In BRI cooperation, we do not believe in “putting one’s own country first”. Decisions made under the BRI framework, whether project selection or investment and financing cooperation, are all based on full consultation among the parties and on the basis of conducting due risk assessment and investment feasibility study. No country is dominating the process; all parties have an equal say. There is no back-room deal; everything is transparent. There is no “winner takes all”; every project delivers win-win results.
As a global public good and a platform for international cooperation, the BRI abides by international rules and follows market principles. It is aimed not only at strengthening the physical connectivity of infrastructure, but also improving the institutional connectivity of policies, rules and standards. With best practices of sustainable development in the world as the benchmark, the BRI is building a road with high efficiency and ethical standards backed by green and environment-friendly development.
Second, the principle of “joint contribution”featuring openness, inclusiveness，and leveraging mutual complementarity. The BRI is a significant move China has taken to fully open itself under the new conditions, and it embodies China’s commitment to sharing development opportunities and outcomes with more countries in the world. 126 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements with the Chinese side, casting a vote of confidence and approval for the BRI by action. “Circle of friends” of the BRI has been growing ever bigger. Bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation has been reinforcing each other under the BRI, laying a solid foundation for a closer and more wide-ranging partnership.
Third, the principle of “shared benefits”featuring mutual benefit, win-win cooperation and balanced development. Over six years of joint efforts, the BRI has yielded fruitful results. Satisfactory outcomes have been delivered in boosting economic growth and improving people’s lives in participating countries.
A number of major connectivity projects have been launched and implemented. The basic framework of “six economic corridors, six connectivity networks, and multiple countries and ports in different parts of the world”has been formed. Some countries have built their first motorways, inter-island bridges or modern railways; some land-locked country has gained access to the ocean; some have established independent and diversified industrial systems; some has developed its own car industry; and some have seen an end to their longstanding power shortages.
Taking European countries for instance, thanks to China-Europe Railway Express freight services, the number of Chinese companies operating in Duisburg of Germany has grown from 40 in 2014 to more than 100. Statistics from the Duisburg City Council show that, in the city’s logistics sector alone, such freight services have created more than 6,000 jobs. Since it was leased to a Chinese company, the Piraeus port in Greece has become one of the fastest growing container ports in the world, soaring to the 36th place in global container traffic ranking from the 93rd in 2010. The port has about 10 Chinese staff but employs 3,000 Greeks, and it has also created more than 10,000 indirect local jobs. In Serbia, a Chinese enterprise bought a troubled steel mill and turned it around in less than a year, both saving more than 5,000 local jobs and helping to re-energize the city in which the steel mill is located.
Numerous examples of success can be found worldwide. Over the past six years, the trade volume between China and countries joining the BRI has surpassed 6 trillion US dollars, with more than 80 billion US dollars of Chinese investment in those countries. The 82 cooperation parks jointly built by China and other participating countries have created more than US$2 billion in tax revenue and about 300,000 jobs for host countries. The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the BRI cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2 percent and those of trade along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor by 10.2 percent. Under the framework of BRI cooperation, developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are stepping up infrastructure building. Dividends from global economic growth therefore have been delivered to those “forgotten corners”.
The BRI is an open platform for cooperation. The BRI is not a tool to advance any geopolitical agenda, but a platform for practical cooperation welcoming equal participation and joint efforts from all sides. The BRI is not intended to invent the wheels, but to complement the current international cooperation mechanisms in purpose of pooling together energy by drawing on each other’s strength. The active participation of central and eastern European countries and others European countries like Italy and Switzerland in the BRI are wise and sensible choices as it serves the development interests of all parties.
BRI cooperation is not a talk shop, but an action-oriented initiative that delivers real outcomes. Located at the juncture of EU, Baltic Region and CIS as well as the crossroad of Eurasian economic corridor and Baltic transportation artery, Lithuania enjoys geographical advantage in the field of transportation and logistics. With the ambition of building Eurasian Logistics Center, Lithuania is a natural partner of the BRI cooperation. Fintech, laser and new energy are also sectors in which Lithuania has a unique competitive edge. While agricultural products, diary products, sea food, beer and frozen meat from Lithuania are gaining popularity among Chinese consumers, export of Lithuanian beef and wheat to China have been further facilitated. Lithuanian companies are highly enthusiastic about and looking forward to expanding trade and cooperation with China. The gate of the BRI will always be open for authentic partners. I sincerely hope, that China-Europe, China-Lithuania join hands in promoting the synergy of our development strategies and policies, speeding up the implementation of EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia, expanding two-way investment and cooperation, to write the modern legendary of Silk Road and Amber Road for a more splendid future.