Belt and Road bearing fruit around globe

- Sep 16, 2019-

When President Xi Jinping visited the Smederevo steel plant in Serbia in June 2016, he received a warm welcome from the workers, who held up large portraits of him in greeting.

Their jobs had been at risk earlier, as the former state-owned steel plant, founded in 1913 and once the epitome of Serbia's industrial success, was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Light dawned during Xi's visit, however. The plant was purchased by Chinese steel giant HBIS, and all its 5,000 Serbian employees kept their jobs.

Renamed Hesteel Serbia after the takeover, the company was profitable by the following December. Last year, it produced 1.77 million metric tons of steel, the most in its centurylong history.

The rebirth of the Smederevo steel plant is "a story about changes, a story about success and story about progress", Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said during an inspection of the steel mill in July last year.

The success of the company is a vivid example of how China's Belt and Road Initiative has benefited people around the world.

In a speech delivered at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan in September 2013, Xi unveiled his flagship Silk Road Economic Belt concept, which he hailed as "a great cause that will bring benefits to the people along the routes."

The following month, Xi proposed the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in a speech to the Indonesian parliament. The Belt and Road Initiative has blossomed ever since.

After six years of development, the BRI has been translated from a visionary proposal to concrete practices. Some 136 countries and 30 international organizations had signed BRI cooperation agreements with China as of the end of August.

From 2013 to 2018, trade between China and other BRI countries surpassed $6 trillion, and China's investment in those countries exceeded $90 billion.

Last year, Chinese companies invested $15.64 billion in countries cooperating in the BRI, a year-on-year increase of 8.9 percent, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

In April, China hosted the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which was attended by about 6,000 participants from 150 countries and 92 international organizations.

"We should forge a global connectivity partnership to achieve common development and prosperity," Xi said at the forum. "As long as we work together to help each other, even if thousands of miles apart, we will certainly be able to find a mutually beneficial and win-win road."

Since putting forward the BRI six years ago, Xi has frequently promoted it on multiple international occasions.

"Wherever President Xi went, he took the Belt and Road and produced a harvest of practical cooperation there," State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in March after Xi wrapped up a visit to Italy, Monaco and France.

The trip took Xi to the western end of the ancient Silk Road and boosted Eurasian interconnectivity through the BRI, Wang said.

Witnessed by Xi and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly developing the Belt and Road.