[Belt&Road] Policy Coordination at the Belt and Road Forum

The Belt and Road Initiative is far from a solo by China—it’s a symphony performed by all participating parties.
by Xu Wenhong
April 17, 2017: The “Great Stone” industrial park under construction. This project marks the largest overseas industrial park in which Chinese enterprises are participating in construction. It is also a landmark cooperative project between China and Belarus as part of the Silk Road Economic Belt. Xinhua

Although the global economic and financial crisis from 2007 to 2009 has long gone, the global economy is still recovering slowly. Factors including the sluggish markets of the United States and Japan, the unresolved European debt crisis, the refugee crisis and Brexit have all fueled instability. The growth of BRICS countries has slowed down, while trade protectionism and isolationism are on the rise. International investment and multilateral trade and investment rules are ready for drastic changes.
The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed amid complex circumstances. In some ways, the Initiative is based on the wisdom and developmental philosophy of the East and China’s successful experience during 40 years of reform and opening up. China is offering solutions to jumpstart economic growth. New ideas and concepts have been introduced in this economic cooperation initiative offered by China. The Belt and Road Initiative requires countries to work side-by-side on policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people communication. Based on the principles of “extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits”, China is eyeing a community of shared interests, responsibilities and future.
Per previous experience, technical problems are easier solved through economic cooperation between countries. The real challenges lie in the concept and policy coordination. The scars of colonial exploitation and imperialist aggression remain fresh for many in developing countries, causing some to express concerns about strengthening economic and trade cooperation between various countries. Every country has its unique perspective and ideas about a future direction based on its gains and losses during the process of globalization. People from some countries do not understand the Belt and Road Initiative, and some leaders even question its feasibility. A few have noted that domestic political disorder hurt the progress of construction of the Port of Colombo in Sri Lanka, but the project was also marred by insufficient policy coordination.
Policy coordination encompasses three realms.
First, development strategies must be coordinated. Docking development strategies requires communication and coordination between countries at the highest levels. It demands the most beneficial cooperation at macro and political levels, identification of shared directions and realization of joint development.
Second, development plans should be coordinated. Development plans are details of overall strategies. Coordinating development plans requires clarification of the direction and main focus of cooperation based on coordination of development strategies. All of this must involve setting a specific timetable and roadmap.
Third, mechanisms and platforms should be coordinated. Mechanisms and platforms are the key to successfully implementing bilateral and multilateral cooperative programs. Mechanism and platform coordination can effectively link the executive agencies of different countries, build smooth channels for communication and consultation and integrate resources to enable swifter resolution of problems that emerge during implementation.
The Belt and Road Initiative now aligns with the development strategies and programs of a number of countries, such as Kazakhstan’s Bright Road Initiative. Through connecting their respective development strategies and plans, China and Kazakhstan have reached cooperative agreements on dozens of mutually-beneficial projects in a short period of time, establishing a new model to strengthen economic cooperation between countries. Countries along the Belt and Road are already benefiting from projects such as the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone in Cambodia, the “Great Stone” industry park in Belarus, and the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, which have all become landmark projects of the Initiative by creating jobs for local citizens, increasing revenues, advancing technology and spawning new industrial clusters. Each project provides a shining example of how the Belt and Road Initiative greatly promotes the development of local economies.
One of the main purposes of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing is to further promote policy coordination and achieve higher-level consensus and communication among leaders of different countries. If participating countries agree on development paths and understand the spirit of the Initiative, a wider range of potential projects will be implemented under the Initiative, so as to bring more benefits to people from around the world.

The author is a Ph.D. associate researcher and expert on Russian issues at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.