People talk at the Nepali stand during the Belt and Road good exhibition held in Shanghai in May. (Photo: VCG)
Although it started mostly through cooperation with emerging markets, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is evolving into what one expert called "a worldwide project," as several European countries including Russia, Italy and France applauded the program.
The maturity and expansion of the program won't be stopped by US protectionism. Instead, it would stimulate cooperation between China and other economies also pressured by the US, experts said.
"The BRI is walking on a wider road. It has broken beyond the geographical concept where it originated," Zhou Rong, a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
A BRI China-Italy business investment matchmaking conference was held in Milan, Italy on Friday, where business representatives from both countries discussed the search for appropriate business investment opportunities under the BRI program, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.
Italy was the first major European economy to join the BRI, which signed a BRI memorandum of understanding with China this March.
Russia is also considering how to connect its major infrastructure projects with the BRI program. On Tuesday, the Chinese edition of Russia's Sputnik news agency cited Monkevich Vitaly Vikentievich, president of the Russian Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, as saying that the country's first privately invested highway called Meridian Highway will be helpful for implementing the BRI.
Vikentievich said that the new highway will cut the cargo shipping cycle between China and Europe to 10 or 11 days. Currently, it takes about 45 days for goods to be shipped from China to Western Europe via the Suez Canal.
A report recently released by the CCI Paris Ile-De-France also pointed out that China will "play its role as the main center of the world economy" as it organizes trade around the New Silk Road. It also noted that the BRI is a project with a strong economic dimension worth enlightening because it provides important opportunities illustrated by the various inter-company cooperation.
According to the report, China's New Silk Road initiative has contributed to the development of cooperation between French and Chinese companies, including not only large enterprises but also small and medium-sized enterprises in industries such as maritime, rail and air transport and tourism.