Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 14, 2017. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)
BEIJING, May 14 (Xinhua) -- World leaders brainstormed the advancement of the Belt and Road Initiative at a two-day event starting here Sunday, joining China in a chorus of common prosperity.
Characterized by extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the Belt and Road links countries and regions that account for about 60 percent of the world's population and 30 percent of global economic output.
Speaking at the opening of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the ambitious intercontinental initiative is "rooted in a shared vision for global development."
A PROJECT OF THE CENTURY
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a keynote speech delivered at the international gathering attended by heads of state and government from 29 countries, among thousands more others, said the initiative is "a project of the century" that will benefit people across the world.
The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
"Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit," Xi told an audience of more than 1,500.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the historical experience of cooperation between countries linked by the ancient Silk Road through Asia, Europe and Africa is important in the 21st century when the world is facing "very serious challenges."
Calling the Belt and Road Initiative an example of cooperation in such fields as infrastructure, transport and industry, the Russian president said his country has supported the initiative from the very beginning.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said the breadth of the initiative, the level of participation and its strategic dimensions, highlight its capacity to become the biggest economic cooperation project in place today.
Czech President Milos Zeman, for his part, said he salutes China for this courageous, long-term project.
Over the past years, the Belt and Road Initiative has grown from an embryonic proposal into a network, while a cooperation pattern of shared growth through discussion and collaboration has taken shape.
As of the end of 2016, more than 100 countries and international organizations have expressed their support for the initiative. China has signed 46 cooperation agreements with 39 countries and international organizations, covering a broad range of fields.
The Belt and Road Initiative brings enormous benefits to all involved and serves as a main driver of the global transformation under the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly who is also present at the forum.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND BEYOND
The "courageous" vision of the Belt and Road Initiative is becoming a reality and bearing rich fruit in more fields than expected.
Four years after it was proposed, Belt and Road countries have seen increased connectivity in policies, infrastructure, trade and finance, as well as strengthened people-to-people bonds.
According to World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevedo, infrastructure is essential, a point also highlighted by special envoy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Minister of Economic Affairs Brigitte Zypries.
"A lack of proper transport network was on top of the trade cost list and the One belt, One Road is hugely important in responding to this need," Azevedo told an international audience at the high-level meeting of the Belt and Road forum.
Calling the forum "a new and decisive step in the progress of the initiative," special envoy of France's just sworn-in President Emmanuel Macron, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin noted the development potential brought by the Belt and Road Initiative in tourism, financing, culture and environment.
"The Belt and Road Initiative is about connecting cultures, communities, economies, and people, and about adding new economic flavors by creating infrastructure projects that are based on 21st-century expertise and governance standards," said International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Greece also highly values the initiative, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saying it brings important opportunities for people-to-people contact, cultural exchanges and tourism.
With various advantages and needs, the partners pay close attention to keep the initiative open, inclusive and beneficial to all.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the forum: "Let me make it very clear, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an economic undertaking, is open to all countries in the region."
Sitting at the crossroad of Asia and Europe, Turkey wishes to bring its unique geographical location into full play, said the country's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Special envoy of British Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, said his country is "a natural partner" in the grand development initiative.
He expects that with China driving at the east, and Britain at the western end of the Belt and Road, all countries along the routes could work together to bring more jobs, growth and higher living standard for all people.
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said the Belt and Road Initiative is "a pioneering, international framework based on an open platform concept."
For World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, the Belt and Road Initiative can meet the aspiration of those people living in the countries that are still in need of development support.
For ordinary people, the initiative could well represent something simple, "like a fragrant cup of tea," according to Lagarde, which has for centuries "brought cultures, communities and people closer together," and is ready to burst with new economic flavors.