BEIJING, April 27 (Xinhua) - The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) has witnessed the joint efforts of participants to refine the blueprint for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Addressing the opening ceremony of the forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a keynote speech, calling for greater connectivity, openness and inclusiveness as well as high-quality development of the BRI.
The appeals have triggered heated discussions among world leaders and international experts on working together to deliver a brighter future for Belt and Road cooperation.
Building up connectivity
Since Xi proposed the initiative six years ago, the BRI has been extended from Asia and Europe to Africa, the Americas and Oceania.
"Thanks to the joint efforts of all of us involved in this initiative, a general connectivity framework consisting of six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports has been put in place," Xi said in his speech.
"In Xi's speech, cultural, scientific and social cooperation represent the core of China's action in the world," said Fabio Massimo Parenti, a professor of international studies at the International Institute Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence, Italy.
"This cooperation will in turn allow inclusive development based on increasing connectivity," he said.
The latest statistics show the total trade volume between China and the countries participating in the BRI was more than 6 trillion U.S. dollars in the 2013-2018 period, during which more than 244,000 jobs were created for the locals. China's direct foreign investment in those countries has exceeded 80 billion dollars till now.
China's imports from and exports to those countries totalled 300 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2019, up 7.8 percent year-on-year and occupying 28.6 percent of the country's total foreign trade volume in the period.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also pointed out that in today's world of geopolitical uncertainty, rising inequality and trade barriers, "the BRI offers a model of collaboration, partnership, connectivity and shared prosperity."
"Pakistan is proud to have partnered and pioneered with China in this transformation endeavor," he said, noting that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a major BRI cooperation project, "has made substantial progress."
With BRI cooperation entering what Xi calls the phase of "meticulous painting," the Pakistani leader called on participating countries to pay more attention to people's well-being and push for sustainable development.
Greener and more sustainable
In his speech, Xi called on BRI participants to pursue open and green cooperation. "We may launch green infrastructure projects, make green investment and provide green financing to protect the Earth which we all call home," he said.
The goals of high-standard, livelihood-improving and sustainable development should be achieved, Xi said.
China has made clear its commitment to incorporate green strategies into the BRI by releasing the Guidelines on Promoting Green Belt and Road and the Belt and Road Ecological Cooperation Plan. These documents outline a vision for sustainability.
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his remarks that with the scale of its planned investments, the BRI "offers a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the creation of a more equitable, prosperous world for all, and to reversing the negative impact of climate change."
Countries today need roads and bridges from the unsustainable, fossil-fuelled gray economy to a clean, green, low-carbon energy future, Guterres said.
"I see the Belt and Road Initiative as an important space where green principles can be reflected in green action," he said.
Australian State Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said, "It was great to hear (President Xi) speak about the financial sustainability, environmental sustainability and the people-to-people links being so important in terms of economic growth, prosperity and partnerships."
"From our point of view, we think the Belt and Road Initiative is an umbrella underneath which all of our partnerships with China sit," said Andrews.
Confident China for shared prosperity
"The BRI will not become an exclusive club," Xi said in his keynote speech, while announcing a series of major reform and opening-up measures to be taken by China.
China will set up a number of new free trade pilot zones, strengthen the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of foreign intellectual property owners, prohibit forced technology transfer, further reduce tariffs, avoid beggar-thy-neighbor exchange rate depreciation, establish a binding mechanism for the implementation of international agreements, and treat all enterprises and operators fairly.
Charles Onunaiju, director of the Center for China Studies in Nigeria, said President Xi has made a "landmark" speech.
"The speech signifies a confident China, a China that believes its prosperity is linked with the prosperity of the world," he said. "It signifies that China is confident, not just about its own future, but believes its own future would be better guaranteed by the shared prosperity of humanity."
In less than six years, 126 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China.
The BRI has become a path to stability, development and prosperity, creating better development opportunities and setting a new model of globalization, said Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first president of Kazakhstan.
"The BRI has transcended the challenges of geography and unequal development," and China "has proven itself as a reliable, responsible partner in the international arena," he said.