Key documents unveiled at the opening of China’s annual parliament on Saturday spelt out the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which occupies pride of place in President Xi Jinping’s ambitious idea of placing his country at the epicentre of a connected world.
The government work report released by Premier Li Keqiang and a separate report from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) focussed on the central role of BRI in China’s outlook in the coming years. Mention of BRI was placed under the category “Opening Up”.
The BRI, proposed by Xi in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt which links China with Europe through central and western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road connecting China with Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe.
“We will promote domestic regional development and opening up and international cooperation…to build overland economic corridors, maritime cooperation hubs and promote connectivity, economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchange,” Li said in the work report.
The government, he said, will also promote the development of border economic cooperation zones and cross-border economic cooperation zones.
“Work was coordinated to develop the China-Europe freight train routes along which 815 trips were made in 2015, taking the total number of trips to more than 1200,” the NDRC said.
The reports did not mention how much money will be allocated to the BRI in coming years. But clearly finance will not be a problem as official news agency Xinhua reported on Thursday.
“It is supported financially by the (China-initiated) Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which has an authorised capital of $100 billion, and the $40-billion Silk Road Fund,” the report said.
India continues to maintain diplomatic distance from the BRI, saying it will join the initiative where there is connectivity synergy.
“Connectivity should diffuse national rivalries, not add to regional tensions,” foreign secretary S Jaishankar said at a recent meet on geopolitics in New Delhi.