Belt and Road helps drive joint development
28 Sep 2023


The Belt and Road Initiative, which President Xi Jinping proposed in 2013 in Astana, Kazakhstan, is of historical importance and goes far beyond its core infrastructure goals.


Under the BRI framework, investment has reached nearly $1 trillion and involves 152 nations.


The BRI is a truly remarkable project in scale. It not only aims to connect a wide range of countries to China economically, but also seeks to boost these countries' GDPs and achieve sustainable development with China's help.


The advent of the BRI should be understood in the context of China's economic miracle, which began in 1978 with reform and opening-up proposed by then-leader Deng Xiaoping.


Since the last third of the 20th century, China has been one of the largest contributors to global development. According to the World Bank, "Since China began to open up and reform its economy in 1978, GDP growth has averaged almost 10 percent per year during three decades, and more than 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty."


Furthermore, between 2008 and 2021, "as the world's per capita GDP grew by 30 percent and China's by 263 percent, China accounted for more than 40 percent of global per capita GDP growth", the World Bank said. "Without China, global GDP would have grown not by 51 percent but by 33 percent".


China's economic success both lends credibility to its economic model and allows it to make substantial investments globally. Many developing countries, particularly those that often struggle to obtain financing from the international financial system and Western countries, are now sharing in China's growth through its Belt and Road infrastructure investments.


China's Central Asian neighbor Kazakhstan provides an excellent case study for the initiative's results to date. In 2023, Kazakhstan endorsed the four principles of mutual assistance, common economic development, universal security and everlasting friendship, and this reflects the fundamental basis of mutual cooperation in the China-Kazakhstan relationship.


Kazakhstan is essential to the initiative's goal of developing trade routes with Europe through Central Asia. Kazakhstan's importance to China stems from its geostrategic position, its abundant energy resources and its role as a regional political and security partner. With the world's 12th-largest oil reserves and an abundance of mineral resources, Kazakhstan presents an important opportunity for China to secure and diversify its sources of energy and other natural resources. China is also of critical geopolitical importance to Kazakhstan.


China is one of Kazakhstan's largest trading partners, and the two countries shared bilateral trade volume of $24 billion in 2022, according to the National Statistical Office of Kazakhstan. At the China-Central Asia Summit in May, Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that his government hopes to increase the volume of trade with China to $40 billion annually by 2030.


Meanwhile, in 2021, China proposed the Global Development Initiative, which encompasses education, health, information technology and green energy as development drivers. The GDI has provided a window of opportunity for China and Kazakhstan to work together on projects of high utility to the people of Kazakhstan. For example, supporting Kazakhstan's growth in solar energy would be an optimal investment, given that China leads the industry.


The Global Development Initiative emphasizes sustainable development in developing countries by focusing on humanitarian values such as education, clean and renewable energy, and the alleviation of poverty. Moreover, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently stressed the importance of cooperation with international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.


To help people in Kazakhstan better understand the Belt and Road Initiative, China may enhance the promotion of cultural and academic exchanges, youth and student exchanges and media cooperation. Chinese investment in hospitals, educational institutions, renewable energy facilities and frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence and essential information technology infrastructure, will improve the well-being of the Kazakh people.


The solution to the question of how China and Kazakhstan can build long-term, sustainable and mutually beneficial economic relationships may be found in the four principles for building a China-Central Asia community, which President Xi set forth in May at the China-Central Asia Summit in Xi'an, Shaanxi province: mutual trust, common economic development, peace and security, and everlasting friendship.


The author is president of KIMEP University of Kazakhstan and former economic adviser to the president of Kazakhstan.


Source: China Daily Global