BRI still running strong with more good news to come
Thomas W. Pauken II
Visitor visits Italian food booth at the 6th Silk Road International Exposition in Xi'an, northwestern Shaanxi Province, August 14, 2022. /Xinhua

Visitor visits Italian food booth at the 6th Silk Road International Exposition in Xi'an, northwestern Shaanxi Province, August 14, 2022. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Thomas W. Pauken II is the author of "U.S. vs China: From Trade War to Reciprocal Deal," and a consultant on Asia-Pacific affairs and geopolitical commentator. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The city of Xi'an, the provincial capital of Shaanxi Province in northwestern China, is hosting the 6th Silk Road International Exposition this week from August 14 to 18, to highlight the amazing success story of China's Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). The Chinese government remains committed to the BRI, along with its partnerships that are encompassing the New Silk Road networks.

Although the global economy is headed for serious headwinds this year and next, China is still a major driver of growth for multinationals and international companies. Many of them are hoping to tap into the BRI in search of greater opportunities.

Accordingly, the expo in Xi'an has attracted participants from over 70 countries and regions, which also demonstrates that the Western Powers, United States, United Kingdom and European Union, have stumbled in their efforts to contain China on the world stage.

There's a new geopolitical shift from a unipolar to a multi-polar world and that's placing China and countries from the Emerging Markets in stronger positions, since many of them are so rich in natural resources.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank headquarters Beijing, April 23, 2022. /CFP

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank headquarters Beijing, April 23, 2022. /CFP

Booming BRI trade figures

The BRI has proven to be very successful. Li Fei, an assistant to China's commerce minister told Xinhua news agency that from 2013 to 2021, the total volume of trade of goods between China and BRI countries had nearly hit 11 trillion U.S. dollars, while two-way investment exceeded 230 billion dollars.

As of the end of 2021, China set up 79 zones for economic and trade cooperation in 24 nations leading to investments at over $43 billion, as well as creating more than 346,000 local jobs.

Let the numbers speak for themselves but there's far more to this story. The BRI is a real game-changer for not only China but for the developing nations that stand very eager to pursue rapid development and to accelerate their industrialization, urbanization and modernization drives.

Impoverished communities deserve opportunities to eradicate poverty and they best can achieve this by building vital infrastructure.

Nevertheless, many developing nations lack sufficient capital, finance mechanisms, equipment and experts to move forward on plans to construct infrastructure that can pave the path for opening up more factories, office buildings and retail shops.

Therefore, China has set up the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) to provide easier funding methods for its BRI members.

It's also important to take note that Xi'an hosting the expo has tremendous historic and cultural significance. The Chinese megacity, present-day population at around 13 million, was founded over 1,300 years ago, formerly known as Chang'an and the imperial capital city of the Tang Dynasty (613-907).

It was the hub Chinese city for the ancient Silk Road, when Chinese and Persian merchants traded goods and it opened up China to the Western world.

Xi'an stands tall as a beacon for the BRI, while this year's expo is expected to focus on the theme, "strengthening interconnectivity and integration for common progress, shared benefits and win-win results."

Adapting to changing global business trends

The BRI holds key advantages for its member states. The infrastructure projects serve a pragmatic value. Countries can move forward on building news roads, known as hard infrastructure or they could pursue more development in what's considered to be soft infrastructure. This would entail funding more support for information communications’ technologies (ICT).

Accordingly, the Digital Silk Road (DSR) was launched in 2015 to boost cross-border e-commerce, smart cities, telemedicine and internet finance while speeding up upgrades in computing big data, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing, as disclosed in media reports.

Chinese technology firms and fintech investors have expanded their global reach by working more closely with BRI member states. And this would explain why countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) hold crucial ties with Beijing.

The GCC, especially Saudi Arabia, have plenty of capital as they hold an abundance of oil & gas reserves. Yet, they seek to diversify their economic structure amid the rising popularity for renewables and more countries are shifting away from an over-reliance on fossil fuels. Riyadh believes that deeper investments in the DSR can help the country to modernize for even bigger profits

Global cooperation gives hope

In ancient times, Xi'an had vibrant trade relations with the Arab nations. The city served as a corridor where the East meets the West. The 6th Silk Road International Exposition serves as a fitting reminder for why trade isolationism can be doomed for failure. Companies can profit from cooperation, not malicious obstructionism.

Long ago, the Chinese and Persian civilizations were starkly divergent by their cultural, philosophical and social beliefs. Nonetheless, they were good trading partners as they refused to allow their differences to prevent them from communicating and trading with each other.

Let's hope that the Western Powers can embrace the grand spirit of the ancient Silk Road in today's times and see Xi'an as a symbol for seeking consensus to ensure more prosperity for all.

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