China minister hails invaluable 'Belt and Road' forum

Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan on Wednesday expressed confidence that 2017 under Belt and Road Initiative (the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road) would prove an extremely economically beneficial year for the members countries of the silk route.

China aims to invest USD2.5 trillion in 10 years under the initiative.

Proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the initiative enters the fourth year and is of great importance to global governance and international endeavor to make globalization more inclusive.

This May will witness China seeking viable solutions to the problems facing the global economy at the Beijing-based Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, where over 20 countries' leaders have confirmed their participation.

Maldives' economic minister Mohamed Saeed is set to represent the archipelago in the forum slated to be held from May 14-15 in Beijing.

Speaking during a press conference attended by over 3,000 reporters, Shan said the forum would provide an ideal platform for countries for constructive discussions on infrastructure development in respective countries.

"We've already reached USD18.5 billion in economic zone investments. Though this project was initiated by China, this would provide unprecedented economic benefit to member countries," Shan added.

At the heart of China's economic rise is infrastructure connectivity, a significant lesson that the Belt and Road forum is expected to promote.

China needs the Belt and Road projects to seek closer cooperation with the rest of the world and encourage other developing economies to pursue the development paths that suit them best. The forum is expected to make that clear by alleviating concerns about China's rise.

The forum, for starters, will serve as an opportunity for Beijing to explain why it proposed the transnational programs and how it is going to pursue them. The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to build an inclusive global economy and raise the reciprocal spirit at a time when the tide of globalization is turning in a more protectionist direction, because China has not only proposed but also offered constructive plans to help restore its partners' confidence in globalization.

In all likelihood, China will accord priority to multilateral negotiations as a missing piece of the puzzle in its promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative, which can be sustainable only when transparent cooperative mechanisms are in place. The Beijing forum should answer the participants' questions about future bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and more importantly, make institutional, concerted efforts to address outstanding concerns of the international community.

Another mission of the forum is to reiterate China's commitment to building a community of shared destiny by endorsing landmark development proposals, in particular the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris climate change agreement.

The Maldives officially entered China’s new Silk Road project “Belt and Road” in 2014, which mainly aims to undertake infrastructural projects in various countries.

China has funded major infrastructure development in the Maldives, including the nation’s main airport and the ongoing landmark bridge project connecting capital Male with airport island Hulhule.

The Link Road connecting the island wards of southernmost Addu atoll had also been developed with China’s free aid.

Moreover, several Chinese private firms continue to invest in the tourism and construction sectors of the archipelago, especially in the reclaimed suburb Hulhumale.

Aminath Ibrahim | Avas Online | Beijing, China