The COVID-19 pandemic is a global challenge that seriously threatens the health safety and well-being of mankind, as well as the economic and social development of various countries. It needs to be addressed through global solidarity, mutual assistance and multilateral cooperation. The pandemic truly has some impact on the “Belt and Road” cooperation, but it is temporary and partial.
While recognizing the core role of the United Nations in promoting and coordinating a global response to the spread of COVID-19, and the key leadership role of the World Health Organization (WHO), regional initiatives, organizations and arrangements have played a pivotal role in fighting against the pandemic and promoting economic and social development.
From the overall and long-term perspective, with mitigation of the effects of the pandemic, the foundation for the joint construction of the “Belt and Road” initiative will be stronger, the momentum will be more abundant, and the prospects will be broader.
The “Belt and Road” initiative has become an important platform for partners to fight against the pandemic.
The construction of sanitary cooperation system under the “Belt and Road” initiative has taken shape since 2015. China issued a three-year implementation plan for sanitary communication and cooperation and signed a memorandum with WHO. Other sanitary cooperation under the multilateral system like APEC, BRICS, SCO has been also tightened ever since.
After the outbreak of the pandemic, China and the countries along the corridors of “Belt and Road” have been helping each other and fighting against the pandemic: supporting each other in efforts to combat the pandemic; cooperating in response and control through timely sharing of necessary information, diagnosis and treatment experience and best practices; strengthening and upgrading public health system capabilities; promoting dialogues among health experts and providing assistance to countries in need to defeat the pandemic.
The “Belt and Road” infrastructure projects and cross-regional transportation and logistics channels have been playing an important role in protecting the supply chain and promoting smooth international trade, which is critical to ensure people’s livelihood during the pandemic.
For example, energy project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has continued to operate, providing Pakistan with one-third of its electricity. China-Europe trains maintain a high frequency, and the “steel camel team” has played an active role in ensuring the transportation of anti-pandemic materials. In the case of large-scale suspension of flights in the region, the number of departures and shipments in January to April increased by 24% and 27% with a year-on-year basis.
The cumulative delivery of nearly 8000 tons of anti-pandemic materials has become a veritable “road to life” through Eurasia. The new bridge in Parapetti, Bolivia, constructed by Chinese enterprises has been opened, the extension of the southern expressway of Sri Lanka has been put into operation, the construction of the China-Laos Kunwan Railway has proceeded in an orderly manner, and the Cambodian dual fuel power plant has entered the peak of construction. These “hard-core” measures and achievements have demonstrated strong supports provided to the pandemic prevention and control and boosted the enthusiasm and confidence of all countries in participating in the co-construction.
At the “Belt and Road” international cooperation high-level video conference held on June 18th, participating countries issued a joint statement calling upon all countries to unite and play an active role in combating the pandemic, responding to the impact of the pandemic, and restoring economic and social sustainable development.
At the same time, countries are encouraged to establish joint pandemic prevention and control mechanisms at bilateral, regional, and international levels as necessary. At the same time, China welcomes efforts to restore cross-border personnel flow in an orderly and gradual manner on the basis of strictly taking necessary pandemic prevention and control measures, supports countries in need to carry out bilateral and multilateral cooperation through the establishment of corresponding cooperation networks, and encourages relevant measures taken in this regard, including communication and coordination to promote mutual recognition of health testing and pandemic prevention arrangements agreed by relevant departments of various countries.
The “Belt and Road” initiative helps to promote orderly resumption of production and economic recovery, and achieve sustainable development”.
Despite the adverse impact of the pandemic, the pace of cooperation in the “Belt and Road” is still going fast. In the first quarter of this year, China’s investment in countries jointly building the “Belt and Road” increased by 11.7% and its trade volume increased by 3.2%, providing a powerful boost for countries to overcome the pandemic and restore the economy.
The “Belt and Road” partners have launched pragmatic and effective cooperation in all aspects and in a wide range of fields. Financial support has been continuously consolidated, cooperation under the rule of law has escorted, and people-to-people exchanges have been vivid. The construction challenge of the “Digital Silk Road” is an opportunity to focus on promoting cooperation in the field of big data, Internet Plus, and smart cities, and to play the role of new economic and trade methods, creating more new growth points for the economic development of countries, and providing more new sources of power for the global economic recovery.
The “Health Silk Road” conforms to the strong willingness of the countries along the route to strengthen cooperation in the medical and health field, and will gradually advance international cooperation projects in the health field to safeguard the lives and health of people of all countries.
The “Belt and Road” partner countries emphasize the importance of fair competition and intellectual property protection. Based on the prevention and control of the pandemic, we will follow the professional recommendations of the WHO and other relevant international organizations to promote economic recovery, especially to promote orderly resumption of production and reintegration into the global value chain. Against the background of the pandemic impacting global economic and social development, countries need to strengthen cooperation in the digital economy, medical industry and food safety, and cultivate new economic growth points in the fields of e-commerce, smart cities, artificial intelligence and big data technology applications, learning from international good practices and narrow the digital divide.
Against the background of the current global spread of the pandemic, the “Belt and Road” initiative has not only stood firm, but continued to advance smoothly and orderly, injecting confidence and positive energy into the world growth and becoming an important platform for global joint anti-pandemic efforts. The pandemic fully proves that the destinies of all countries are closely connected and there exists a community of shared destiny for mankind. In dealing with the pandemic or restoring the economy, the partners shall take the road of solidarity and cooperation, and adhere to multilateralism.
Promoting interconnection and solidarity, and insisting on openness and tolerance are the only way to cope with global crises and achieve long-term development.
(The Author is Consul General of China at Karachi)
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