Executive Intelligence Review


Chinese Commerce Minister Presents Status Report on BRI to ‘Two Sessions’

March 12, 2018 (EIRNS)—Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on March 11 spoke to the media at the “Two Sessions” of the 13th National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC), answering many questions, but featured the world impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and plans for development in Africa.

Overall, Zhong said that more than 140 countries have participated in or responded to the initiative since it was proposed five years ago, reported Xinhua. In 2017, trade volume between China and countries along the BRI amounted to 7.4 trillion yuan (about $1.2 trillion), surging 17.8% year on year, outpacing the 14.2% increase in China’s total foreign trade last year, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Feb. 28. Zhong also reported that China’s outbound direct investment registered a sharp 29.4% drop to about $120 billion, because the government cracked down on speculative investments in property, sports and entertainment.

Zhong made five points about the Belt and Road:

  1. It is a new, world infrastructure platform. Of special note, Shanghai will host in November the first-ever conference of the China International Import Expo, which has 150,000 business attendees registered; it is already 20% overbooked.

  2. New innovation centers planned for the BRI will be “shining pearls” on the Silk Road string of pearls.

  3. E-commerce will be furthered along the BRI corridors, involving big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence services.

  4. Trade and investment will benefit by liberalization through the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

  5. Major foreign assistance measures, as President Xi Jinping has called for, will be conducted, such as the Happy Home Projects, the Anti-Poverty Projects, and Health Projects.

Zhong made three points about the Belt and Road and Africa:

  1. The BRI will be aligned with the African Union and other multilateral, regional programs.

  2. Africa’s ability to grow “by itself” will be furthered by projects for job creation and poverty alleviation.

  3. Coordination will be enhanced between national ministries and third parties, to mobilize the resources for poverty alleviation.

On the question of developing China’s trading potential, he said,

“We are big but not strong enough. We aim to stabilize our position as a big trading nation by 2020; transform into a strong trading country by 2035, and finally become an economic and trade giant by 2050.”