Belt and Road miracles in number in 2017
Author: CSEBA / Xinhua
4th January 2018
BEIJING - The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in the autumn of 2013, was aimed to draw on the strength of each country to pursue a joint development through enhancing international cooperation and increasing the complementarity between national strategies.

Over the past four years, the Belt and Road Initiative has developed to a relatively large scale, demonstrating its progress and achievement beyond expectation.

Every year, significant progress is seen in the Belt and Road construction. Again, there were miracles in numbers achieved in the Belt and Road construction in 2017.

The Initiative has in the past year responded to more calls for openness, inclusiveness, innovative growth, and freer and fairer trade at multilateral forums such as the World Economic Forum, G20 summit and BRICS summit.

Its prospect charmed over 1,500 representatives from over 130 countries and 70 international organizations and effected the signing of close to 70 agreements at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in May, a milestone marking a new implementation phase for the Initiative.

With policy support from the Chinese leadership on top of confidence built on China's steady growth, the Initiative has this year convinced more onlookers and skeptics than ever before. Notably, in November over 250 Japanese business leaders showed interest in playing a role in the Initiative's grand narrative.

The infrastructure plan received a vote of confidence in December when the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a major source of funding for the Initiative, expanded in less than two years to a broader geographical area represented by 84 member countries and regions, up from its founding 57.

According to the statistics from China Railway Corporation, by late October of 2017, 57 China-Europe rail lines have been launched from 35 Chinese cities to 34 cities in 12 European countries. More than 6,000 China-Europe express trains were dispatched in total.

It took four years and seven months to dispatch the first 1,000 trains, whereas for the sixth 1,000 trains, it only cost 2 months. While running on an irregular schedule in the beginning, the China-Europe express is now operated on a regular basis.

A lot of local media and people expressed a positive attitude towards the China-Europe railway that China could help the cities along the rail line improve activeness globally, and at the same time boost development in economy, trade, culture and tourism for these countries.

Since the remarkable reductions in transportation time and logistics cost are relatively more attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises along the railroad, more companies will choose China-Europe railway express as their choice of transportation.

China registered total goods imports and exports of 25.14 trillion yuan in the first 11 months of 2017, up by 15.6 percent year on year, including exports of 13.85 trillion yuan and imports of 11.29 trillion yuan, up by 11.6 percent and 20.9 percent year on year respectively; and trade surplus was 2.56 trillion yuan, down by 16.7 percent year on year, according to customs data.

From January to November in 2017, China made a cumulative non-financial direct investment of 107.55 billion U.S. dollars in 5,796 enterprises in 174 countries and regions across the globe, down by 33.5 percent year on year, with irrational overseas investment effectively curbed.

The trade volume between China and the countries related to the Belt Road Initiative has reached more than 25 percent of China's total foreign trade volume. In Zhejiang province, export-oriented enterprises gradually reduce their reliance on developed countries such as the Europe and the U.S. The top three trade partners have been changed from the EU, the U.S. and Japan to the EU, the U.S. and the ASEAN. What’s more, the economic and trade cooperation with the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe has also grown tremendously.

Outward investment has also fueled foreign trade growth. Chinese enterprises have constructed 75 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones along the Belt and Road. Data show that 3,412 Chinese enterprises have moved into these zones, with their taxes paid to the host country totaling 2.21 billion U.S. dollars and 209,000 new jobs being created for the locals.

Since the beginning of this year, China has continued to advance the supply-side structural reform and implemented the strategy of innovation-driven development, laying a solid foundation for foreign trade development.

China announced the decision to add another 100 billion yuan to the Silk Road Fund in May 2017. This move has further improved the Silk Road Fund's capability of providing sustainable multi-currency funds for the Belt and Road construction. Up until now, 17 project contracts have been signed under the Silk Road Fund, with an investment of around 7 billion dollars on the schedule. In the future, the fund will take further steps to diversify currency types for investment and financing.

The countries related to the Belt and Road Initiative own 40 percent of the world's population and contribute about 16 percent of the world's GDP. Their total cross-border e-commerce trade volume (B2B-export volume) accounts for 12.5 percent of world's total cross-border e-commerce volume.

In different regions, Eastern Europe holds a large share of 72 percent in the Belt and Road digital trade market. On the one hand, Eastern Europe is superior to the other countries along the Belt and Road in economy and infrastructure, and highly accepts digital trade; on the other hand, digital trade in Eastern Europe have been further boosted due to the rapid development of the cross-border e-commerce and deep cooperation on economy and bilateral trade between China, Russia and Ukraine.

In addition, at the 4th World Internet Conference held in December, China, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey and the UAE jointly launched an initiative to strengthen cooperation on digital economy, which marks a new charter for cooperation on the Belt and Road digital economy.

Transactions in the RMB have become more and more convenient whether for tourism or trade. The RMB is playing an increasingly important role on the world stage.

According to the 2017 RMB Internationalization Report released by the central bank of China, the RMB secured its status as the second-largest currency in China's cross-border receipts and payments, and the internationalization of the RMB is progressing steadily.

"The inclusion of the RMB into the SDR basket marks the internationalization of the RMB steps into a new stage," according to the central bank. With the continuous rise in the international status of the RMB, the international acceptance of the RMB will be increased constantly, and other countries will be more likely to hold the RMB as a reserve currency in their central bank and monetary authorities.

The central bank also added that the international use of the RMB will be further popularized and the channels widened. In this context, the scale of RMB bonds held by overseas institutions has exceeded 1 trillion yuan in September of 2017, according to the latest data released by the China Securities Depository and Clearing Co., Ltd. and the Shanghai Clearing House.

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