Belt and Road Initiative and Realization of the Right to Development
July 16,2018   By:CSHRS

 Belt and Road Initiative and Realization of the Right to Development

LI Yunlong*

Abstract: The Belt and Road Initiative not only represents a new blueprint for realizing the right to development, but also provides a realistic approach and a possible solution for it. With clear goals and paths, the Belt and Road Initiativ e serves as a model for South-South cooperation to promote development. Under the background of China's economic progress, given China has the strong political will, adequate financial resources, and advanced technology to advance the initiative it will prove to be reliable driver of development. With the joint efforts of China and relevant countries, the Belt and Road Initiative will greatly promote the right to development of countries along the routes.

Keywords: Belt and Road Initiative ♦the right to development ♦human rights ♦South-South Cooperation

Development is the result of many international and domestic factors, relating to politics, the economy, technologies and cultures. But the international structure and conditions are major factors restraining the development of developing countries. The Belt and Road Initiative advocates strengthening the connectivity between China and other relevant countries to improve mutual development. It is a new idea aimed at resolving the development problems of developing countries, and it will vigorously promote the realization of the right to development of countries along the routes.

Ⅰ. The Belt and Road Initiative Provide s a Chinese Approach to Realize the Right to Development

Since the adoption of UN Declaration on the Right to Development, although some emerging countries have realized relatively rapid economic growth, most developing countries are still facing serious development problems. In particular, after the 2008 global financial crisis, the world economic growth has slowed and many developing countries even have suffered an economic recession, a heavier debt burden and a worsening balance of international payments, which has negatively impacted on the lives of millions of people. Nowadays, there are still over 800 million people living in extreme poverty in the world. In developing countries, over 36 percent of population live on less than US$3.1 a day and more than half of the global population of children under the age of 15 live in extreme or medium poverty. And 160 million children in the world have suffer from malnutrition.1Therefore, underdevelopment is still the major problem for developing counties and realizing the right to development is still anurgent task faced by most developing countries.

Western countries had colonies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, dominating and governing the world for hundreds of years, but they brought little development to these areas during their rules. Western colonialism and imperialism were about occupation, domination and plunder, they never paid any attention to development in their colonies. During the Cold War, the two rival superpowers regarded developing countries as the stage for their competition, and they carried out intense confrontation in which they paid no regard to the development of the countries in which their power struggle was being played out. After the war, the United States became the only superpower and Western countries dominated the international community. Later, they sought to push the Western "democratic" political system, ideology and values, and spread neo-liberalism and the market economy across the whole world. However, their "prescription" failed to help the development ills of developing countries. Although the poverty reduction targets set out in the UN Millennium Development Goals have been achieved on schedule, China has made the most contributions. In other words, without China's contributions, the target of reducing half of the impoverished population in the world by 2015 would not have been realized. History has proved that European colonialism and the hegemony of the United States cannot solve the development problems of the Global South because they are at the root of problems. The plunder and oppression of West's colonialism and hegemony have impeded the development of developing countries, meaning the people of these countries have been unable to obtain dignity, alleviate poverty or achieve modernization. If these countries want to develop, they have to explore a new development path.

The Belt and Road Initiative presents a new blueprint for realizing the right to development of developing countries. In September 2013, China's President Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan, where he delivered a speech in which the concept of co-building the Silk Road Economic Belt with Eurasian countries was introduced. The strategic vision he presented was of opening up a major transportation route connecting the Pacific and the Baltic Sea, gradually working toward a transportation network connecting East Asia, West Asia and South Asia. He called for road connectivity, unimpeded trade, monetary circulation and understanding between people to achieve the integration of Eurasian economies.2In October that year, President Xi addressed Indonesia's parliament, appealing to ASEAN countries to cooperate with China to build a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to enhance regional connectivity.3 These two international cooperation initiatives immediately attracted widespread attention after they were unveiled. Later, the Belt and Road Initiative became China's national policy. Through active communication and negotiation with countries along the routes, the Chinese government has promoted practical cooperation with these countries, and it has signed memorandums of understanding with many of them, including memorandums on regional cooperation and cross-border cooperation, as well as medium and long-term economic and trade development plans with some neighboring countries. A series of key cooperation projects have also been launched.

The Belt and Road Initiative points out a realistic path for developing countries to realize the right to development. It focuses on the fundamental issues of development, releases the growth potential of various countries, achieves economic integration and interconnected development, and delivers benefits to all. According to the development experience of countries in the world, infrastructure and foreign trade play a vital role in the development of backward countries. By concentrating on the key point of interconnection, this initiative solves the infrastructure bottleneck problems for development and trade. The interconnection of transport infrastructure first requires the
construction and improvement of railways, highways, airports, ports and other facilities. The interconnection of energy infrastructure includes the construction and maintenance of oil and gas pipelines and cross-border electric power transmission lines. Cross-border optical cables and communication lines have enhanced information connectivity. On the basis of the infrastructure connectivity, countries along the routes are building free trade zones to attract foreign investment to boost their economies.

The success of China's economy is the solid foundation for the Belt and Road Initiative. China is the most successful large economy in the world since the end of the Cold War and its basic experience of economic development derives from reform and opening up, namely, carrying ou t marketization reform while integrating itself into the global economy. A prerequisite for its success has been its participation in globalization. Another is China has attached importance to its own infrastructure construction. China has carried out a forward-looking infrastructure development strategy. When its economy was underdeveloped, it invested resources to build infrastructure related to transport, energy, communication and water conservancy, greatly pushing forward the economy. In essence, the Belt and Road Initiative is to spread the successful Chinese experience to help more countrie s achieve prosperity.

Ⅱ. The Belt and Road Initiative Serves as a Model for South-South Cooperation to Promote Development

With the principle of joint construction and shared benefits, the Belt and Road Initiative proposes that countries along the routes should carry out cooperation on the basis of mutual benefits and win-win results, accommodate the interests and concerns of various parties, and seek the largest converging interests and common ground for cooperation. Its goal is to enlarge the investment and trade activities among these countries, promote regional economic integration, push forward economic development and realize common prosperity by constructing infrastructure that links the Eurasian Continent with the surrounding seas. To achieve this goal, China has made great efforts and invested huge amounts of money. For example, Chinese enterprises have established 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in over 20 countries along the routes.4 China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and invested US$40 billion in founding the Silk Road Fund.5 It has also provided another RMB780 billion for the infrastructure construction, production capacity and financial cooperation relating to the Belt and Road Initiative.6

On May 14, 2017, China held the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The Forum's joint communiqué pointed out the direction for future cooperation and drew up a roadmap for advancing the Initiative. The 29 participating countries all extended support for the rolling out of the Belt and Road Initiative and agreed that they should strengthen infrastructure connectivity, the consistency of regulations, and boost the number of people-to-people exchanges. They set the goals of greatly improving economic growth, trade and investment, and put forward industrial cooperation, science and technology innovation and regional economic integration as the means to achieve this. All participating countries have made the following commitments: to pursue dialogue and consultation in order to build synergies among their development strategies; to conduct in-depth consultations on macroeconomic issues to provide robust policy support for practical cooperation and the implementation of major projects; and to promote practical cooperation on the construction of roads, railways, ports, maritime and inland water transportation, aviation, energy pipelines, electric power transmission, fiber optic cables, including transoceanic cables, telecommunications and information technology. They welcomed the development of interconnected multimodal corridors, such us a new Eurasian Land Bridge, Northern Sea Route, the East-West Middle Corridor, etc., so th at in time an international infrastructure network can be created; maximizing synergies in infrastructure planning and development by taking into account international standards where applicable, and by harmonizing rules and technological standards when necessary, increasing two-way investment, and enhancing cooperation in emerging industries, trade and industrial parks and cross-border economic zones. They are also jointly working on a long-term, stable and sustainable financing system; promoting openness and connectivity among financial markets; promoting people-to-people exchanges and bonds and encouraging dialogue among civilizations and cultural exchanges.7 Thus, the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China has been fully accepted.

The Belt and Road Initiative has already proved fruitful. First, the policy of connectivity has been deepened. Over the four years since the Initiative was first proposed, China has coordinated policies and connected development strategies and development plans with ASEAN, Cambodia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. In all, China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organizations and carried out production capacity cooperation with more than 30 countries. China has also signed bilateral and regional maritime transport agreements with nearly 50 countries along the routes, and bilateral inter-governmental air transport agreements with over 60 countries, opening direct civil aviation flights to and from over 40 countries. Second, infrastructure connectivity has been enhanced, and a large number of connectivity projects are in the pipeline, such as the construction of China-Laos Railway, the Hungary-Serbia Railway, the China-Russia High-speed Railway, the Jakarta-Bandung High-speed Railway in Indonesia, the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway in Pakistan, KKH Phase-II (Thakot to Havellian Section), the ports of Piraeus and Hambantota, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, the north-south TKU (Taldykorgan-Kalbatau-Ust-Kamenogorsk) Highway in Kazakhstan, the electrification of railways in Belarus, the China-Russia Crude Oil Pipeline, the China-Central Asia Natural Gas Pipelines A/B/C/D, the China-Russia Natural Gas Pipelines East Line, and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Nowadays, a multi-dimensional infrastructure network is taking shape, one that is underpinned by economic corridors such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and the New Eurasian Continental Bridge, featuring land-sea-air transportation routes and information expressways and supported by major railway, port and pipeline projects. Third, trade connectivity has been increased. In 2016, the total trade between China and other Belt and Road countries reached US$947.8 billion and the total services reached US$122.2 billion. From 2014 to 2016, the total trade between China and these countries exceeded US$3 trillion, and China's investment in these countries was more than US$50 billion over that period. With a total investment of over US$18.5 billion, Chinese companies have set up 56 economic cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating som e US$1.1 billion in tax revenues and 180,000 local jobs. China has signed bilateral investment agreements with 53 countries and agreements on avoidance of double taxation with 54 countries, and established economic, tradeand investment cooperation promotion mechanisms with most countries along the routes. Fourth, financial connectivity has been expanded. The AIIB and the Silk Road Fund have begun investing in projects. The AIIB has provided US$1.7 billion in loans for energy, transport and urban development projects in Indonesia, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Silk Road Fund has agreed 15 projects and promised to invest nearly US$6 billion in Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and other regions, covering infrastructure, resource utilization, production capacity cooperation and financial cooperation. The fund has also provided US$2 billion to set up the China-Kazakhstan Production Capacity Cooperation Fund. Additionally, China's financial institutions have strengthened the financial support they are providing the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past four years, China Development Bank has signed more than 100 projects with countries along the routes, worth over US$40 billion with US$30 billion in loans. The Export-Import Bank of China has signed more than 1100 projects, worth over US$100 billion with US$80 billion in loans. The China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation has underwritten national exports and investments worth over US$3 20 billion. China has signed currency swap agreements with 22 countries totaling RMB982.2 billion. Fifth, people-to-people connectivity has been strengthened. Over the past four years, China and countries along the Belt and Road routes have co-hosted 20 people-to-people activities, including National Culture Years, and China has signed 43 cultural exchange plans and other inter-government agreements, including 46 inter-government scientific and technological cooperation agreements. Every year, the Chinese government provides 10,000 government scholarships to Belt and Road countries. China has signed visa exemption agreements covering various types of visas with 55 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, the Philippines and Serbia, and it has reached 19 agreements and arrangements o n streamlined visa processes with 15 countries, including Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic and Nepal, and Chinese visitors have been grante d unilateral visa-free entry o r visa on arrival by 22 countries, including the UAE, Iran and Thailand. 8

Ⅲ. The Belt and Road Initiative will Greatly Promote the Right to Development of Countries Along the Routes

As the sponsor of the Belt and Road Initiative, China has made great efforts to implement the Initiative. Since it was put forward, Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, have visited regions countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, to promote the Initiative. Through close communication and negotiation with countries along the routes, the Chinese government has promoted practical cooperation with these countries, signed Belt and Road Initiative Memorandums with many of them, such as memorandums of understanding on regional cooperation and cross-border cooperation as well as medium and longterm economic and trade development plans with some neighboring countries. In 2015, China established the Steering Group for the Belt and Road Initiative to coordinate relevant plans and their implementation and set up a Steering Group Office i n the National Development and Reform Commission. In the same year, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce jointly issued Joining Hands to Build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road – Vision and Actions, which expounds the goals and implementation methods for the Initiative. On May 14, 2017, China held the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, in which over 130 countries and 70 international organizations participated to discuss relevant plans.

According to t he List of Deliverables of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, during the forum, governments and enterprises from different countries and regions explored a series of cooperation consensuses, important measures and practical results, including 76 items comprising more than 270 concrete results in five key areas, namely policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity. At th e parallel conference on policy connectivity, relevant parties signed 32 bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements, as well as enterprise cooperation projects relating to 18 countries and eight international organizations. At the parallel conference on trade connectivity, the Ministry of Commerce of China and the relevant agencies of more than 60 countries and international organizations jointly issued the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation along the Belt and Road. All participants agreed that it is necessary to promote unimpeded trade cooperation to realize more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable economic globalization. President Xi Jinping also announced that Shanghai will host the first China International Import Expo in 2018. Additionally, at the parallel conference on financial connectivity, the Ministry of Finance of China signed Memorandums of Understanding on Matters of Common Interest under the Belt and Road Initiative with the World Bank Group and five other multilateral development organizations.9

Since the Belt and Ro ad Forum for International Cooperation, China has further strengthened the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative by contributing an additional RMB100 billion to the Silk Road Fund and encouraging financial institutions to conduct overseas RMB fund business with an estimated amount of about RMB300 billion. The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China have set up special lending schemes worth RMB250 billion equivalent and RMB130 billion equivalent respectively to support Belt and Road cooperation on infrastructure, production capacity and financing. In the coming three years, China will provide assistance worth RMB60 billion to developing countries and international organizations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to launch more projects to improve people's well-being. It will provide emergency food aid worth RMB2 billion to developing countries along the Belt and Road routes and make an additional contribution of US$1 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation. China has also launched the 100 "happy home" projects, 100 poverty alleviation projects and 100 healthcare and rehabilitation projects in countries along the routes. It is also providing relevant international organizations with US$1 billion to implement cooperation projects that will benefit countries along the routes. In the next five years, China will offer 2,500 short-term research visits to China for young foreign scientists, train 5,000 foreign scientists, engineers and managers, and set up 50 joint laboratories. Furthermore, China will put in place the following mechanisms to boost Belt and Road cooperation: a liaison office for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation follow-up activities, the Research Center for the Belt and Road Financial and Economic Development, a Facilitating Center for Building the Belt and Road, and other agencies. It will hold the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2019.10

The Belt and Road Initiative has clear goals and paths. With China's economic success, this initiative is highly creditable. More important, China has the strong political will, sufficient financial resources and advanced technologies to carry out the Initiative. The Belt and Road Initiative has been well received because it has provided great development opportunities for countries along the route. Thus, with the joint efforts of China and relevant countries, the Belt and Road Initiative will significantly promote the right to development of countries along the route.

(Translated by LI Man)

* LI Yunlong ( 李云龙 ), Professor of Institute for International Strategies Studies, Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C.
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