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Breaking the Mould

The idea of industrial parks run by Chinese enterprises along the Belt and Road seeks to boost the industrialisation process of host countries. Their success lies in a mutual learning process, which means Chinese operators and policy makers cannot simply copy past experiences

Belt and Road Forum

A Thai worker at the factory of Futong Group Communication Technology (Thailand) Co in the Thai-Chinese Rayong Industrial Zone
Photo by Xinhua

Trade in silk, porcelain and tea connected China and the rest of the world in ancient times along the silk roads. Returning to the global trading network in the late 20th century largely underwrote China’s economic take-off, and in turn China’s resurgence in world politics, in the 21st. Now the world’s largest trading nation in merchandise is setting her eyes back along the ancient trade routes, but beyond just trade.

According to China’s official data, Chinese companies invested more than US$50 billion between 2014 and 2016 in countries along the routes of the Belt and Road, a Chinese initiative proposed in September 2013 to link China, Europe and Africa via land and sea. Capital flow from China to the rest of the world is estimated to reach US$600 to US$800 billion in total for the five years from 2017 onward. “Much of it will go to the Belt and Road,” said Ning Jizhe, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s leading economic planning agency, at a press conference in Beijing on May 12. At the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on May 14, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the provision of more than US$55 billion in loans for financial, infrastructure and production capacity cooperation under the initiative.

The 56 industrial parks in operation, jointly built by China and 20 host countries along the Belt and Road, are one of the main destinations of China’s investment. According to China’s official data, they had absorbed more than US$18.5 billion of Chinese investment by the end of 2016. In China’s roadmap to realising the vision of the Belt and Road, overseas industrial parks are one of the main ways for international cooperation on production capacity, a priority area of the Belt and Road initiative.

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About China Report

The Belt and Road forum held in Beijing in May heralds China's strategy of globalisation 2.0. How much China has invested in the BRI? How can other countries along the routes join in and benefit from the opportunities? (p.20-25) Technologically China has often been perceived as playing the catch-up game. Not in Artificial Intelligence, which the country's tech giants are spearheading with some success. (p. 34-43) A migrant worker has taken the country by storm in her Dickensian essay about her hard life in modern Beijing. (p.52-55)