China says Belt and Road cooperation has not paused despite COVID-19

The “pause button” has not been pressed on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday.

Addressing the Asia and Pacific High-level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation, Wang said cooperation under the initiative has progressed against the headwind of the pandemic, hailing its strong resilience and vitality.

Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.

Wang noted that 140 countries have signed cooperation agreements with China under the BRI over the past eight years. The aggregated trade volume between China and its BRI cooperative partners has exceeded $9.2 trillion and Chinese companies have made direct investment totaling over $130 billion in countries along the Belt and Road, he added.

The BRI has become the most extensive and largest-scale platform for international cooperation, bringing huge opportunities and benefits to countries across the world, he said.

Equal, inclusive, green

Relevant parties under the BRI have been committed to consultation on an equal footing, Wang said, adding that every cooperative partner is equal regardless of the size of its economy. No political conditions have been imposed on participants in the initiative, he stressed.

Wang underscored the principles of win-win cooperation, openness and inclusiveness of the BRI. Although the initiative originated in China, it brings opportunities and benefits to all participants, he said.

The BRI is an open platform where all parties join hands to progress, not an exclusive club with high barriers, he said. Different systems and civilizations coexist under the initiative, which does not have ideological prejudices, he added.

Describing the BRI as an innovative and progressive initiative, Wang said its participants have been making efforts to build a Health Silk Road to tackle the pandemic, a Green Silk Road to facilitate low-carbon transformation, a Digital Silk Road for the digital era, and a Road of Poverty Reduction to narrow the gap of development.

He outlined China’s proposals for high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, including deepening international cooperation on COVID-19 vaccines, further strengthening interconnectivity, promoting cooperation on green development, and advancing free trade in the region and worldwide.

The Asia-Pacific region is a highland of development and cooperation, not a “geopolitical chessboard,” he stressed.

Leaders and diplomats from 29 countries attended the video conference. An initiative on Belt and Road vaccine cooperation partnership and an initiative on green development partnership were released at the meeting.

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