BRI: A Path to Shared Prosperity
Rooted in history and serving the future, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) draws inspiration from the ancient Silk Road and connects the past, present, and future of the world as well as its people.
The ancient Silk Road hosted an endless stream of caravans, diplomatic envoys, craftsmen, artists, and missionaries. These messengers of civilization and carriers of exotic commodities quietly changed the customs and habits of local societies, fostering mutual learning among human civilizations.
Historically, various exports from the Silk Road continued to enrich the lives of Chinese people: A kind of portable folding chair and other furniture from the Western Regions gradually ended the habit of “sitting on the floor” of the Han people at that time; musical instruments and theory from the Western Regions exerted a huge influence on the development of both ritual and folk music back then; the prosperous spice trade during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) made incense a necessity in daily life; and perhaps most importantly, the introduction of Buddhism profoundly changed the basic concepts, thinking patterns, and national psychology of Chinese philosophy after its integration with Confucianism. Exchanges also happened in terms of science and technology, religious philosophy, and artistic forms. As a matter of fact, the ancient Silk Road influenced the historical process of China and made Chinese civilization more colorful.
Concurrently, foreign countries connected by the Silk Road shared a similar situation: Silk from China contributed to a flamboyant, luxurious, and fashionable social trend in many European countries. The tea trade influenced the financial and economic systems of medieval Europe. Chinese porcelain evoked a revolution of daily utensils in the West. Widespread iron casting technology from China greatly promoted the productivity of civilizations along the Silk Road. Chinese philosophy, perceived as utopianism by Europeans, incubated and accelerated the transformation of Western ideas. The four great inventions of ancient China—gunpowder, papermaking, printing and the compass—contributed to the rise of the European bourgeoisie and the development of world civilizations.
The Silk Road fostered the great migrations of peoples, the great exchanges of species, the great circulation of products, the great transfer of technologies, the great dissemination of religions, and the great interactions of arts. Global civilizations have achieved transformation and improvement through various exchange efforts. It was a spontaneous choice of human civilizations as well as an inevitable trend of globalization through the exchanges of diverse cultures.
The spirit of the Silk Road, which is embodied in peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutual benefit, is the most precious legacy left by the ancient trade route to future generations. On this basis, the core value and ultimate goal of the BRI was introduced: building a community with a shared future for mankind.
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the BRI as an effort to jointly build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Then, the world was undergoing major transformation and adjustment, but peace, development, and win-win cooperation were still the trend of the times. The foundation for global economic growth was beginning to waver, and deep-rooted contradictions such as unbalanced development have not yet been effectively resolved. In the face of such challenges, the BRI aims to build a community with a shared future for mankind characterized by trust and harmony in politics, win-win economic cooperation, mutual assistance in national security, mutual understanding in culture, and openness and inclusiveness in foreign policy.
Over the past decade, the BRI has played a fundamental role in deepening policy exchange among countries, promoting global connectivity, reshaping international trade, and stimulating world economic growth. As of August 2023, China had inked more than 200 documents on jointly building the BRI with 152 countries and 32 international organizations, covering infrastructure connectivity, trade, investment, finance, society, ocean, e-commerce, technology, people’s livelihood, cultural exchanges, and other areas.
Over the past decade of BRI cooperation, a general connectivity framework consisting of “six corridors, six routes, and multiple countries and ports” has been established. A number of landmark projects such as the China-Europe Railway Express, the New Western Land-Sea Corridor, and the China-Laos Railway have been built. In particular, the China-Europe Railway Express consists of 84 routes linking to 211 cities in 25 European countries. The rail-sea multimodal transportation system of the New Western Land-Sea Corridor covers 18 provincial-level regions in central and western China.
Over the past decade, countries and regions participating in the BRI have enjoyed increasingly liberal and convenient trade. As of the end of 2022, China had signed 19 free trade agreements with 26 countries and regions ranging from Asia and Oceania to Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Goods trade and non-financial direct investment between China and countries involved grew at an average annual rate of 8.6 percent and 5.8 percent respectively, and the cumulative two-way investment exceeded US$270 billion.
Over the past decade, the BRI has boosted economic growth in participating countries, making global growth more balanced. A World Bank report showed that thanks to the BRI, the GDP share of emerging and developing economies in the world increased by 3.6 percent from 2012 to 2021. It is estimated that by 2030, the BRI will generate US$1.6 trillion in global revenue each year, accounting for 1.3 percent of global GDP.
Over the past decade, the BRI has achieved remarkable results in strengthening people-to-people bonds. The overseas economic and trade cooperation zones built by Chinese companies have created 421,000 local jobs. Analysts have predicted that by 2030, the BRI help lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million people out of moderate poverty globally, contributing to increasing global income by 0.7 percent to 2.9 percent.
In a world full of uncertainties, the BRI has offered a new concept, model, and platform for global governance over the past decade. This initiative that inherits the legacy of the ancient Silk Road and connects the future of human civilizations will lead to shared prosperity for all.