•Secondly, the most important consensus of the BRF was to usher in a new stage of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.
•The BRI offers a cooperation platform for common development and helps many developing countries accelerate their pace toward modernisation.
The third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) has recently ended. 2023 marked the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) put forward by President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Benefiting over 150 countries, the BRI has become the most popular international public good and largest international cooperation platform in today’s world. This BRF was attended by over 10,000 registered representatives from 151 countries and 41 international organisations, showcasing the tremendous appeal and global influence of Belt and Road cooperation.
Forums during the BRF included three high-level forums on digital economy, connectivity and green development, six thematic forums on trade connectivity, people-to-people bonds, think tank exchanges, clean Silk Road, subnational cooperation and maritime cooperation, and a CEO conference.
The clearest message from the BRF was unity, cooperation, openness and win-win outcome. As President Xi Jinping noted during his keynote speech, humankind is a community with a shared future. Therefore, win-win cooperation is the sure way to success in launching major initiatives that benefit all. The Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit is the most important source of strength for Belt and Road cooperation.
Secondly, the most important consensus of the BRF was to usher in a new stage of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. Xi noted that China will work with all parties involved to deepen Belt and Road partnerships of cooperation, and usher this cooperation into a new stage of high-quality development. These words have received positive response and support from all parties.
At the High-Level Forum on Connectivity in an Open World Economy, the participants supported efforts to further boost connectivity, build high-quality, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, enhance cooperation in areas such as transportation, energy, resources and irrigation, and steadily increase institutional connectivity in infrastructure.
At the High-Level Forum on Digital Economy as a New Source of Growth, the participants called for expedited efforts to build a Digital Silk Road, fostering an open, fair, and non-discriminatory environment for digital development, and promoting deep integration of digital technologies and the real economy. They also called for advancing the healthy, orderly and secure development of artificial intelligence (AI). To achieve the latter, China has put forward a Global Initiative for AI Governance.
At the High-Level Forum on Green Silk Road for Harmony with Nature, the participants highlighted the need to further build the Green Silk Road, meet the climate challenges together, step up cooperation on biodiversity protection, build investment and financing partnerships for green development, and empower green development.
The most ambitious vision of the BRF was to jointly realise global modernisation. The BRI offers a cooperation platform for common development and helps many developing countries accelerate their pace toward modernisation. This ambitious goal is consistent with China’s vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and sets the direction for high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.
The modernisation China pursues is for all developing countries. Xi announced that China will further expand market access, deepen reform in areas including the state-owned enterprises, digital economy, intellectual property and government procurement, and enter into free trade agreements and investment protection treaties with more countries.
Fourth, the BRF was action-oriented, efficient and pragmatic. Xi announced eight major steps China will take to support high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. These include steps to build a multidimensional Belt and Road connectivity network, promote green development, and advance scientific and technological innovation. They also include specific projects of practical cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, and institution-building for Belt and Road cooperation.
During this BRF, 458 outcomes were reached, far exceeding the number of the last Forum. They include important cooperation initiatives and institutional arrangements such as the Beijing Initiative for Deepening Cooperation on Connectivity, the Beijing Initiative for Belt and Road Green Development, the Beijing Initiative on the Belt and Road International Digital Economy Cooperation, and the Green Investment and Finance Partnership.
They also include specific targets including providing 100,000 training opportunities on green development for partner countries by 2030, and increasing the number of joint laboratories to 100. Commercial agreements worth USD 97.2 billion have been concluded at the CEO Conference, which will help generate jobs and growth in relevant countries. The Forum also decided to establish a BRF secretariat to facilitate institution-building and project implementation.
The BRF proves that peaceful development and win-win cooperation represents the prevailing trend and people’s common aspiration. Cold War-style confrontation and decoupling efforts go against the tide of history and will lead nowhere.
Stephen Ndegwa is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank.