The Belt and Road Initiative, aiming to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes, has become an important platform for participating countries to fight the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. China and other participants have been helping each other in the combat: cooperating in response and control through timely sharing of information, diagnosis and treatment experience and best practices, strengthening and upgrading public health systems, promoting dialogue among health experts, and providing assistance to countries in need.
Meanwhile, the initiative has helped promote resumption of production and economic recovery. It is also expected to create new growth drivers. For instance, the Digital Silk Road program focuses on cooperation in areas such as big data and smart cities, while the Health Silk Road program explores opportunities in the medical and health field. At a time when the pandemic continues to spread in many parts of the world, the initiative has boosted confidence about the world economy and injected impetus into global recovery.
There is a Chinese saying, “If you want to get rich, you should build roads first.” That is to say, if a country wants to prosper, it must first facilitate unimpeded transportation, so that its products can be shipped out and products from other parts of the world can be brought in. The Belt and Road Initiative is helping participating countries achieve joint development and common prosperity through promoting policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds.
The initiative has benefited participating countries, with some projects already successfully launched. In addition to a railway linking Laos with China, Chinese enterprises have undertaken coal and electric power integration projects, hydropower stations and the Saysettha Comprehensive Development Zone in the Southeast Asian country. Other signature Belt and Road projects include the China-Thailand Railway, the industrial parks jointly built by China and Malaysia, and the China-Belarus Industrial Park. The Piraeus Port in Greece, once on the verge of bankruptcy, has become a hub of maritime transportation between Asia, Europe and Africa. Chinese enterprises have also built the Zemun-Borca Bridge in Serbia and a railway in Montenegro.
Since the initiative was first proposed in 2013, trade between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has grown rapidly.