The Belt and Road Initiative seeks mutual benefits with countries and regions along the routes and should not be likened to neocolonialism, an expert has said.[Special coverage]
"There is a fundamental difference," said Zhang Yuyan, a national political advisor, refuting some western media reports that equated China's overseas infrastructure deals and industrial cooperation with neocolonialism.
"The Belt and Road Initiative seeks mutual benefits and sustainable cooperation, rather than the predatory exploration," said Zhang, also director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Chinese businesses care about local sustainable development and have actively fulfilled their social responsibilities," he said, noting that in many cases, investment from China facilitates efforts of host countries to build their own industrial system.
Zhang cited a joint-venture oil refinery in an African country that reduced local reliance on imports. "We not only invested in crude oil exploration but helped local companies erect an oil refinery that can satisfy up to 80 percent of the country's demand for petroleum products."
Chinese companies have built 75 zones for economic and trade cooperation in 24 countries along the Belt and Road routes, contributing more than 2.21 billion U.S. dollars of taxes and creating almost 209,000 local jobs.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa based on ancient land and maritime trade routes. It has been dubbed as the Chinese solution to unbalanced world development.
"Five years ago, President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past five years, thanks to joint efforts from all parties, this initiative is being turned into actions from a concept, and it is being translated into reality from a vision," said Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the first session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday.
The Belt and Road Initiative is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030 that aims to eliminate abject poverty around the world. "It will bring more benefits and opportunities to regions along the routes and prompt sustainable and inclusive global growth," Zhang Yuyan said.
"To say that the Belt and Road Initiative is a geo-strategic tool, in my view, this is a misinterpretation of the initiative." Zhang said.
The first session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body, started Saturday.
As a new political advisor, Zhang said he will propose accelerating the revision of the foreign trade law to facilitate China's opening up and integration into the world economy.
China has served as the major driver and stabilizer of the global economy for the past five years. World Bank data showed that China contributed 34 percent to world economic growth from 2012 to 2016, more than that of the United States, European Union and Japan combined.
The economy will maintain steady in the next decade with an annual growth rate much higher than the world average, Zhang said. "China will continue to be a very important 'locomotive' for the global growth, stable and predictable."