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BRI 'crucial' to spur global development

CAO DESHENG    China Daily   15:32, January 21, 2020

Initiative helps China raise its level of engagement with other countries

The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping to enhance win-win international cooperation will contribute to global economic growth and promote sustainable development worldwide, said a member of the World Economic Forum's executive committee.

The BRI helps China implement more engaged cooperation with other countries, which will also contribute to the world economy, David Aikman, the forum's chief representative officer in China, told China Daily ahead of the forum's 2020 annual meeting from Tuesday to Friday in Davos, Switzerland.

Aikman expressed concern over the global economic downturn due to heightened uncertainties, saying that this year will likely see a "synchronized slowdown" across the globe due to rising trade barriers and increasing geopolitical tensions.

He said that investment in countries involved in the BRI could account for as much as 60 percent of global infrastructure investment over the next two decades.

Since the initiative was launched, China has signed 197 cooperation documents with 137 countries and 30 international organizations by the end of October on joint building of the BRI.

Building infrastructure

China's trade with countries involved in the BRI has exceeded $5 trillion and outward direct investment has risen to over $60 billion, creating more than 200,000 jobs.

"In light of this, how to govern the development of the BRI becomes extremely crucial if the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement are to be met," Aikman said.

The sustainable design of BRI projects will help advance the transformative 2030 Agenda for numerous countries toward low carbon, circular and digital economies, he added.

The BRI aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia, Europe, Africa and the world at large along and beyond the ancient Silk Road, and it is hailed as China's solution to the fractured international situation and a platform for the joint building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Aikman said that the vision of a community with a shared future stands as an example of "mutual interests and shared assumptions", which is at the core of engaging all stakeholders for a shared future.

Through finding common ground and codifying it in rules and conventions, there is still space for humankind to rebuild trust and ensure predictability, despite the rise of protectionism and unilateralism, he said.

As the 2020 World Economic Forum annual meeting will be held under the theme of "Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World", Aikman called for cross-sector and international efforts to address the urgent climate and environmental challenges that "are harming our ecology and economy".

"No institution or individual alone will be able to address any problem in this interconnected world. Similarly, when it comes to sustainability, we also believe that all countries are in the same boat on sustainable development goals," he said.

China has a lot of examples from its recent history as well as current innovations that it can share globally through the World Economic Forum, he added.

Aikman recalled Xi's keynote speech at the 2017 WEF annual meeting, and said Xi's remarks undoubtedly are still of great relevance in today's world, which is deeply troubled by grave uncertainties.

"Xi said in his historic opening address in Davos that there could be no winners from a trade war," Aikman said. "His speech was truly historic and received broad appreciation from officials, experts and business leaders."

Addressing the event three years ago, Xi called on the international community to jointly meet challenges and chart the right course for economic globalization to promote world development.

"His defense of globalization and promotion of a shared future coincides with the forum's vision of bringing together stakeholders to shape our future for the better," Aikman said, adding that during this year's annual meeting, there will be nearly 30 sessions on economic topics, covering both the global economic outlook and regional economic challenges.

Domestic challenges

Regarding challenges for China in building a moderately prosperous society by the end of this year, Aikman said that against the backdrop of the global economic slowdown and international turmoil, boosting development and securing social prosperity have become major challenges for the Chinese people.

While saying that the changing technological landscape brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution may be one of the thorniest issues, he added that a moderately prosperous society requires a fairer and more sustainable development model in which the relationship between quality and efficiency needs to be balanced.