BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) — Running a fruit import and export company for 15 years, Egyptian businessman Ali Maggard has recently turned his eye to China as a new source for commerce, as the world’s second largest economy is taking an increasingly large share of the global trade.
Previously, the fruit dealer would give his priority to European countries such as Greece and Italy.
The businessman told Xinhua that he felt very happy to see relations between China and his country to be further enhanced, because it means “more preferential terms for our industry on customs clearance and import and export duties among others.”
Maggard’s company is among many in the Arab world and other parts of the globe to explore business opportunities in China under the Belt and Road Initiative that contains the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road proposed back in 2013.
The Belt and Road Initiative is “a string of keys” that can be used by various countries for development, offering win-win solutions for bilateral cooperation, said Wu Bingbing, director of Department of Arabic Language and Culture of Peking University.
Statistics released by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce showed Chinese enterprises directly invested a total of 14.82 billion U.S. dollars into 49 countries within the cooperation framework of the Belt and Road Initiative last year, rising by 18.2 percent compared with the previous year.
Against the backdrop of the currently sluggish global economy with a slow recovery, the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt has gained wide popularity among countries along the trade route, especially in Central Asia.
One particular project is the Horgos-East Gate Special Economic Zone in Kazakhstan, which has become a symbol of the lineup of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Kazakhstan’s “Bright Path” economic plan.
Despite the Central Asian country’s temporarily shrinking imports and exports due to falling oil prices and currency devaluation, trade volume of the special economic zone surged by nine times in the first half of 2015, compared with the same period of the previous year. Also, the volume of China’s container freight transferred in Kazakhstan has nearly doubled, thanks to the operation of the special economic zone.
So far, Horgos has also become an essential transit point that connects China and Europe through the Eurasia International Railway.
The Belt and Road Initiative is also reshaping the geographic and economic development of both China and Europe by incorporating a wide range of development schemes of the European countries, for example, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s investment plan that would allocate at least 315 billion euros (about 359 billion U.S. dollars) of additional investments in strategic projects at the European Union level.
“Your dream is our dream,” said former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Both being ancient oceanic civilizations, China and Greece have set the year of 2015 as the “China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Year” during a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Samaras in July 2014.
The visiting Chinese president said China would like to further enhance its comprehensive strategic partnership with Greece and make the country “an important bridgehead and transit point” for China-Europe cooperation through the Belt and Road Initiative.
One typical project under the initiative was construction of Greece’s biggest sea port of Piraeus, the tender of which was won by China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) in January this year.
Trapped in the longstanding debt crisis of the country, the Piraeus port had fallen into a mess with ships and containers piling up. COSCO won a container operation project for Piraeus port in 2008 to manage Pier II and Pier III of Piraeus Container Terminal for 35 years. In 2015, the port’s capacity rose to 3 million containers, a dramatic increase from 685,000 in 2010.
The Chinese enterprise has also created over 1,000 jobs for local people over the last two years. Among the incessant strikes around the country, workers at the port have never held a strike.
In five years of operation, COSCO aims to make the Piraeus port the south gate of the China-Europe land-sea express to speed up transportation between China and Europe.
From the economic perspective, the Belt and Road Initiative has been a large-scale “economic and geographic revolution,” while from the perspective of international relations, the initiative has set off “a new cooperation mode featuring mutual benefits and win-win results,” according to Hu Angang, director of the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University.
The comments were echoed by Russian businessman Alexander Losev.
In an article published by local newspaper Russia Herald on Jan. 19, Losev wrote that the Belt and Road Initiative showed China’s reflection on global governance.
Yet the construction of the Belt and Road is absolutely not China’s solo, touted by some, but a chorus that involves as many as countries along the trade routes.
China has actually been trying to search for a way out of the current downturn of the global economy with the Belt and Road Initiative, said Yang Guang, head of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“The initiative would help promote regional economic integration and inter-connectivity by lifting barriers to trade and investment as well as facilitating the flow of capital and human resources, which will inject impetus into global economic development,” he said. Enditem