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Full text: The Belt and Road Initiative: A Key Pillar of the Global Community of Shared Future

Xinhua | October 10, 2023


III.  Promoting All-Round Connectivity in Multiple Fields

To promote greater connectivity through BRI cooperation, we have continued to facilitate policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and closer people-to-people ties, by orienting towards "hard connectivity" in infrastructure, bolstering "soft connectivity" through harmonized rules and standards, and strengthening people-to-people bonds. As its scope expands, the BRI has become the world's largest platform for international cooperation, with the broadest coverage.

1. Extensive and in-depth policy coordination

Policy coordination underpins BRI cooperation. China has worked with participating countries and international organizations to establish a multilevel policy coordination and communication mechanism for aligning development strategies, technological and economic policies, and administration rules and standards. Under this mechanism, plans and measures for regional cooperation have been formulated through joint efforts to facilitate and speed up cooperation, making the BRI an important collaborative framework for international exchanges.

Strategy and policy coordination is expanding in scope. At the global level, the 193 UN member states unanimously agreed to incorporate the Belt and Road Initiative in the UN resolution passed at the 71st United Nations General Assembly in November 2016. In March 2017, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2344, calling for stronger regional economic cooperation through the BRI, among other initiatives. The United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization (WHO) have signed BRI cooperation agreements with China. At the World Trade Organization (WTO), China's efforts have facilitated the conclusion of the negotiations on the text of the Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement, with a view to establishing a coordinated and unified investment management system covering more than 110 countries and regions to encourage BRI cooperation on investment.

At regional and multilateral levels, the BRI has supported regional integration and global development by aligning with plans such as the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, the African Union's Agenda 2063, and the European Union's Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia.

At the bilateral level, the BRI has succeeded in coordinating with a wide range of strategies and initiatives, including Russia's Eurasian Economic Union framework, Kazakhstan's Bright Road economic policy, Turkmenistan's strategy of reviving the Silk Road, Mongolia's Steppe Road plan, Indonesia's Global Marine Fulcrum initiative, the Philippines' Build Better More program, Vietnam's Two Corridors and One Economic Circle plan, South Africa's Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, Egypt's Suez Canal Corridor Project, and Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030. By June 2023, China had signed more than 200 BRI cooperation agreements with more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations across five continents, yielding a number of signature projects and small-scale yet impactful projects.

A long-term mechanism for policy coordination is largely in place. Multilevel channels for regular communication among different parties have been opened up on different platforms. This has been made possible through top-down driven diplomatic efforts led by heads of state, with support from intergovernmental strategic communication and local and interdepartmental policy coordination, and with cooperation projects carried out by enterprises and social organizations.

China has hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation twice, providing an important platform for participating countries and international organizations to expand exchanges, increase mutual trust, and strengthen ties. The first forum in 2017 welcomed heads of state and government from 29 countries, and more than 1,600 representatives from 140-plus countries and 80-plus international organizations, yielding a total of 279 deliverables in five categories. At the second forum held in 2019, 40 leaders, including heads of state and government from 38 countries, the UN secretary-general and the International Monetary Fund's managing director, attended the Leaders' Roundtable. More than 6,000 representatives participated, from over 150 countries and 92 international organizations, yielding 283 deliverables in 6 categories.

Multilateral cooperation is driving forward. Under the BRI framework, Chinese and foreign partners have launched 20-plus multilateral dialogue and cooperation mechanisms in professional domains such as railways, ports, energy, finance, taxation, environmental protection, disaster prevention and relief, think tanks, and the media, attracting a growing number of participants. BRI participating countries have also expanded practical cooperation through major multilateral platforms such as China-ASEAN (10+1) Cooperation, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum, China-Central and Eastern European Countries Cooperation, World Economic Forum, Boao Forum for Asia, and CPC and World Political Parties Summit.

Rules and standards are being coordinated. Cooperation on standardization has advanced to new levels. As of June 2023, China had signed 107 documents with standardization bodies in 65 countries such as Pakistan, Russia, Greece, Ethiopia, and Costa Rica and also with regional and international organizations, in areas covering civil aviation, climate change, agri-food, building materials, electric vehicles, oil and gas pipelines, logistics, small hydropower stations, oceanography, and surveying and mapping.

The Standard Information Platform Contributed by the Belt and Road Countries provides overviews of standards information in 149 partner countries, and full-text search services for standards catalogues regarding 59 countries and 6 regional and international standardization organizations, serving as a bridge for participating countries. Chinese standards in foreign language versions have been supplied in larger quantities. Nearly 1,400 national standards and more than 1,000 industry standards have been published in foreign languages.

In May 2022, the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization opened a regional arbitration center in Hong Kong, providing solutions for multilateral disputes in BRI cooperation.

China has continued to strengthen cross-border accounting and auditing regulatory cooperation with 22 countries and regions including Russia, Malaysia and Singapore, providing institutional guarantees for expanding cross-border investment and financing channels.

2. Growing connectivity of infrastructure

The BRI prioritizes connectivity of infrastructure. Based on a framework comprising "six corridors, six routes, and multiple countries and ports", a multitiered and multidimensional infrastructure network is taking shape. Basic connectivity over land, maritime, air and cyberspace is in place, laying solid foundations for deeper cooperation in trade and industrial capacity, and strengthening cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

The construction of economic corridors and international routes is making substantial progress. Participating countries have pressed forward with the creation of international arterial routes, building an infrastructure network that connects subregions in Asia as well as the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. 

Major projects along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are under way. The Peshawar-Karachi Motorway (Sukkur-Multan section), the Karakoram Highway Phase II (Havelian-Thakot section), and the Lahore Orange Line Metro are all open to traffic. Coal-fired power plants such as Sahiwal, Port Qasim, Thar, and Hub are operating safely and steadily; the Mehra DC transmission project is operational; and the Kalot Hydropower Station is connected to the power grid. Rashakai Special Economic Zone has reached the stage of comprehensive development.

Along the New Eurasian Land Bridge, the Belgrade-Novi Sad section of the Hungary-Serbia Railway in Serbia became operational in March 2022, and track-laying has started on the Budapest-Kelebija section in Hungary. The Peljesac Bridge in Croatia has celebrated its first anniversary of opening to traffic. The Western Europe-Western China Highway has been completed. The Smokovac-Matesevo section of the Bar-Boljare Highway in Montenegro has been completed and is open to traffic.

Along the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, the China-Laos Railway has been completed and is providing sound service, and its role as a golden transport channel is becoming increasingly prominent. The Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway, the flagship project of BRI cooperation between China and Indonesia, has achieved an operational speed of 350 km per hour. The contract for the China-Thailand Railway Phase I (Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section) was signed online, and 11 sections of the construction project have started, including one that has been completed.

Along the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, the Heihe-Blagoveshchensk Highway Bridge and the Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye Railway Bridge, connecting China and Russia, have opened to traffic. The China-Russia eastern natural gas pipeline is fully operational. China, Russia and Mongolia have officially launched a feasibility study on the upgrading and development of the central-route railway of the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.

Along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor, the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Highway is in full operation. The China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline is fully operational. The grain and oil rail transport lines between North Kazakhstan and China are operating in conjunction with the China-Europe Railway Express.

Along the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, the China-Myanmar Crude Oil and Gas Pipeline has been completed and entered service. The feasibility study on the Muse-Mandalay section of the China-Myanmar Railway has been completed, and the feasibility study on the Mandalay-Kyaukphyu section has been launched. Construction projects in Bangladesh, including the Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge and the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar rail route, have made good progress.

In Africa, railways such as the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway are now operational and have become important drivers of in-depth development not only in East Africa but across the entire continent.

Maritime connectivity is steadily improving. Cooperation is expanding in shipping among the ports of participating countries, and the efficiency of cargo transportation has seen notable increase. 

The annual cargo throughput of the Port of Piraeus in Greece has increased to above 5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), making it the fourth largest TEU port in Europe and a leading TEU port in the Mediterranean.

The Gwadar Port in Pakistan has seen major progress and is marching towards the goal of becoming a logistics center and industrial base. 

Preliminary work is currently under way on the Kyaukphyu Deep-sea Port project in Myanmar, including geological exploration and environmental and social assessment. 

The annual throughput of bulk cargo at Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka has increased to 1.21 million tonnes. 

The Vado Gateway terminal has become the first semi-automatic terminal operating in Italy.

The Lekki Deep-sea Port in Nigeria has been completed and entered service, becoming a major modern deepwater port in Central and Western Africa.

The Silk Road Maritime network has continued to expand. By the end of June 2023, it had reached 117 ports in 43 countries, and more than 300 well-known Chinese and international shipping companies, port enterprises and think tanks, among other bodies, have joined the Silk Road Maritime association. 

A marine environment forecast and support system that focuses on areas along the Maritime Silk Road offers services to more than 100 cities in participating countries.

The Air Silk Road has made notable progress. The aviation route network between participating countries is expanding rapidly, and the level of air connectivity is steadily improving. 

China has signed bilateral air transport agreements with 104 BRI partner countries and opened direct flights with 57 partner countries to facilitate cross-border transport. 

Chinese enterprises are active participants in civil aviation infrastructure cooperation with partner countries including Pakistan, Nepal and Togo, helping to develop the local civil aviation industry. 

A BRI cooperation platform proposed by the Civil Aviation Administration of China was established in August 2020, improving mechanisms and platforms of civil aviation exchanges and cooperation among participating countries. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a direct line of the Air Silk Road linking Zhengzhou in Henan Province and Luxemburg did not suspend its air or freighting services, and transported a large amount of supplies. It served as an air lifeline between China and Europe, and contributed to keeping international industrial and supply chains stable.

International inter-modality transport channels continue to enjoy stable development. These channels include the China-Europe Railway Express, the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line, the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, and the Lianyungang-Khorgos New Eurasian Land-Sea Expressway. 

The China-Europe Railway Express has now reached more than 200 cities in 25 European countries, comprising 86 routes passing through the main regions of the Eurasian hinterland at a speed of 120 km per hour. Its logistics distribution network covers the entire Eurasian continent. By the end of June 2023, the cumulative volume of the China-Europe Railway Express had exceeded 74,000 trips, transporting nearly 7 million TEUs and over 50,000 types of goods in 53 categories such as automobiles, mechanical equipment, and electronic products, to a total value of more than US$300 billion. 

The China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line has emerged from scratch to become the third trade channel between China and Europe, after traditional sea routes and the China-Europe Railway Express. In 2022, more than 180,000 TEUs were transported through this line, with rail trips exceeding 2,600.

The routes of rail-sea freight trains of the New International Land-sea Trade Corridor cover 18 provinces and equivalent administrative units, in central and western China, transporting goods to 300-plus ports in more than 100 countries.

3. Unimpeded, convenient and efficient trade 

Facilitating trade and investment is a major task in building the Belt and Road. The participating countries have worked hard to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, remove investment and trade barriers, and improve the business environment within the region and in all related countries. Efforts have been made to build free trade zones, broaden trading areas, improve trade structure, expand areas of mutual investment and industrial cooperation, establish a more balanced, equal and sustainable trading system, and develop mutually beneficial economic and trade relations, so as to make the "pie" of cooperation bigger. 

Trade and investment are expanding steadily. From 2013 to 2022, the cumulative value of imports and exports between China and BRI partner countries reached US$19.1 trillion, with an average annual growth rate of 6.4 percent. The cumulative two-way investment between China and partner countries reached US$380 billion, including US$240 billion from China. The value of newly signed construction contracts with partner countries reached US$2 trillion, and the actual turnover of Chinese contractors reached US$1.3 trillion. In 2022, the value of imports and exports between China and partner countries reached nearly US$2.9 trillion, accounting for 45.4 percent of China's total foreign trade over the same period, representing an increase of 6.2 percentage points compared with 2013; the total value of imports and exports of Chinese private enterprises to partner countries exceeded US$1.5 trillion, accounting for 53.7 percent of the trade between China and these countries over the same period. 

Trade and investment liberalization and facilitation is improving. BRI participating countries continue to uphold multilateralism and free trade, working hard to create a sound institutional environment for closer economic and trade relations. Positive progress has been made in the alignment of working systems, coordination of technical standards, mutual recognition of inspection results, and online verification of electronic certificates. 

By the end of August 2023, more than 80 countries and international organizations had subscribed to the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation Along the Belt and Road, proposed by China. China had signed 21 free trade agreements with 28 countries and regions. On January 1, 2022, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement entered into force, creating the world's largest free trade zone in terms of population size and trade volume. The RCEP and the BRI overlap and complement each other in terms of participating countries and regions, as well as areas and contents of cooperation, forming a new dynamic of economic and trade cooperation in Asia. 

China also works actively towards joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement. 

China has signed bilateral investment agreements with 135 countries and regions, and conventions for the avoidance of double taxation (including arrangements and agreements) with 112 countries and regions. It has achieved Authorized Economic Operator mutual recognition with 35 partner countries, and has signed third-party market cooperation documents with 14 countries. 

China has established a "single-window" cooperation mechanism with Singapore, Pakistan, Mongolia, Iran and other partner countries, and signed cooperation documents on customs inspection and quarantine, effectively improving the efficiency of customs clearance at border ports. 

Trade and investment platforms are playing a growing role. China International Import Expo (CIIE) is the world's first import-themed national-level expo and has been held for the past five years. It has resulted in a cumulative intended turnover of nearly US$350 billion, and about 2,000 launches of new products. With diverse participants from many countries and regions, the CIIE has become a global platform for international procurement, investment promotion, cultural exchanges, and open cooperation. 

The influence of key exhibitions continues to expand; these include China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair), China International Fair for Trade in Services, China International Fair for Investment and Trade, China International Consumer Products Expo, Global Digital Trade Expo, China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, China-Arab States Expo, China-Russia Expo, China-CEEC Expo & International Consumer Goods Fair, China-ASEAN Expo, and China-Eurasia Expo. All of these have provided a strong boost to trade and investment cooperation among participating countries. 

The Hong Kong SAR has held the Belt and Road Summit eight times, and the Macao SAR has held the International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum 14 times, which have played an important role in advancing economic, trade and investment cooperation along the Belt and Road. 

Industrial cooperation is deepening. BRI participating countries have worked hard to foster a paradigm of cooperation based on coordinated development, mutual benefit, and win-win outcomes, which has given a strong boost to upgrading industrial structures and optimizing industrial chains in the countries involved. 

The participating countries have jointly promoted cooperation on industrial capacity, expanded cooperation in traditional industries including steel, non-ferrous metals, building materials, automobiles, engineering machinery, resources and energy, and agriculture, explored cooperation in emerging industries such as the digital economy, new energy vehicles, nuclear energy and technology, and 5G, and carried out tri-party and multiparty market cooperation, thus advancing mutual complementarity and providing mutual benefits to all parties. 

By the end of June 2023, China had signed agreements on industrial capacity cooperation with more than 40 countries. China Mining Conference & Exhibition and China-ASEAN Mining Cooperation Forum & Exhibition serve as important platforms for participating countries to conduct mining capacity cooperation. 

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Demonstration Base for Agricultural Technology Exchange and Training has supported advances in agricultural science and technology under the BRI, and promoted economic and trade cooperation in agriculture among participating countries.

Jointly constructed by China and Pakistan, the K2 and K3 units of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant have been completed and are in operation, utilizing China's Hualong One nuclear technology.

The Ulba Fuel Assembly Plant, a successful joint venture between China and Kazakhstan, is now operational.

The China-ASEAN Forum on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology has served as a bridge to establish connectivity, enabling BRI participating countries to cooperate on nuclear technology and promote growth and people's wellbeing.

More than 70 overseas industrial parks have been built by Chinese enterprises together with governments and enterprises in partner countries. The China-Malaysia and China-Indonesia "Two Countries, Twin Parks" projects, the China-Belarus Great Stone Industrial Park, the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone, and the China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone are making steady progress.

4. Diverse dynamics of financial integration

Financial integration is an important pillar of BRI cooperation. Participating countries and relevant institutions have carried out multiple forms of financial cooperation, created new models, expanded the channels, diversified the parties involved, and improved the mechanisms for investment and financing. They have promoted policy-based finance, development finance, commercial finance, and cooperative finance to support BRI cooperation, and worked to build a long-term, stable and sustainable investment and financing system that keeps risk under control.

The financial cooperation mechanisms are maturing. China Development Bank (CDB) has promoted the establishment of multilateral financial cooperation mechanisms such as China-Central and Eastern Europe Interbank Consortium, the China-Arab Countries Interbank Association, China-ASEAN Interbank Association, the ASEAN Plus Three Interbank Cooperation mechanism, China-Africa Interbank Association, and the Association of China-LAC Development Financial Institutions. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has promoted the Belt and Road Interbank Regular Cooperation (BRBR) mechanism. 

As of the end of June 2023, a total of 13 Chinese-funded banks had established 145 first-tier offices and branches in 50 BRI partner countries; some 17.7 million businesses in 131 partner countries had opened UnionPay services, and 74 partner countries had opened UnionPay mobile payment services. The Belt and Road Innovation and Development Center, the Research Center for Belt and Road Financial and Economic Development, and the China-IMF Capacity Development Center have been established. 

China has signed bilateral currency swap agreements with 20 partner countries and established renminbi (RMB) clearing arrangements in 17 partner countries. The number of participants, business volume, and influence of the RMB cross-border payment system have gradually increased, effectively facilitating trade and investment. 

Financial regulation cooperation and exchanges have continued to move forward. China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (now National Administration of Financial Regulation), China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), and regulatory agencies from multiple other countries have signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for regulatory cooperation, facilitating the establishment of regional regulatory coordination mechanisms, promoting efficient allocation of funds, strengthening risk control, and creating sound investment conditions for various financial institutions and investment entities.

The channels and platforms for investment and financing are constantly expanding. China has funded the establishment of the Silk Road Fund (SRF) and established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with other participating countries. The SRF specifically serves BRI cooperation. By the end of June 2023, the fund had signed agreements on 75 projects with committed investment of about US$22 billion; the number of AIIB members had reached 106, and the bank had approved 227 projects with a total investment of US$43.6 billion. The projects involve transport, energy, public health and other fields, providing investment and financing support for infrastructure connectivity and sustainable economic and social development. 

China has actively participated in various existing financing arrangements. It has signed memorandums of cooperation with international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, worked with international financial institutions to establish a multilateral development financing cooperation center, strengthened third-party market cooperation in investment and financing with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and carried out joint financing with the International Finance Corporation, the African Development Bank and others. These moves have effectively mobilized market capital. 

China has initiated the establishment of international economic cooperation funds such as the China-Eurasian Economic Cooperation Fund, the China-LAC Cooperation Fund, the China-Central and Eastern Europe Investment Cooperation Fund, the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund, the China-LAC Industrial Cooperation Investment Fund, and the China-Africa Fund for Industrial Cooperation. These have effectively expanded investment and financing channels for partner countries. 

The CDB and the Export-Import Bank of China (China Eximbank) have each set up special loans for the BRI to pool resources to increase financing support for BRI cooperation. By the end of 2022, the CDB has provided direct high-quality financial services for more than 1,300 BRI projects, playing a leading role in guiding development finance, and pooling all kinds of domestic and foreign funds for BRI cooperation. The balance of loans of China Eximbank for BRI projects reached RMB2.2 trillion, covering 130-plus participating countries and driving more than US$400 billion of investment and more than US$2 trillion of trade. China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation has fully applied export credit insurance and actively provided comprehensive guarantees for building the Belt and Road.

Innovative investment and financing methods are steadily being explored. Various models such as funds and bonds have been developed, and BRI financial cooperation is improving. 

China's securities industry has set up a number of BRI-themed funds and indexes. In December 2015, the CSRC officially launched a pilot project for overseas institutions to issue RMB-denominated bonds (panda bonds) in China's exchange-traded bond market. By the end of June 2023, overseas issuers in total had issued 99 panda bonds in China's exchange-traded bond market, with a total value of RMB152.54 billion; 46 BRI-themed bonds had been issued, with a total value of RMB52.72 billion.

Green finance is steadily developing. In May 2019, the ICBC issued the first green BRBR bond that conformed to both international and domestic green bond standards. By the end of 2022, more than 40 large global institutions had signed the Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road. In June 2023, China Eximbank issued financial bonds for promoting international cooperation in building the Belt and Road and supporting infrastructure construction of partner countries. China's domestic stock and futures exchanges have steadily promoted practical cooperation in equity, products, technology and other fields with the exchanges in partner countries, and actively supported the development of exchanges participating in or holding shares in BRI projects, such as the Astana International Exchange in Kazakhstan, the Pakistan Stock Exchange, and the Dhaka Stock Exchange in Bangladesh.

Debt sustainability has continued to improve. Based on the principle of equal participation and benefit and risk sharing, China and 28 countries approved the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road, encouraging the governments, financial institutions and enterprises of participating countries to attach importance to debt sustainability and improve their debt management capability. Drawing on the debt sustainability framework of low-income countries endorsed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, China has developed tools based on the actual conditions of participating countries, and issued the Debt Sustainability Framework for Participating Countries of the Belt and Road Initiative. All parties are encouraged to use it on a voluntary basis.

To avoid causing debt risk and financial burden to the countries where BRI projects are located, China has prioritized economic and social benefits and provided loans for project construction based on local needs and conditions. The key areas of investment are infrastructure projects designed to increase connectivity, and projects for public wellbeing urgently needed in participating countries. These have brought effective investment, increased high-quality assets, and boosted development momentum. 

Many think tank experts and international institutions have pointed out that almost all the BRI projects are initiated by the host countries with the goals of growing their economies and improving their people's lives. In the process, the logic of economics has taken precedence over geopolitics. 

5. Solid foundations for people-to-people ties

People-to-people ties are the social foundations of BRI cooperation. The participating countries have passed on and carried forward the spirit of friendly cooperation of the ancient Silk Road, cooperated on exchanges in culture, tourism, education, think tank and the media, and promoted mutual learning among civilizations and cultural integration and innovation. A model of people-to-people exchanges characterized by dynamic interactions and diversity has underpinned public support for furthering the initiative.

Cooperation on culture and tourism is rich and colorful. By the end of June 2023, China had signed cultural and tourism cooperation documents with 144 BRI partner countries. 

China has created cooperation platforms together with participating countries, including the Silk Road International League of Theaters, the Silk Road International Museum Alliance, the Network of Silk Road Arts Festivals, the Silk Road International Library Alliance, and the Silk Road International Alliance of Art Museums and Galleries. These platforms have a total of 562 members, including 326 cultural institutions from 72 partner countries. 

China is steadily expanding international cultural exchanges. China has launched the Cultural Silk Road program, and organized signature events such as the Happy Chinese New Year celebrations, the Nihao China tourism promotions, and the Silk Road: Artists' Rendezvous art exhibition. It has worked with Brunei, Cambodia, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Russia and ASEAN to co-host cultural and tourism activities at designated years. China and BRI partner countries have hosted events in a reciprocal manner, ranging from cultural relics exhibitions, film festivals, arts festivals, book fairs and music festivals, and jointly translated and promoted each other's publishing, radio, film and television programs. They have also implemented the BRI-themed theater arts creation and promotion project, the Belt and Road International Art Project, and the Belt and Road good-neighborliness cultural project, and worked to protect Asian cultural heritage. China has established 46 China cultural centers in 44 countries, of which 32 are partner countries. China has established 20 tourism offices in 18 countries, eight of which are in partner countries.

Educational exchanges and cooperation are extensive and profound. China has released the Education Action Plan for the Belt and Road Initiative to promote international education exchanges and cooperation. By the end of June 2023, China had signed agreements with 45 participating countries on the mutual recognition of higher education degrees. 

China has set up the Silk Road Program under the Chinese Government Scholarship scheme. Some of China's provinces and Hong Kong and Macao SARs, as well as universities and research institutions have also set up scholarships for students from BRI partner countries. 

Chinese universities and colleges have opened 313 Confucius Institutes and 315 Confucius Classrooms in 132 partner countries. The "Chinese Bridge" Summer Camp has invited nearly 50,000 young people from more than 100 partner countries to come to China for academic visits, and supported 100,000 Chinese language enthusiasts from 143 partner countries to learn Chinese and experience Chinese culture online. 

Chinese universities and colleges have worked with more than 20 counterparts in partner countries from Asia, Africa and Europe to build a number of Luban Workshops - a professional training program dedicated to the sharing of expertise by China's vocational education institutions. 

China and UNESCO have jointly held the International Youth Forum on Creativity and Heritage Along the Silk Roads and relevant activities in seven consecutive years, and established the Silk Roads Youth Research Grant which has funded 24 youth research projects. The Atomic Energy Scholarship of China has funded the education of nearly 200 Master's and Doctoral students in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy for 26 BRI partner countries.

Participating countries have capitalized on the demonstration and driving role of the University Alliance and the Alliance of International Science Organizations (ANSO) under the BRI framework, and expanded international exchanges and cooperation in talent training and scientific research.

Media and think tank cooperation has yielded fruitful results. BRI participating countries have held the Media Cooperation Forum on Belt and Road six times, and established the Belt and Road Media Community. The China-Arab States Forum on Radio and Television Cooperation, the Forum on China-Africa Media Cooperation, the China-Cambodia Radio and Television Annual Regular Cooperation Conference, the ASEAN-China Media Cooperation Forum, the Lancang-Mekong Audiovisual Week, and other bilateral and multilateral cooperation mechanisms have been set up. International organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union and the Arab States Broadcasting Union have become active and important platforms for building consensus among participating countries. 

Media outlets in China and partner countries have jointly established the Belt and Road News Network, which launched the Silk Road Global News Awards. By the end of June 2023, the network's members had increased to 233 media outlets in 107 countries. 

Think tank exchanges have become more frequent. The Advisory Council of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was established in 2018. The Silk Road Think Tank Association has recruited 122 partners in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Sixteen Chinese and foreign think tanks have established the Belt and Road Studies Network.

People-to-people exchanges are constantly expanding. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continue to strengthen cooperation with the goals of benefiting the people, improving their lives, and connecting their hearts. At the people-to-people ties sub-forum of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Chinese and foreign NGOs, including China NGO Network for International Exchanges, combined to launch the Silk Road Community Building Initiative, encouraging Chinese and foreign NGOs to establish nearly 600 cooperative partnership pairings and carry out more than 300 cooperation projects for improving people's lives. Of these, some brand projects have achieved a wide impact, including the Shenzhen-Lancang-Mekong Cooperation to benefit the people in the Lancang-Mekong region with Shenzhen's advanced products and technology, the Panda Pack Project to provide primary school students with learning supplies, and the Brightness Journey program to provide free cataract surgery to those in need. 

Cities from 60-plus BRI partner countries have formed more than 1,000 pairs of friendly cities with their Chinese counterparts. A total of 352 NGOs from 72 countries and regions have formed a Silk Road NGO Cooperation Network, carrying out over 500 projects and various other activities, and becoming an important platform for exchanges and cooperation between NGOs in participating countries.

6. Steady progress in new areas

Leveraging their respective strengths, participating countries have continued to expand BRI cooperation into new fields and created innovative cooperation models, achieving great progress in building a healthy, green, innovative and digital Silk Road and further broadening the space for international cooperation. 

Notable achievements have been made in health cooperation. To establish closer partnerships in health cooperation, participating countries are working hard to build a Health Silk Road and a global community of health for all. By the end of June 2023, China had signed an MoU with the WHO on health cooperation in BRI partner countries, inked health cooperation agreements with more than 160 countries and international organizations, and initiated or participated in nine international and regional health cooperation mechanisms, including China-Africa Health Cooperation, China-Arab States Health Cooperation, and China-ASEAN Health Cooperation. 

Relying on mechanisms and platforms such as the Belt & Road Health Professionals Development Alliance, the Belt & Road Hospital Cooperation Alliance, the Belt & Road Health Policy Research Network, and the China-ASEAN Human Resources Training Program of Health Silk Road (2020-2022), China has helped BRI partner countries to train tens of thousands of professionals in health management, public health and medical research. It has also dispatched medical teams to 58 partner countries, and provided free treatment for nearly 10,000 cataract patients in more than 30 partner countries through the Brightness Journey program. In addition, China has sent several rounds of medical aid to island states of the South Pacific, and carried out international medical cooperation with neighboring countries, including countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion, Central Asian countries, and Mongolia. 

After the outbreak of Covid-19, China provided assistance to more than 120 BRI partner countries to combat the pandemic, and sent 38 expert medical teams to 34 countries. It started the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Covid-19 Vaccines Cooperation together with 31 countries, delivered more than 2 billion doses of vaccines to partner countries, and conducted joint vaccine production with more than 20 countries, improving vaccine affordability and accessibility in developing countries. 

In addition, China has signed documents on traditional medicine cooperation with 14 BRI partner countries; eight partner countries have taken measures to support the development of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) within the framework of their respective legal systems; 30 overseas TCM centers have been built; and 100-plus TCM drugs have been registered and marketed in partner countries. 

Remarkable progress has been achieved in green and low-carbon development. China is working together with partner countries and international organizations to build a cooperation mechanism for green and low-carbon development under the BRI framework, promote green development, and address climate change. 

China has issued documents such as the Guidance on Promoting Green Belt and Road and the Guidelines on Jointly Promoting Green Development of the Belt and Road, and set itself the ambitious goal of forming a basic framework of green development through BRI cooperation by 2030. China has also signed an MoU with the United Nations Environment Programme on building a green Belt and Road for 2017-2022, reached environmental cooperation agreements with more than 30 countries and international organizations, launched the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Green Development together with 31 countries, formed the Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition with more than 150 partners from 40-plus countries, and established the Belt and Road Energy Partnership with 32 countries. 

China has pledged to stop building new coal-fired power stations overseas, and to actively build green finance platforms and international cooperation mechanisms. It stands ready to cooperate with partner countries on research into biodiversity conservation, safeguarding the eco-environmental security of the Maritime Silk Road, building the Belt and Road Big Data Service Platform on Ecological and Environmental Protection and the Belt and Road Environmental Technology Exchange and Transfer Center, and implementing the Green Silk Road Envoys Program. 

China is actively promoting the Belt and Road South-South Cooperation Initiative on Climate Change. It has signed 47 South-South MoUs on climate change with 39 partner countries, built low-carbon demonstration zones with Laos, Cambodia, and Seychelles, carried out more than 70 climate change mitigation and adaptation projects with 30-plus developing countries, and trained more than 3,000 environment management personnel and experts from more than 120 countries. 

In May 2023, China Eximbank, together with a dozen financial institutions including China Development Bank, and China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, released the Initiative for Supporting Belt and Road Energy Transition with Green Finance, calling on all parties involved to strengthen support for green and low-carbon energy transition in BRI participating countries. 

Cooperation in scientific and technological innovation is gathering speed. BRI participating countries are strengthening cooperation on innovation, facilitating technology transfer and knowledge sharing, optimizing the innovation-enabling environment, and pooling innovation resources. They are also building up their capacity for scientific and technological innovation through cooperation in major projects and talent training. 

In October 2016, China released the Special Plan on Advancing Belt and Road Cooperation in Scientific and Technological Innovation. In May 2017, the Action Plan on Belt and Road Cooperation in Scientific and Technological Innovation was implemented, to increase the capacity for innovation in BRI participating countries through pragmatic measures such as joint research, technology transfer, exchanges in science, technology and culture, and cooperation between high-tech industrial parks. 

By the end of June 2023, China had signed intergovernmental agreements on scientific and technological cooperation with more than 80 BRI partner countries, and 58 members had joined the ANSO. Since 2013, China has hosted more than 10,000 young scientists from partner countries in carrying out short-term research and exchanges in China, and trained more than 16,000 technicians and management professionals for partner countries; China has established nine cross-border technology transfer platforms targeting ASEAN, South Asia, Arab states, Africa, Latin America, and other regions; China has assisted 22 African countries to build 23 agricultural technology demonstration centers, and set up 50-plus BRI joint laboratories in areas such as agriculture, new energy, and health. 

China has signed an agreement with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on strengthening BRI cooperation on intellectual property and additional agreements on subsequent revision and prolongation of the said agreement. China and the WIPO have jointly hosted twice the High-level Conference on Intellectual Property for Countries Along the Belt and Road, and released a joint initiative and a joint statement on strengthening cooperation on intellectual property. To date, China has established intellectual property cooperation relationships with more than 50 partner countries and international organizations, whose goal is to create an innovation and business environment in which the value of knowledge is duly respected. 

Digital silk road cooperation presents numerous highlights. BRI participating countries have joined to create an open, fair, equitable and non-discriminatory environment for digital development by strengthening facilitation of and cooperation on rules and standards and promoting regional policy coordination. 

By the end of 2022, China had signed MoUs on building the Digital Silk Road with 17 countries, MoUs on e-commerce cooperation with 30 countries, and MoUs on closer investment cooperation in the digital economy with 18 countries and regions. It has proposed and worked to launch the Global Initiative on Data Security, the Belt and Road Digital Economy International Cooperation Initiative, the initiative for building the ASEAN-China Partnership on Digital Economy Cooperation, the China-League of Arab States Cooperation Initiative on Data Security, the China + Central Asia Data Security Cooperation Initiative, and the BRICS Digital Economy Partnership Framework, among others. It also took lead in formulating the Framework of Standards on Cross-border E-commerce.

China is active in strengthening digital infrastructure connectivity and is stepping up work on digital corridors. Several international submarine cables have made positive progress, and 130 cross-border terrestrial cable systems have been built. 

China has built many 5G base stations, data centers, cloud computing centers and smart cities, and promoted digital upgrading and transformation of traditional infrastructure such as ports, railways, highways, energy networks and water conservancy facilities. 

A number of key projects such as the China-ASEAN Information Harbor, and the digital platform of China-Europe Railway Express and the China-Arab Online Silk Road is making good progress, and the DBAR Big Earth Data Platform has realized multilingual data sharing. 

The construction of the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor has been a resounding success. China has built teleports connecting South Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The data from remote sensing satellites under the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) program is widely used in multiple countries and fields. The BeiDou navigation satellite system (BDS-3) provides comprehensive services for China-Europe Railway Express, and in maritime transport and other fields. 

China and a number of BRI partner countries and regions have combined to develop and launch communication or remote sensing satellites, and constructed satellite ground stations and other space infrastructure. Through the Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (China) affiliated to the United Nations, China has trained a large number of space professionals for partner countries. Together with other countries and regions, China has built the China-GCC Joint Center for Lunar and Deep Space Exploration, the China-UAE Space Debris Joint Monitoring Center, the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Center for Earth Observation Data, the China-ASEAN Satellite Remote Sensing Application Center, and the China-Africa Cooperation Center on Satellite Remote Sensing Application. The CNSA-GEO platform, the Belt and Road Analysis and Early Warning Platform for Typical Meteorological Disasters, and the Natural Resources Satellite Remote Sensing Cloud Service Platform now serve many partner countries.

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