Appraising the Second Belt and Road Forum


By Guan Zhongqi

From April 25 to 27, 2019, the Second BRF was successfully held in Beijing. This year’s forum is themed on Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future. The forum includes the opening ceremony, the Leaders’ Roundtable, the high-level meeting, 12 thematic forums, and a CEO conference. 40 leaders attended the roundtable, including heads of state and government from 38 countries including China, United Nations (UN) Secretary General and Managing Director the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Over 6,000 foreign guests from 150 countries and 92 international organizations participated in the forum.

During the forum, President Xi Jinping attended the opening ceremony of the second BRF and delivered a keynote speech. He chaired the whole Leaders’ Roundtable and held bilateral meetings with leaders of participating countries. The participating parties had an in-depth exchange of views on the Belt and Road cooperation and widely saw the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a great opportunity. They reached broad consensus on high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, delivering substantial results. The consensus and outcomes are reflected in the Joint Communique adopted unanimously at the Leaders’ Roundtable and in the List of Deliverables compiled and released by the Chinese side as the host country.

The forum is the most important diplomatic event China hosted in 2019. President Xi Jinping has comprehensively introduced the outcomes of the forum from the political height of a leader at the media briefing. There are six major outcome highlights summarized from President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech, the Joint Communique of the Leaders’ Roundtable, and the List of Deliverables:

First, set the goal of jointly promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation as the direction of cooperation. President Xi Jinping stressed in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony on promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation based on the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, pursuing open, green and clean cooperation, and sticking to high-standard, people-centered, and sustainable development. These concepts were included in the Joint Communique of the Leaders’ Roundtable as an international consensus. The broadened and enriched vision of the Belt and Road cooperation will guide the participating parties to better paint the exquisite picture and enable the Belt and Road cooperation to widely benefit people from different countries.


Second, promote a global partnership of connectivity to promote interconnected development. President Xi Jinping stressed that connectivity is vital to advancing the Belt and Road cooperation. We need to promote a global partnership of connectivity to achieve common development. Participating parties have widely supported the idea and agreed to promote all-round connectivity, develop high-quality, sustainable, resilient, affordable, and inclusively accessible infrastructure, and improve the “soft connectivity” of policies, rules and standards among countries based on the partnerships and multilateralism spirit. All parties look forward to deepening cooperation with the Chinese side, and support effective synergy between the BRI and the development strategies of the participating countries, and regional and international development agendas. So far, 127 countries and 29 international organizations have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with the Chinese side. During the forum this year, relevant countries and international organizations also signed over 100 multilateral and bilateral cooperation documents with the Chinese side in fields including transportation, taxation, trade, auditing, science and technology, culture, think tank, and media. Some countries and international financial institutions signed third-party market cooperation documents with the Chinese side. These are all significant contributions to promoting a global partnership of connectivity.

Third, achieve substantial and practical outcomes to reflect mutual benefit and win-win results. As the host country, the Chinese side has put together a list of 283 concrete deliverables reached by the participating parties. China signed a series of inter-governmental agreements of practical cooperation . All parties jointly proposed and established a national standards information platform among the Belt and Road partner countries, the Belt and Road South-South cooperation initiative on climate change, and other cooperation mechanisms. Enterprises of various countries reached a large number of agreements on production capacity and investment cooperation projects. During the forum, all parties released a series of high-quality cooperation initiatives and reports. The BRF Advisory Council consisting of internationally renowned experts submitted the Report on the Findings and Recommendations. It analyses the positive influence of the Belt and Road cooperation on strengthening connectivity, promoting the world economic growth, and implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and puts forward policy suggestions on future priorities in Belt and Road cooperation and BRF’s direction. These deliverables reflect the trends of our times and epitomize the win-win cooperation of the BRI.

Fourth, build new platforms for the matchup of local governments and the industrial and commercial communities to broaden cooperation opportunities. The CEO conference was an innovative arrangement of the second BRF. Attendants totaling over 800 are government officials from more than 80 countries and regions, representatives from international organizations, institutions and chambers of commerce and associations, and internationally famous entrepreneurs from China and overseas. With the matchup and talks of Chinese and foreign enterprises, cooperation agreements worth over 64 billion USD were signed, proving the massive business opportunities presented by the BRI. Enterprises from the countries came with strong willingness for cooperation and left with substantial cooperation fruits. Local cooperation thematic forums were also held for the first time during the forum this year, where Chinese local governments conducted a series of practical cooperation with local governments and enterprises of relevant countries, launching many cooperation projects with driving forces .

Fifth, improve the Belt and Road cooperation architecture to build supporting mechanisms. The participating parties have highly acclaimed the influence of the BRF and look forward to future forums. It is explicitly stated in the Joint Communique of the Leaders’ Roundtable that the participants envisage the forum to be held on regular basis with possible follow-up events. During the forum this year, apart from the bilateral and tripartite cooperation, all parties also proposed and established over 20 platforms for Belt and Road multilateral dialogues and cooperation on the China-Europe Railway Express, ports, finance, customs, accounting, taxation, energy, environmental protection, culture, think tank, and media etc., including the establishment of the Maritime Silk Road Port Cooperation Mechanism, the International Coalition for Green Development on the Belt and Road, the Alliance of International Science Organizations in the Belt and Road Region, and the Belt and Road Studies Network. The Belt and Road international cooperation architecture led by the BRF and underpinned by multilateral and bilateral cooperation in various areas has been shaped.

Sixth, give play to the leading role of head-of-state diplomacy to deepen bilateral relations. The participating countries have all maintained friendly relations with China. They are all partners of the Belt and Road cooperation. During the forum, President Xi Jinping hosted state activities for the visiting foreign leaders and held dozens of bilateral meetings with all of them. As a leader, he has consolidated the friendship between China and the participating countries and deepened our cooperation in this process. It’s fair to say that the BRF has promoted not only the Belt and Road cooperation, but also China’s bilateral ties with the participating countries.

Such tangible outcomes show that the Belt and Road cooperation has attracted more and more friends and partners, and witnessed more and more in-depth cooperation. With the vision, mechanisms and measures, the Belt and Road cooperation will be stable and sustainable. Widely supported by the participating parties with their wisdom and efforts, the BRF will continue to contribute more to the Belt and Road cooperation and to promoting our major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

The significance of the second BRF is mainly in three aspects:

First, the forum takes a clear-cut stand in upholding the main theme of building an open world economy. The world economy lacks fresh impetus for growth, and sees rising protectionism and unilateralism. Under this background, the BRF pools consensus, and gives full play to the wisdom and strength from all parties to address global challenges. President Xi Jinping clearly stated in his keynote speech that the flow of goods, capital, technology and people will power economic growth and create broad space for it. However, were such inflow to be cut, the ocean, however big, would eventually dry up. His words got positive response from all sides. Leaders from all sides also demonstrated their clear attitudes against protectionism and unilateralism, and reached political consensus on vigorously promoting connectivity, tapping into the driving force of economic growth, and promoting sustainable development. The Joint Communique of the Leaders’ Roundtable clearly proposes promoting trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and supporting an open, inclusive and rule-based multilateral trading system. The platforms set up by all sides for multilateral dialogue and cooperation during the forum manifest in real actions the building of an open world economy and the practice of multilateralism. All these demonstrate once again that the Belt and Road cooperation opens up new space for global economic growth, sets up new platforms for international trade and investment, blazes new trails for improving global economic governance, and makes new contributions to improving people’s well-being in all countries.

Second, the forum opens a new stage of building the Belt and Road from a strategic perspective. President Xi Jinping proposes the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and his suggestion is not only the actual need to boost a robust and inclusive world economic growth, but also a natural extension of the high-quality development stage of China’s economy. It is the inevitable choice in the shift from painting the broad strokes to refining the details, and it remains the distinct theme of this forum. During the forum, all participants carried out all-round alignment and cooperation in terms of mapping out a refining “Belt and Road” blueprint and further clarified the key points and ways of cooperation. All parties agreed to focus on deeper practical cooperation, more open and interconnected development and broader mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. All parties agreed to focus on high-quality infrastructure development and industrial cooperation, and solve major problems such as financial support, investment environment, risk management and control and people-to-people exchanges. All parties agreed to establish working mechanism and improve supporting facilities to gain more concrete results. These mean that the key points are further clarified; the plans more scientific; and the targets more precise, leading all sides to a new journey that is solid, stable and far-reaching.

Third, the forum combines domestic and external cooperation to catalyze China’s reform and opening up. The BRI and China’s reform and opening up complement and promote each other. The Belt and Road cooperation reflects China’s determination to promote an all-round pattern of opening up, and the deepening of our reform and opening up has continuously injected impetus into the Belt and Road cooperation. At the opening ceremony of the forum, President Xi Jinping announced that China will carry out a series of major reform and opening up initiatives, including expanding foreign market access in a broader area, strengthening international cooperation on intellectual property rights protection, and increasing imports of goods and services on a larger scale, more effectively implementing the international macro-economic policy coordination, and putting greater emphasis on the implementation of the opening up policy. These measures are China’s own choice based on reform and opening up, and will provide more and greater opportunities for the Belt and Road cooperation and the common prosperity of all countries.

In the next step, we will continue to inherit the past and usher in the future, work with all parties to refine the concrete and vivid details from six aspects, and jointly promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

Standing on a new starting point, we will adhere to the general direction of common development. The BRI advocates multilateralism and cooperation through consultation. We will continue to follow the golden principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, adhere to the concept of open, inclusive and transparent cooperation, deepen integration of development plans and policies, and fully tap into the strengths of all participants. Just as a Chinese proverb says, “A tower is built when soil on earth accumulates, and a river is formed when streams come together.”

Standing on a new starting point, we will stick to a people-oriented concept and put our focus on people’s livelihood as always. We will integrate with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, give priority to poverty alleviation, job creation and livelihood improvement. We should have zero tolerance for corruption to see that the joint pursuit of Belt and Road cooperation will deliver true benefits to the people of participating countries and contribute to their social and economic development.

Standing on a new starting point, we will actively promote a global partnership of connectivity, which is the important consensus that all parties reached at the second BRF. Guided by the consensus, we will strive to elevate the connectivity of infrastructure, build international transportation and trade links such as China-Europe Railway Express and the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, and develop economic cooperation zones and industrial parks. By doing this, we will push for the improvement and upgrading of the economic corridors and see more countries participate in and benefit from the global supply, industrial and value chains.

Standing on a new starting point, we will continue to follow general international rules and optimum practices. The BRI pursues the principle of giving a primary role to enterprises and following market operation under the guidance of government. As we follow the principle, we will push enterprises to integrate with widely-accepted rules in the international community in sectors including projects construction, business operations, procurement, and public biddings to ensure the economic, social, fiscal and environmental sustainability and make the BRI an initiative of innovation that is clean and green. In this connection, we will also fully abide by the laws and regulations of various countries to match high-quality development with the realities of these countries and ensure the implementation of the projects.

Standing on a new starting point, we will establish a multi-layered cooperation framework step by step. We should not only actively make preparations for the third BRF on the basis of implementing the outcomes of the second BRF, but also well build, maintain and develop various kinds of bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation platforms, and make them run in parallel with mutual promotion, thus providing strong mechanism support for the Belt and Road cooperation.

Standing on a new starting point, we will solidly advance the result-oriented practical cooperation. BRI cooperation is not a talking shop but a team of down-to-earth doers. We will insist on being result-oriented, action-oriented and project-oriented, improve and extend the practical cooperation framework of “six corridors and six channels serving multiple countries and ports”, ensure that the signed cooperation documents will be implemented in specific projects, push forward more practical cooperation projects that conform to high-quality development, and forge more quality projects that can withstand the test of history and the comments of people.

The Belt and Road cooperation has depicted the picture of the times featuring win-win cooperation between China and the world. We will unswervingly promote the high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. We are willing to, together with cooperative partners, sow the seeds and reap the fruits. We wish people of all countries a happier life and wish the world a better place, and hope that various parties will jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind.

* Acting Consul General Guan Zhongqi delivered the speech at a briefing on the Second BRF at the Chinese Consulate in Lagos Tuesday