PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte joined other world leaders in Beijing on Sunday in witnessing the opening of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China’s grand scheme to stimulate global growth and promote prosperity.
Addressing the opening of the international gathering, President Xi Jinping said the Belt and Road Initiative is “a project of the century” that will benefit people across the world.
The event was attended by 29 heads of state and government leaders, including President Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Other delegates include officials, entrepreneurs, financiers and journalists from over 130 countries, and representatives of key international organizations such as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde.
The two-day forum, which also features a round-table summit of global leaders on Monday, is the highest-level assembly gathered by China.
At its center is Xi’s grand plan to better combine the rapidly expanding Chinese economy with the development of Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond.
Named after the historic Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Xi in 2013 to chart out new territories for international cooperation.
“Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit,” Xi told an audience of more than 1,500.
“The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization,” he said.
By linking countries and regions that account for about 60 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of global GDP, the initiative is a perfect example of China sharing its own wisdom and solutions for global growth and governance.
“The pursuit of this initiative is based on extensive consultation and its benefits will be shared by us all,” Xi said.
All countries, from Asia, Europe, Africa or the Americas, can be international cooperation partners of the Belt and Road Initiative, he added.
Xi noted that humans have reached an age of great progress, great transformation and profound changes but the world is fraught with challenges. He said global growth requires new drivers, development needs to be more inclusive and balanced, and the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be narrowed.
He added that hotspots in some regions that cause instability, rampant terrorism, deficit in peace, development and governance pose a daunting challenge to mankind.
“This is the issue that has always been on my mind,” Xi said.
With the Belt and Road Initiative, China aims to turn the legends of the ancient Silk Road into a modern story of inclusive growth and cross-continental cooperation.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is rooted in a shared vision for global development,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the forum’s opening.
“Running through Asia, Europe and Africa and extended to the whole world, it is far-reaching in geography and in ambition,” he said.
Fruits of initiative
In the next two days, world leaders and heads of various agencies will hold meetings and roundtable discussions. President Duterte will exchange ideas with his fellow leaders on generating growth and tackling global economic challenges. He is also expected to have bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
World leaders will also immerse themselves in the early fruits of the initiative: over 40 countries and international organizations have signed agreements with China on Belt and Road cooperation; total trade between China and other Belt and Road countries has exceeded $3 trillion between 2014 and 2016; and Chinese investment in these countries has surpassed $50 billion.
Chinese companies have set up 56 economic cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating some $1.1 billion and 180,000 local jobs.
A multi-dimensional infrastructure network is taking shape, one that is underpinned by economic corridors, featuring land-sea-air transportation routes and information expressway, and supported by major railway, port and pipeline projects.
The leaders will also work to identify future cooperation areas and seek ways to advance policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people exchanges between nations.
Xi proposed that the Belt and Road should be built into a road of peace and prosperity, opening up innovation that connects different civilizations.
He announced that China will contribute an additional 100 billion yuan (about $14.5 billion) to the Silk Road Fund to scale up financing support for the Belt and Road Initiative.
Special lending schemes worth 380 billion yuan will be set up to support cooperation on infrastructure, industrial capacity and financing, in addition to assistance worth 60 billion yuan for developing countries and international organizations participating in the initiative to improve people’s well-being over the next three years.
“The forum shows the world how far China has come toward its dream of national rejuvenation,” said Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.
“It has once again put China on center stage,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippines looks forward to the One Belt, One Road initiative “in promoting a prosperous and peaceful community of nations.”
“The Philippines is pleased to hear President’s Xi’s affirmation that the Belt and Road Initiative is meant to complement other countries’ respective development strategies and that it promises to pursue growth and environmental protection hand-in-hand. The Philippine government is always guided by the country’s national interest, and recalling President Duterte’s message prior to his departure for China, we must pursue cooperation with our friends and partners on our convergent objectives and priorities. The Philippines hopes that the One Belt One Road Initiative could be one of the international cooperation initiatives that will contribute to our shared benefit. For the Philippines, connectivity projects should complement and support Philippine development priorities, the Philippine Development Plan, the President’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity,” it said in a statement.
WITH A REPORT FROM LLANESCA T. PANTI