China’s Belt and Road: ten years of shared success

In recent years, China’s Belt and Road project has captured global attention as an ambitious initiative that seeks to promote economic connectivity and international cooperation. Also known as the New Silk Road, this project aims to revive ancient trade routes and establish new connections between Asia, Europe, Africa, and now also the Americas. The Belt and Road is a multifaceted project that spans both land and sea. The ‘Belt’ refers to a series of land-based economic corridors connecting China to Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East, while the ‘Road’ refers to the creation of a maritime network linking ports and coastal regions around the world.

By Mauricio Ramírez Núñez

The project aims to foster trade and investment, promote infrastructural connectivity, strengthen economic and cultural cooperation, and enhance diplomatic relations between participating countries. This is expected to boost economic growth, job creation and sustainable development in the regions involved, which it has done. What are some of these strategic points of this initiative, which is now part of a larger one called the Global Development Initiative? Infrastructure connectivity is a priority area for the initiative, barrier-free trade is the key content, focusing on solving problems on investment and trade facilitation is another of its goals, as well as financial integration, for which the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and Silk Road Fund have been created. And of course, bringing people together is the social basis for the construction of the Belt and Road.

The Belt and Road builds on the rich history of the ancient Silk Road trade routes, which played a crucial role in the exchange of goods, knowledge and cultures between Asia and Europe thousands of years ago. China seeks to revive that spirit of exchange and cooperation through this project, promoting greater economic integration and understanding between nations. However, the Belt and Road project is not without its challenges. One of the main challenges is to ensure coordination and cooperation among the participating countries, given the wide diversity in terms of political systems, trade regulations and levels of economic development.

In the face of criticism, China has repeatedly expressed its commitment to development under a vision of humanity’s shared future, openness and win-win cooperation, as well as reaffirmed in its recent foreign policy concept adopted at the Third Standing Committee Meeting of the 14th National People’s Congress on 28 June 2023 and later signed into law, that it is in no way hegemonistic, let alone colonial. On the contrary, it recognises the multipolarity of the contemporary world, advocates equal treatment and profound respect for the sovereignty of all countries within the framework of respect for international law, mutually beneficial cooperation, as well as the principles of respect and non-violent coexistence. Despite challenges and criticism, the Belt and Road has made significant progress since its launch in 2013.

Several key infrastructure projects are already underway, including ports, roads, railways and industrial parks in different parts of the world. These projects have improved connectivity and facilitated trade and cooperation between the countries involved. President Xi Jinping himself has expressed their importance: “The Belt and Road Initiative is not only an important step for China to expand its all-round opening, but also a plan put forward by China focused on deepening regional economic cooperation and promoting the common development of all countries along the route. Moving towards a community with a shared future, keeping pace with global progress and developing in the trend of global development”.

The key to the continued success of the Belt and Road lies in transparency, mutually beneficial cooperation and respect for the interests and sovereignty of the countries involved. It is essential that projects are developed in a sustainable manner, respecting the environment and contributing to the economic and social development of the participating regions. The Belt and Road offers significant opportunities for economic growth, job creation and sustainable development in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. With its enhanced cooperation and balanced approach, this project has the potential to foster regional integration, strengthen international relations and promote greater shared prosperity among participating countries.

The future of global development in a multipolar world must be shared, in search of a common destiny as humanity, and above all, profoundly ecological, in an environment of non-violent coexistence, under a relational and non-peculiarity logic, which allows us to understand the importance of a consciousness of coexistence and respect for the true plurality of the world where no one is left behind, for as the millenary philosophy of Tianxia states, Heaven belongs to everyone, therefore, the inclusivity and compatibility of a new international order with respect to the cultural diversity of humanity should have no limits, and all peoples have the right to receive the benefits of global development.

Mauricio Ramírez Núñez, Academic