Yearender: Belt and Road gains momentum in 2017
The year 2017 has seen the fourth year of implementation of the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt and Road construction has gradually turned from concept to practice and yielded a batch of important early harvest outcomes, building a cooperation network connecting continents and oceans.
With 46 entities joining the B&R friends circle in 2017, China has signed 100 cooperation agreements under the Belt and Road Initiative with 86 countries and international organizations. Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out that all countries, from either Asia, Europe, Africa or the Americas, can be international cooperation partners of the Belt and Road Initiative.
In 2017, the trade and investment has increased significantly, the major projects have made remarkable progress, and the cooperation in infrastructure, production capacity, investment and digital Silk Road has deepened.
Statistics show that, in the first 11 months of 2017, the trade volume between China and the countries along the Belt and Road routes reached US$983 billion, up 15.4% year on year. China has signed 4 new free trade agreements this year, taking the total number of FTAs to 16, benefiting 24 countries and regions. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has expanded membership to 84 and invested a total of US$4.22 billion in 24 projects. The Silk Road Fund has signed 17 projects and promised to invest about US$7 billion. The Belt and Road construction has embarked on a fast track.
The following are the major Belt and Road events in the year 2017 selected by Belt and Road Portal in a chronological order:
Xi: Build a community of shared future for mankind
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a keynote speech at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 18, 2017. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech titled “Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind” at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland on Jan. 18. In his speech, Xi expounded “China’s solutions” for global development and called for building a community of shared future for mankind and achieving shared and win-win development.
Belt and Road incorporated in UN resolution
On Mar. 17, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2344(2017) to extend the mandate of the UN assistance operation in Afghanistan, which also urged more efforts to strengthen regional economic cooperation through initiatives such as the Belt and Road.
China’s official Belt and Road Portal went online
Belt and Road Portal English Version
China launched its official Belt and Road Portal (www.yidaiyilu.gov.cn) on Mar. 21. The portal, developed under the guidance of the Office of the Leading Group for the Belt and Road Initiative and hosted by the State Information Center, aims to promote information sharing among enterprises, social organizations and citizens of the countries along the Belt and Road routes.
Boao Forum for Asia highlighted Belt and Road
The Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2017, under the theme of "Globalization and Free Trade: The Asian Perspectives," was held from Mar. 23 to 26 in Boao in China's southernmost province of Hainan. The Belt and Road was given the first place among the four themes of the annual conference.
New Zealand signed B&R cooperation deal with China
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to New Zealand from Mar. 26 to 29. During the trip, the two countries signed the Memorandum of Arrangement on Strengthening Cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of New Zealand, making New Zealand the first Western developed country to sign a cooperation agreement with China on the initiative.
7 more pilot free trade zones set up
A third group of free trade zones (FTZ), including seven Chinese provinces and municipalities including Liaoning, Zhejiang, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Chongqing, were set up on Apr. 1, bringing the total number of the zones to 11. China established its first FTZ in Shanghai in 2013, and expanded to three more provincial-level areas of Tianjin, Fujian and Guangdong. The FTZs help carry out major national endeavors such as the Belt and Road Initiative.
China-Myanmar crude oil pipeline put into operation
The view of an oil & gas station in Ruili, Yunnan province on May 19.(Xinhua)
The China-Myanmar crude oil pipeline starts from Made Island, stretches as long as 771 kilometers, and ends in China's Yunnan Province, with a designed transmission capacity of 22 million tons per year. The pipeline passes through Myanmar's Rakhine state, Magway and Mandalay regions and Shan state. Itis part of the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline project, a flagship cooperation project in Myanmar under the Belt and Road Initiative.
7 countries signed agreement to deepen cooperation on China-Europe freight rail services
Railway authorities of China, Belarus, Germany, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Poland and Russia signed an agreement on Apr. 20 to deepen cooperation on China-Europe freight rail services. The agreement serves to promote the Belt and Road construction and expand the market share of rail freight between Asia and Europe. It will also boost economic development and trade cooperation for countries along the Belt and Road routes.
China, Georgia inked free trade agreement
The China-Georgia free trade agreement (FTA) is the first FTA that China accomplished in Eurasia, and also the first FTA China initiated and signed since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed. According to the agreement, the two countries impose no tariff to most of the products from each other. The FTA went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
China hosted Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation
Chinese President Xi Jinping, foreign delegation heads and guests pose for a group photo at the Leaders' Roundtable Summit of the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation at Yanqi Lake International Convention Center in Beijing, capital of China, May 15, 2017. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)
The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing from May 14 to 15. The forum was an international event of the highest-level under the Belt and Road framework, and also the most important multilateral diplomatic event that China initiated and hosted since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
29 heads of state and government leaders as well as more than 1500 representatives from over 130 countries and 70 international organizations attended the forum.
The forum further confirmed the direction for future cooperation of the Belt and Road Initiative, outlined the roadmap of the Belt and Road construction and listed a batch of major B&R projects to be implemented. The Belt and Road should be built into a road of peace, prosperity, opening up, innovation and a road connecting different civilizations.
Major deliverables of the forum include 76 items comprising more than 270 concrete results. The Chinese government signed memoranda of understanding on Belt and Road cooperation with the governments of Mongolia, Pakistan, Nepal, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Timor-Leste, Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia.
Mombasa-Nairobi Railway launched
Two female engine drivers gesture before the operations of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Mombasa, Kenya, on May 31, 2017. Kenya began operations on the Chinese-built Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Wednesday. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
The 472-kilometer Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway, called the “century railway” by the locals, stretches from the port of Mombasa to Kenya's capital Nairobi, involving a total investment of US$3.8 billion, which makes it the African country's largest infrastructure project since its independence. It adopts Chinese technologies, Chinese standards and Chinese equipment, and is operated by a Chinese company.
Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to Japan’s position on the B&R for the first time
At an international conference in Tokyo on June 5, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his willingness to cooperate with China on the Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded on June 6 that the Belt and Road is an important international public goods, and an open and inclusive development platform, creating benefits for countries around the world including Japan. All parties are equal in terms of participating in, contributing to and benefiting from the Belt and Road. This initiative can serve as a new platform and test field for mutually beneficial cooperation and common development of China and Japan, and China welcomes Japan's discussion with China on conducting cooperation within the Belt and Road framework. China hopes that the Japanese side can translate their remarks and wishes about improving relations with China into concrete policies and actions.
First CPEC major energy project went into operation
The construction of the Sahiwal power plant began on July 31, 2015 and were completed in only 22 months. It was dubbed by the Pakistan government as a miracle in the country’s history of electric power, with the shortest construction time, largest installed capacity and most advanced technology. The power plant is one of the priority projects in the energy sector of the CPEC, and also an important project of the Belt and Road Initiative. It helps relieve the energy shortage in Pakistan and brings benefits to the local people.
President Xi proposed 'Silk Road in the air'
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a “Silk Road in the air” during his meeting with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in Beijing on June 14. Xi said that China supports building a Silk Road in the air between Luxembourg and Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province.
Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative released
China has proposed to build three ocean-based “blue economic passages” connecting Asia with Africa, Oceania, Europe and beyond, in a bid to advance maritime cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. The proposal is highlighted in a document titled Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, which was jointly released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Oceanic Administration on June 20.
China, Russia agreed on building ‘Silk Road on ice’
During President Xi’s state visit to Russia on July 3, Xi and Russian President Putin said that the two sides may make joint efforts to develop and utilize maritime passageways, particularly the Northern Sea Route, and realize a "Silk Road on ice". Co-building the Northern Sea Route was first proposed by Russia, and the route is also one of the three “blue economic passages” identified in the Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Asian Financial Cooperation Association (AFCA) inaugurated
The inaugural ceremony of the Asian Financial Cooperation Association (AFCA) was held in Beijing on July 24. The Beijing-based organization includes 107 financial institutions from five continents as its founding members. It aims to facilitate information exchanges, strengthen joint governance and support cross-border financial infrastructure and business development.
China, Lebanon signed MoU on Belt and Road
Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission He Lifeng met with Lebanon’s Minister of Economy and Trade Raed Khoury on Sept. 8. They signed a memorandum of understanding between Lebanon and the People's Republic of China on the joint promotion of cooperation within the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st- Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative.
‘Belt and Road’ incorporated into CPC Constitution
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was held in Beijing from October 18 to 24, 2017. (Xinhua)
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was held in Beijing from October 18 to 24. The congress agreed to write into the CPC Constitution “following the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, and pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative,” which highlights the significance of the Belt and Road construction.
China, Vietnam signed MoU on joint implementation of Belt and Road Initiative and Vietnam's ‘Two Corridors and One Economic Circle’ plan
President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Vietnam and attended the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting during Nov. 10-13. After their talks, Xi and Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee, witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on joint implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative and Vietnam's “Two Corridors and One Economic Circle” plan, as well as a series of other cooperation documents.
China, Laos agreed to jointly build China-Laos economic corridor
President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Laos from November 13 to 14. In a joint statement issued after the visit, the two countries agreed to accelerate the synergy of the Belt and Road Initiative and Laos’ strategy of turning itself from a “land-locked” country to a “land-linked” one, as well as jointly build a China-Laos economic corridor.
China, Panama signed MoU on Belt and Road
China and Panama established formal diplomatic relations on June 13. Five months later, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela made a state visit to China and met with President Xi Jinping. After the meeting, Xi and Varela witnessed the signing of a bilateral cooperation agreement on the Belt and Road Initiative.
China, Morocco signed MoU on Belt and Road
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nasser Bourita, signed a memorandum of understanding on joint construction of the Belt and Road on Nov. 17, making Morocco the first Arab country in Northwestern Africa to sign such a document.
First Silk Road NGO Cooperation Network Forum kicked off
President Xi sent a congratulatory letter to the First Silk Road NGO Cooperation Network Forum, which kicked off on Nov. 21 in Beijing. In May, Xi announced the launch of the Silk Road NGO Cooperation Network at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. More than 300 NGOs from over 60 countries joined the cooperation network.
3 final CEE countries aligned with Belt and Road Initiative
Premier Li Keqiang made a visit to Hungary and participated in the Sixth China-Central and Eastern Europe Leaders’ Meeting from Nov. 26 to 29. During the meeting, China signed memoranda of understanding with Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia to promote the Belt and Road Initiative, signaling that all 16 Central and Eastern European countries have agreed to align with the initiative.
Initiative on Belt and Road digital economy cooperation launched
China, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey and UAE launched an initiative to strengthen cooperation on digital economy during the Fourth World Internet Conference in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in east China, on Dec. 3.
China, Maldives inked free trade agreement
The China-Maldives free trade agreement (FTA) is the 16th FTA that China started negotiations on and ultimately signed, and also the first bilateral FTA that the Maldives signed with other country. Under the agreement, 95 percent of bilateral trade will enjoy zero-tariff treatment.
China, Russia jointly launched Yamal LNG project
The giant Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, jointly launched by China and Russia, began operation on Dec. 8, 2017. (Novatek)
The Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is the world’s largest natural gas development, liquefaction, transportation and sale project in the Arctic region. It is also the first large oversea energy project since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013. It’s expected to serve as an important pivot of the “Silk Road on Ice” and ultimately supply 4 million tons of LNG to China every year.
AIIB expands membership to 84
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) announced on Dec. 19 that its board of governors had approved the Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Belarus and Ecuador to join the Bank. Since its launch in January 2016, AIIB’s approved membership has risen from 57 to 84, expanding its reach from within Asia to across the world.
Construction of China-Thailand Railway inaugurated
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (3rd L) and Wang Xiaotao (2nd L), deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, attend the inauguration ceremony of Thailand's first high-speed railway in Pak Chong, Thailand, Dec. 21, 2017. (Xinhua/Li Mangmang)
Thailand and China jointly inaugurated the construction of Thailand’s first high-speed railway from Bangkok to northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima on Dec. 21. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a congratulatory letter that the China-Thailand high-speed railway is a flagship project in jointly realizing the Belt and Road Initiative in the spirit of "wide consultation, joint construction and shared benefits."
President Xi delivered New Year speech vowing to actively push for B&R Initiative
President Xi Jinping delivered a New Year speech on Dec. 31. “China will actively push for the Belt and Road Initiative, and always be a builder of world peace, contributor of global development and keeper of international order. The Chinese people are ready to chart out a more prosperous, peaceful future for humanity, with people from other countries,” Xi said.