Cambodia, Russia, Pakistan among many beneficiaries of Belt and Road

Photo taken on Dec 2, 2019 from the Chinese side shows the first highway bridge connecting China and Russia across the Heilongjiang River. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Better infrastructure, improved connectivity and more job opportunities generated by the Belt and Road Initiative will provide long-term benefits for involved countries and regions to sustain their economic growth and re-energize the global economy in the coming years, said officials and business leaders.

Under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid a struggling global economic recovery, they said that it is necessary for all parties to cooperate to overcome difficulties together, and there is broad space for cooperation in the field of global infrastructure development.

Since the BRI was proposed in 2013, it has upheld the principles of extensive consultation and joint contributions for shared benefits, and has brought tangible results to the people of the economies involved in the initiative, said Shu Jueting, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Commerce.

"A large number of infrastructure cooperation projects effectively promoted economic and social development in many countries involved in the BRI," said Shu, adding that the initiative has become a popular international public good and cooperation platform.

Jointly invested and built by State-owned Yunnan Investment Group, Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding Group Co Ltd and Yunnan Airport Group Co Ltd, the construction of the runway at Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia was completed in late June.

The runway stretches 3,600 meters and is 45 meters wide. It was completed in 125 days, 10 days ahead of schedule. This part of the project consumed 70,000 cubic meters of concrete.

As is a key project under the framework of the BRI, the airport is scheduled to be operational in October 2023, said Wang Dong, vice-president of Yunnan Investment Group.

"Once operational, it is expected to play a key role in improving local infrastructure, increasing employment, and promoting the development of local tourism industry," Wang said.

China Railway Hi-Tech Industry Co Ltd, or CRHIC, a subsidiary of Beijing-based China Railway Group Ltd, announced that Heilongjiang Bridge, the first cross-border highway between China and Russia, opened to traffic in early June, marking the launch of a new international transport channel between Northeast China and Russia's Far East.

In addition to bolstering tangible growth of the BRI, the project is expected to boost connectivity between several Chinese and Russian cities, said Tang Fenzhi, vice-president of CRHIC. The company was responsible for manufacturing and installing steel structures of the bridge section in China.

The bridge has a length of 1,284 meters and is the first steel-concrete beam-cable bridge in the high-altitude and cold weather of Northeast China. To address the extremely low winter temperatures, the bridge was built with special steel materials first developed and adopted in China.

Tang said the bridge project, with total investment of 2.47 billion yuan ($365.8 million), is a key section of the 19.9-kilometer cross-border highway project that starts from Heihe in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province and concludes at Blagoveshchensk in Russia.

Apart from existing conduits linking the two countries that include railways, inland waterways, sea freight routes and pipelines, the bridge will better facilitate trade between Northeast China and Russia's Far East, he added.

In terms of developing energy projects in economies participating in the BRI, Dongfang Electric Corp, the Chengdu, Sichuan province-based centrally administered SOE, put the first hydro-generator unit of Karot Hydropower Station in Pakistan-the first large-scale hydropower project invested and developed under the framework of the BRI and the first hydropower investment project under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor-into operation last month.

With a designed installed capacity of 720 megawatts, the hydropower station is expected to generate 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of power annually once fully operational, equaling that produced by burning about 1.4 million metric tons of standard coal and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about 3.5 million tons, the company said in a statement.

The power volume will meet demand of 5 million people in the region, which will effectively relieve local power shortages, said Dongfang.

From 2013 to 2021, annual trade volume between China and countries and regions participating in the BRI expanded from $1.04 trillion to $1.8 trillion, marking an increase of 73 percent.

China's direct investment in these economies during the same period totaled $161.3 billion, while 32,000 companies were established in China by these countries and regions, with a combined investment of $71.2 billion, said the Ministry of Commerce.

During this period, China signed new contracts worth about $1.08 trillion with countries and regions involved in the BRI for engineering projects in transportation, electricity, agriculture, public service and other areas, according to the ministry.

Despite the protracted COVID-19 pandemic and complicated international situation, the development of the BRI continues to demonstrate strong resilience and vitality, injecting dynamic impetus into global openness, cooperation and economic recovery, said Feng Yaoxiang, head of the trade and investment promotion department at the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade in Beijing.