THE Advisory Council of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (Advisory Council) is a non-profit and international policy advisory body. Established in 2018, it aims to provide intellectual support to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. In the latest annual meeting of the Advisory Council of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held on Dec 17, 2021, the report titled “High-Quality Belt and Road Cooperation: Partnership on Connectivity” was released, focusing on findings and recommendations from the 2019 and 2020 meetings.
The joint statement from the 2019 and 2020 meetings was released to reflect the consensus of all countries and organisations in continuing to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. In the 2019 annual meeting, the Advisory Council members exchanged views on promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and strengthening international partnerships on connectivity. In 2020, the members further discussed building various Silk Road projects, as well as creating a new development paradigm. By analysing the outcome and implications of the report, we can consider the present position of the BRI.
Firstly, the report shows that BRI is open to further development and opportunities, especially in developing a health Silk Road, a green Silk Road, a digital Silk Road and a clean Silk Road. These have become the new priority of the Belt and Road cooperation. Moving towards green, open and clean cooperation, member states are to continually explore new cooperation platforms and approaches, and also to embark on new initiatives and new endeavours. For instance, China joined the other 28 countries in launching the Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Covid-19 Vaccine Cooperation and Green Development during the Asia and Pacific High-level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation held in June 2021.
In terms of global development, the report finds Belt and Road cooperation is progressing towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations General Assembly. One of the benefits of international cooperation brought about by BRI is that most BRI activities focus on investment and development in developing countries. Such cooperation is crucial in developing infrastructure, increasing job opportunities, and spurring technological innovation. According to the research study, BRI cooperation aims to improve livelihoods, especially for people in developing countries and countries with low levels of human development. Therefore, the cooperation will be able to close the infrastructure gap between developed and developing countries, and eventually facilitate cross-border trade and investment.
Promoting and supporting social, economic, fiscal, financial and environmental sustainability has always been the priority of BRI cooperation. Likewise, the BRI aims to attain a good balance between social progress, economic growth, financial sustainability and environmental protection. BRI cooperation not only focuses on infrastructure programmes but is also actively involved in fighting against the pandemic. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has postponed many international cooperation projects, BRI cooperation has played a significant role in maintaining connectivity between the countries, stabilizing and boosting economic growth, safeguarding as well as improving people’s living conditions and interests. The BRI member states have joined together to combat the pandemic and support social and economic recovery.
The Advisory Council recommends greater global cooperation. Thus, it is important to accurately demonstrate the positive impact of BRI cooperation to effectively promote synergy between the BRI and regional development plans. The council members hope that under the current situation, all relevant parties will continue to synergize with the BRI in implementing high-quality infrastructure projects, encouraging and improving greater participation from new and various cooperation partners, advancing global partnership on connectivity, fostering an open world economy, and exploring more development and initiatives. Currently, one of the most critical projects in the BRI partnership is building a health Silk Road, with the main aim of strengthening and promoting cooperation on vaccines in order to respond effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic. China is doing everything it can to support the rest of the world, as seen through the number of vaccines delivered by China, which has surpassed 2 billion doses as of today. Further policy recommendations include promoting green transformation of BRI cooperation, deepening cooperation in the digital sector, tackling the debt issue effectively to create a clean Silk Road, and enhancing the cooperation of Belt and Road with various countries.
The Advisory Council is confident that BRI has enhanced mutual trust and cooperation among countries, and it will continue to grow further and promote international economic cooperation, in order to build a community with a better future. The Advisory Council emphasizes feedback, and has provided accurate feedback on outcomes, developments and benefits of the BRI to economies and the community. This is to raise awareness of the purposes and objectives of the BRI. Besides enhancing global trade and economic growth, BRI cooperation also aims to promote a healthy and clean society to improve standards of living. The council members believe that Belt and Road cooperation can serve as an excellent platform for global trade and economic cooperation through various development strategies and initiatives, by facilitating social, economic and environmental development in a balanced and integrated manner. With high-quality cooperation, the BRI can continue to improve and expand on multiple dimensions.
Khoo Zheng Ying is a lecturer at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
The SEARCH Scholar Series is a social responsibility programme jointly organized by the Southeast Asia Research Centre for Humanities (SEARCH) and the Centre of Business and Policy Research, Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), and co-organised by the Association of Belt and Road Malaysia.