File photo taken on July 18, 2013 shows the first direct cargo train leaving from Zhengzhou to Europe at the railway container center in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province. Zhengzhou is one of the Chinese cities having direct cargo trains to Europe. Starting from Zhengzhou, a logistics center and transport hub in Henan, the 10,214-kilometer Zhengzhou-Europe international shuttle train crosses the border at the Alataw Pass in Xinjiang before passing through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland on its way to Germany's Hamburg. The Zhengzhou-Europe express railway service, which opened in July, 2013, has brought more imported goods, such as IT products, clothes, food and automobile parts to Chinese and European customers. The ancient Silk Road linked China and Europe, and people along the road traded not only commodities but exchanged their cultures and civilizations. Today, cargo trains were a logical development, opening a new channel for the transfer of goods to and from China's central and western regions to compete with the traditional maritime route from the east coast. (Xinhua/Zhu Xiang)
by Xinhua Writers Liu Chen, Li Binian, Tian Dongdong
BEIJING, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- After three years of development, the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 has gradually and steadily brought change to peoples and countries along the ancient trade route, defying expectations of many international observers who have regarded it as a mere extension of Chinese diplomacy.
With more than 100 participants and advocates so far, including countries and international organizations, the initiative has now become a road to a happier life, their dreams and regional prosperity for local people along the route.
ROAD TO HAPPIER LIFE
As a master plan to integrate 65 countries from East Asia to Western Europe, China's Belt and Road Initiative is poised to improve the living standards of 4.4 billion people, more than half of the world's total population.
"No one knows what is waiting for us at the end of the road, but for all, I only wish the road will lead to happiness," Ma Yi, a Chinese construction worker working on roads in Laos, wrote on her blog.
As an employee of China's Yunnan Sunny Road & Bridge company, Ma has worked in this Southeast Asian country for five years and participated in several projects to improve Laos' infrastructure.
As Ma wishes, upgrading the No. 13 highway, the project conducted by her company, would bring the Lao people closer to a happier life.
The project, along with several other China-funded infrastructure projects in Laos, are part of cooperative programs within the framework of the initiative.
After the upgrade of the 81-km road, the travel time from Pakmong to Muang Xay will be shortened by over one hour. Villages along the road now have access to the power grid. Shops, restaurants, hotels and banks have been built, bringing more job opportunities for the local people.
With better roads, "we can plant more, earn more money and no longer have to worry that our produce may spoil in the fields before it ever makes it to the consumers," a local villager at Muang Xay surnamed Ketmane told Xinhua.
Infrastructure, an important aspect of cooperation under the initiative, not only brings faster transportation to the countries along the Belt and Road, but also offers them a chance to improve their technology.
"China is cutting-edge in the development of subway and railway transportation. It always has great things to share with Iran," said Siamak Ghasemi, a 36-year-old veteran worker in a Tehran-based factory under Tehran Wagon Manufacturing, a joint venture between Iran and China.
Sent to China twice for training, Ghasemi is quite aware of the technology transfer and localization of production in the process.
"At the very beginning, we imported from China; then we learned to assemble; now, with China's help, things are getting more localized that we have our own production line," Ghasemi told Xinhua.
ROAD TO DREAMS
For those who are actually involved in the projects under the framework, the initiative has been a road to their dreams.
When 30-year-old Nahla Emad decided to work in the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone (SETC Zone), she did not envision the decision would change her life.
The SETC Zone, established in 2009 with an initial area of 1.34 square km, is a landmark project of cooperation between China and Egypt under the Belt and Road Initiative.
"I was young with no experience in this kind of job when I joined the company, but now I am a manager of the marketing department," Emad said, adding that she had thought about such a promotion only in her dreams.
"Now everything at work is like a habit and the company is like my home. I live here, work here and built up my family here," she said.
The initiative allows participating countries to benefit from China's rapid growth. For people in Pakistan's Gwadar, the influence of the initiative is even more tremendous. It has transformed a fishing town into a prosperous port, realizing local people's dream that their port may become a second Dubai.
A town with a population of less than 100,000, Gwadar is blessed with a natural deep-water harbor that falls close to main shipping lanes and an anchor-shaped peninsula that shields the harbor from the waves of the Arabian Sea.
Though development plans had been drawn up by the Pakistani government in 2002, the town remained dormant for another decade before China chose the port as a major project in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a major project of the initiative.
Land prices, a barometer that measures investor confidence, has more than doubled in the past two years, Gwadar Port Authority Chairman Dostain Jamaldini said.
Locals are constantly talking about Dubai when they picture their future, believing the huge opportunities created by China's Belt and Road Initiative will transform their fishing town and realize their dreams.
"What Dubai can achieve, so can we," Jamaldini said.
ROAD TO COMMON PROSPERITY
With its guiding principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the initiative proposed in 2013 has become a chorus instead of a solo.
Inspired by the ancient major trading route that linked China with Asia, Europe and Africa for a long time, the current Belt and Road Initiative aims to modernize the ancient trade route while aspiring to create common prosperity within those areas.
A report issued by China's Renmin University said China has already begun the coordination of its signature initiative with the development strategies of many countries along the route, such as Kazakhstan's Bright Road program as well as the Sustainable Development Strategy of Kyrgyzstan.
Over the past three years, China-Kazakhstan cooperation projects within the framework of the initiative have already yielded results, setting an example for other countries along the Belt and Road.
According to the Chinese Embassy in Kazakhstan, China and Kazakhstan have reached 51 agreements on promoting industrial production capacity, with total investment amounting to 26 billion dollars. The 12 projects already launched or to be launched, including the construction of light rails and subway expansion, take up 4 billion dollars.
These cooperation projects will bring about great changes in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, Shigeo Katsu, president of Nazarbayev University, told Xinhua.
For Sheradil Baktygulov, an independent consultant and expert on state governance, Kyrgyzstan's Sustainable Development Strategy and the Belt and Road Initiative supplement each other.
For one thing, the construction of a transport corridor in the region is a priority both for the Sustainable Development Strategy and the initiative, said the expert.
What's more, the initiative will mobilize the economies of countries along the route, which means that Kyrgyzstan may benefit from Chinese investment, said the expert.
Besides Central Asia, the initiative also unleashes growth in Africa. Gerishon Ikiara, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi's School of Diplomacy, said the initiative will underpin Africa's future prosperity.
"The Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative is expected to radically change Kenya's and Africa's participation in global trade in the coming two decades," said Ikiara, adding that East African nations have started feeling the impact of this initiative through the implementation of the China-funded Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project and seaports.
As part of the initiative, those infrastructure projects have started benefiting Kenya and the larger eastern and Horn of Africa region, and will boost intra-Africa trade as well as galvanize the continent's industrial transformation, said Ikiara, adding that the initiative will act as a guarantor of Africa's future economic development, peace and stability.
Praised by the United Nations as an important pillar of its 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the initiative has an epoch-making global influence and significance far beyond countries along its routes, observers said.
"This initiative of the People's Republic of China is maybe one of the most important ones in the whole world. It represents a result of deep consideration not only of Chinese political circles, but also scientific institutions," Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told Xinhua in an exclusive interview recently.
"This, in a way, represents a global initiative approved and well received by a great number of countries including both EU members and countries that are not part of the EU, both EU candidate countries and those that are not candidates. I think that it is one serious initiative and that it will produce serious results in all areas," he said. Enditem
Xinhua reporters Wang Shoubao from Nairobi, Wang Huijuan from Belgrade, Wang Xue from Cairo, Liu Yang from Washington, Zhang Jianhua from Vientiane, Chen Yao from Bishkek, Magdalena and Han Mei from Warsaw also contributed to the story.
KATHMANDU, Dec. 22 (Xinhua)-- The "One Belt One Road" initiative introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping can play a crucial role in the infrastructure development of Nepal and the entire South Asia region, a Nepalese minister said here Wednesday.
Nepalese Minister for Federal Affairs Hitraj Pandey made the remarks during a meeting with a visiting delegation of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress of China, which arrived Wednesday at the invitation of Nepalese Parliament Speaker Onsari Gharti. Full story
by Xinhua writers Peng Tianxiao, Jin Minmin
BEIJING, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China is a visionary cross-continental development and cooperation mechanism that focuses on providing regional public service, rather than a geo-political tool as some worry about.
The fast progress of the initiative, with over 70 countries and international organizations joining in the past three years, is a result that reflects the regions' desire for fair cooperation and falls in line with the rules of market economy. Full story