During his visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013, President Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt, which, together with the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road he proposed the following month in Indonesia, constitutes the Belt and Road Initiative. One decade on, this initiative, with the participation of more than 150 countries, has contributed to increased connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.
The Belt and Road Initiative calls on countries to focus on a diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable approach to development. The role of governments is to adopt favorable policies and build platforms, while the initiative's implementation relies on the market and the involvement of enterprises.
Over the past decade, many Chinese companies have taken Belt and Road countries as key destinations for going global, making active contributions to high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. Among the five priorities of policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds, enterprises play a major role in the latter four.
Many countries along the Belt and Road routes are developing ones with urgent development needs. They lack capital and technology, and Chinese enterprises can help fill the gap. As direct investors, they have brought these countries not only capital and technology but also brands and markets.
Enterprises add vitality to trade along the Belt and Road. According to figures from China's Ministry of Commerce, trade in goods between China and countries along the Belt and Road routes rose from $1.04 trillion in 2013 to $2.07 trillion in 2022, an average annual increase of 8 percent.
The investment by Chinese companies benefits local wellbeing. For instance, the Chinese-built China-Maldives Friendship Bridge opened to traffic on August 30, 2018, ending a history of ferry-only travel between the capital of Malé and neighboring Hulhule Island—where the Maldives' main international airport is located.
Of course, Chinese enterprises do face difficulties, such as the high costs to adapt to overseas markets, often stemming from cultural differences. As they meet the challenges head-on and integrate themselves into local communities, they can and will develop a more country-specific approach to exploring international markets.
(Print Edition Title: Active Players)