Workers walk along a steel girder at a construction site of the China-Laos Railway, a Belt and Road project, in Pu’er, Yunnan province, in April. [QIN QING / XINHUA]
Initiative marks progress among key nations
Editor's note: In "Footprint", a series of stories recalling important examples of China interacting with the rest of the world, we follow the path the country has taken in the past seven decades. This story is the fifth in the series.
Six years on, Marzuki Alie, the former speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, remembers well the day he hosted President Xi Jinping in Jakarta.
During his speech on Oct 3, 2013, Xi first proposed jointly building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road along ancient sea routes that have borne goods and friendship among people from different countries.
"President Xi is the only foreign leader to give a speech in front of the chairperson and members of the Indonesian parliament," Marzuki said, adding that the speech "was an exception as well as a privilege for us".
Xi's speech and talks with heads of the Indonesian parliament were memorable – especially the invitation to move forward together said Marzuki, who served from 2009 to 2014.
"President Xi will not only continue to strengthen cooperation with Indonesia but more broadly, cooperation with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries as well," he said.
Marzuki said Xi discussed 12 important points during their meeting and emphasized five key components required to share prosperity - building trust and sincerity; holding on to win-win cooperation; watching out for and helping each other; sticking to heart-to-heart exchanges, and being open and inclusive.
The Sahiwal coal-fired power plant in Punjab, Pakistan, is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s first major energy project. [AHMAD KAMAL / XINHUA]
On Sep 7, 2013, at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, Xi raised the concept of the Silk Road Economic Belt, underlining the need to strengthen connectivity in policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people exchanges.
The concepts of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road were later termed One Belt One Road before evolving into the Belt and Road Initiative.
The BRI aims to enhance Asia's interconnectivity with Europe, Africa and other continents along ancient trade routes, exploring new driving forces for world economic growth and building a new platform for world economic cooperation. The World Bank estimates that BRI economies account for one-third of global trade and GDP, as well as more than 60 percent of the world's population.
Marzuki said ASEAN member nations hold important positions on the BRI sea route.
For Indonesia, in particular, the country's Global Maritime Fulcrum policies can be synergized with the BRI. The Global Maritime Fulcrum vision put forward by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, aims to take advantage of the island nation's geographical position to promote its strategic and economic development.
In addition to Indonesia, ASEAN members comprise Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
A customer asks for details of a Huawei 5G phone at a shop in Morocco. [GAO JING / XINHUA]
"From the start, Indonesia stressed that BRI projects must be driven by the private sector … the role of the government (in the BRI) is only to facilitate," Marzuki said, adding that all projects under the initiative in Indonesia are carried out on a company-to-company basis, with business entities working directly on related projects.
"If Indonesia is able to optimize BRI collaboration, it will certainly benefit from it," Marzuki said. He added that the BRI complements the government's programs in developing inter-island connectivity and infrastructure — something the country needs to diversify resources and maintain healthy economic development.
"If this connectivity is created, then greater investment will be attracted to Indonesia," he said.
He added that the country's ongoing Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project is a "highlight" for the people of Indonesia and "a barometer of China-Indonesia cooperation".
The project was given high priority by both Xi and the Indonesian leader after the signing of a memorandum of understanding in March 2015 between Indonesia's Ministry of State Owned Enterprises and China's National Development and Reform Commission for its "cooperative construction".
Targeted for completion by mid-2021, the $6 billion rail link is regarded as a flagship BRI project. Connecting Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, with Bandung, the country's third-largest city, the 142-kilometer line will not only be the nation's first high-speed railway, it will mark the first time that China's high-speed railway standards, technologies and equipment have been put to use on a line overseas.
The link is being developed by Kereta Cepat Indonesia-China, a joint venture formed by Chinese and Indonesian state-owned enterprises. According to Zhang Wei, China Railway Group's general manager for the Jakarta-Bandung project, more than 3,000 jobs are expected to be created for Indonesians as construction reaches a peak.
Infrastructure connectivity is high on the Belt and Road agenda, along with respecting the sovereignty and security concerns of all related countries.