Since the proposal of the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative in 2013, interconnection among the countries along the B&R routes has achieved practical progress and new breakthroughs.
STRENGTHENED POLITICAL TRUST
Policy coordination is not only of great significance in the B&R construction, but also an essential prerequisite for countries along the routes to achieve mutual benefit and win-win results. International conferences, such as the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, G20 Hangzhou Summit and Boao Forum for Asia, have served as vital platforms for China's high-level exchanges with those B&R countries.
Over the past five years, China has remarkably improved the diplomatic relations with 30 countries along the B&R routes, including Tajikistan, Hungary, Israel, Ethiopia, Madagascar and so on. In 2017, 50 cooperation agreements under the B&R framework were signed, accounting for nearly half of the total number of diplomatic agreements signed in the past five years.
Big data shows that 88 joint statements or communiqués have been signed between China and 44 countries along the B&R routes from the proposal of the initiative in 2013 to April in 2018. Under the support of more optimized policies, China has cooperated with more countries in a wider scope.
FASTER RECOVERY OF FOREIGN TRADE
In the past five years, China and other countries along the B&R routes have been continuously expanding trade scale and strengthening cooperation.
Statistics show that China's trade and investment with countries along the B&R routes have maintained strong momentum, with the total trade volume rising to 6975.623 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 from that in 2013. The trade growth with relevant countries was faster than the overall growth of China's foreign trade, becoming a major driving force to promote China's foreign trade to recover at a faster pace.
According to statistics, China mainly exports electromechanical products to the countries along the B&R routes, while imports electrical equipment and fossil fuels from those countries. Private enterprises are the main force in the trade between China and B&R countries, contributing 43 percent to the trade volume.
The trade between Central Asia and China enjoys the fastest growth in 2017. The growth rates of imports and exports between China and other countries like Qatar, Montenegro, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan all exceeded 35 percent in 2017, making these areas the focus of future trade cooperation.
BOOMING INFRASTRUCTURE CONSTRUCTION
As interconnection acts as the "artery" linking the B&R participants, facilities connectivity is the priority on the development agenda of the B&R. Since the launch of the initiative five years ago, China and other countries along the B&R routes have conducted effective cooperation in the construction of ports, railways, highways, power stations, aviation and telecommunications, which has greatly improved infrastructure facilities in these countries and yielded amazing results.
Statistics indicate that by far China has established ship routes with more than 600 major ports in over 200 countries around the world. Shipping services have widely stretched out to all coastal countries along the B&R routes.
Railway interconnection between China and the B&R countries has also performed well. In 2017, export volume saw the highest growth rate when railway serves as the transportation mode, registering a year-on-year increase of 34.5 percent.
By the end of August, the number of operational China-Europe freight trains had exceeded 10,000, running from 48 Chinese cities to 42 cities in 14 European countries.
In civil aviation, China has signed air transport agreements with eight countries along the B&R routes and bilateral inter-governmental air transport agreements with 62 B&R countries, realizing direct flight to 45 countries with about 5,100 flights every week.
INCREASINGLY IMPROVED FINANCING SYSTEM
In the past five years, development banks and policy banks have offered great support for the B&R construction.
As of the end of July, the membership of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) had grown to 87, 60 percent of which belong to the B&R countries. AIIB has approved investment for projects worth over 5.3 billion U.S. dollars.
The Silk Road Fund, established by China with a total investment of 40 billion U.S. dollars, received a capital increase of 100 billion yuan last May. The fund has signed agreements with 19 projects worth 80 billion U.S. dollars and promised to invest 7 billion U.S. dollars.
To further facilitate financial cooperation, Chinese-funded banks have accelerated overseas expansion. They have set up 102 branches in 24 countries, mostly in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. In addition, the RMB Cross-border Interbank Payment System has covered 165 banks in 40 countries along the B&R routes, including Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.
ABUNDANT ACHIEVEMENTS IN TOURISM AND OVERSEAS STUDY
The B&R has gained strong support thanks to the enhanced people-to-people exchanges.
Data shows that the number of sister-city ties between Chinese cities and their counterparts in other B&R countries had totaled 1,023 as of the end of April, accounting for 40.18 percent of the total number.
In 2017, the two-way tourism between China and the countries along the B&R routes witnessed 60 million tourists.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that the number of Chinese students studying abroad exceeded 600,000 for the first time in 2017, a number rising continuously.
China has established 17 national cultural centers, 173 Confucius Institutes and 184 Confucius classrooms in B&R countries, taking up about a quarter of the total Confucius Institutes and classrooms worldwide.
In addition, Chinese travelers now enjoy visa exemption and landing visa service in 29 B&R countries and mutual visa exemption policy in United Arab Emirates and Serbia.