During the second annual meeting of the Forum on High Quality Development of the Belt and Road Initiative, experts expressed their belief that China’s scientific community will expand cooperation with countries involved in the initiative in the name of high-quality development and improving livelihoods. They highlighted key areas, including climate change, environmental protection, clean energy, the digital economy, public health, the transfer of technology and professional training, in which BRI countries can benefit from more robust international cooperation.
According to Bai Chunli, president of the Alliance of International Science Organizations, a nonprofit, nongovernmental science organization promoting shared, sustainable development among BRI countries, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, and since then, China has signed 200 BRI collaboration agreements with 151 countries and 32 international organizations. Bai said the initiative had led to closer economic ties between China and BRI signatories, citing the China-Europe railway as an example, which connects Chinese cities to Poland, Germany and other European countries, with 16,000 freight trains operating in both directions last year.
Bai added that science and technology can play crucial roles in facilitating the development of the Belt and Road Initiative by offering new solutions to shared issues such as public health and climate change. To promote scientific and technological cooperation among BRI countries, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China have issued dedicated guidelines and action plans since 2016, ranging from agricultural innovation to university education.
However, Bai also mentioned that science cooperation with BRI countries currently faces four main obstacles: optimizing top-level design and cooperation mechanisms, overcoming external disturbances such as conflicts, the social and economic gap among BRI nations, and the lack of professionals and funding to deepen cooperation. To overcome these issues, future BRI sci-tech cooperation should focus on bolstering innovation capability, building people-to-people relations, sharing data and technology for mutual benefit, and creating clear policies to support prioritized fields.
Ning Jizhe, deputy director of the Committee on Economic Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said the Belt and Road Initiative benefits China and the world by supporting economic globalization and free trade. Justin Yifu Lin, dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, said future collaboration could focus on strengthening existing comparative advantages and turning them into global competitive advantages. Yu Hongjun, former deputy head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative are to increase interconnectivity among developing countries by building new infrastructure, enhancing cooperation in trade and commerce, and deepening cultural exchange and mutual trust, seeking mutual development, prosperity, progress and security.