Belt and Road partners register 1,786 projects

China and partner countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative are committed to develop port-related industries, as well as marine manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture and finance services for sustained growth, leading officials from the partner countries said on Tuesday.

The modern Maritime Silk Road begins in the major port cities of Fujian and Guangdong provinces and heads south into the Southeast Asia. From the Strait of Malacca, it then turns west to South Asia, the Persian Gulf region and Europe, according to a blueprint drawn up by China and ASEAN members in 2014.

Li Yong, director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, said as most of these regions have long coastlines and major regional ports, the Maritime Silk Road will help link major port centers like Xiamen, Shenzhen, Singapore and Dubai, as well as develop new regional hubs like Colombo and Djibouti.

“From a long-term perspective, the Maritime Silk Road will fully support trade, governmental and private investment, industrial productivity and the service sector,” said Li.

The initiative shows China’s willingness to further open up to the outside world and its intention to engage in cooperation on an equal footing with partner economies on country-to-country and regional levels, as well as promoting cultural exchanges between the parties concerned.

Zhang Yuzhong, deputy director of the investment promotion agency under the Ministry of Commerce, said regional connectivity has become a top priority for China and its trading partners on the modern Maritime Silk Road, with Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates already upgrading their port facilities, shipping services, pipelines, manufacturing structure and maritime telecommunications.

Participating countries have already purchased a large number of commodities, goods and natural resources from each other, as well as sealed infrastructure project deals with Chinese companies to build a better foundation for regional connectivity.

New figures from the Ministry of Commerce show that projects linked to the Belt and Road Initiative accounted for nearly half of all overseas deals by Chinese companies between January and July this year.

There were 1,786 projects registered as associated with the economic initiative, or 44.9 percent of the total number of projects abroad.

Collectively the deals were worth some $49.44 billion, 39.6 percent more than the total for the first seven months of 2014.

Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive of Bahrain Economic Development Board, said as the first nation to undertake petroleum exploration in the Gulf region and the first to diversify its economy away from oil, Bahrain now hopes to boost its economy through the financial sector, tourism, information and communication technologies, and foreign investment.

“The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative will help members of the Gulf Cooperation Council accelerate the pace to diversify economic development models and gain foreign investment,” said Al Rumaihi.

Bilateral trade between China and Bahrain, excluding oil, totaled $1.98 billion last year from $890 million in 2009.

It has already imported more products from China than from any other country.

Al Rumaihi said there are also many opportunities for Chinese companies to be involved in the several new large infrastructure projects that are coming up in Bahrain.

Bahrain will invest $22 billion in new infrastructure projects over the next decade, including the modernization project for the Bahrain International Airport, expansion of the Aluminum Bahrain smelter, real estate and tourism investment projects in Durrat Al Bahrain and Al Jazair Beach, and facility modernization projects owned by Bahrain Petroleum Co.

(China Daily 09/09/2015 page17)