Local Chinese governments promoting Belt and Road Initiative
Cities, provinces talking up achievements, planning more infrastructure projects
WATARU KODAKA, Nikkei staff writer
BEIJING -- Local governments in China are increasingly contributing to the country's Belt and Road Initiative in a bid to benefit from the development strategy through economic growth and employment security.
At the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that began in Beijing on Sunday, local governments highlighted their programs that promote the initiative and achievements thus far. Many seem eager to emphasize contributions to central government projects ahead of the quinquennial National Congress of the Communist Party of China that will be held this autumn.
Shanghai will be the epicenter of the construction initiative, Han Zhen, CPC secretary of Shanghai, the top political post in the city, said on May 8, stressing the municipal government's willingness to aggressively contribute to projects for the economic and diplomatic program.
Shanghai has concluded economic cooperation agreements with countries along the route covered by the initiative, such as the Czech Republic and Turkey.
In 2016, Shanghai won orders for infrastructure improvements and other projects totaling $8.9 billion, it said.
Show of support
The international forum has given local governments the opportunity to emphasize their contributions to the initiative.
The Tianjin municipal government has set a target of boosting the cumulative value of its trade with countries along the route to $50 billion by 2020, while the Chongqing city office announced the launch of cross-border cargo transportation, combining rail and sea routes, with Singapore.
Local governments are making full use of state-owned enterprises located within their borders. The provincial government of Anhui plans to build a number of cement plants in Indonesia and Myanmar through Anhui Conch Cement, a large national cement maker.
The plan by the Anhui government is a dual-purpose strategy to transfer excess capacity and labor overseas while supporting Chinese President Xi Jinping's economic diplomacy toward Southeast Asian nations and other countries along the initiative's route through the supply of cement to them.
China has entered a political season ahead of the CPC's national congress, where it will choose its next generation of leaders. While the Belt and Road Initiative is aimed at reinforcing China's economic cooperation with other countries, it also has become a means of showing allegiance to Xi, who was recently elevated to the high status of a "core leader."
Programs adopted by local governments include many that are only tangentially related to the purpose of the initiative, such as an increase in exports of hometown specialties and the establishment of restaurants.
A company in Guangdong Province has adopted a plan to import processed forestry resources in bulk from Gabon in return for investment in the West African country. The project has invited criticism from overseas for the initiative as some consider it to be a new form of colonialism.