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Digital cooperation boosts economic development in BRI partner countries

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-03-29 17:33
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A panel discussion themed on "Digital Economy in Integration and Innovation" is held during the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2024 in Boao, South China's Hainan province, March 28, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

BOAO, Hainan - While highlighting the remarkable achievements unlocked by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), participants at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2024 also called on participating countries to strengthen cooperation in technological innovation and the digital economy.

Since its inception in 2013, the China-proposed BRI has reaped substantial benefits from deepening the "hard connectivity" of infrastructure and the "soft connectivity" of technology, to coordination of standards and rules in its participating countries, said attendees at a panel discussion on high-quality Belt and Road cooperation on Friday.

The BRI has launched thousands of projects in around 150 countries and regions over the past years, providing financial and technological assistance as well as bringing people tangible benefits, said Zafar Uddin Mahmood, policy advisor to the secretary general of the BFA.

For Pakistan, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the BRI, former prime minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the initiative and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have promoted mutually beneficial cooperation in energy, transportation and other fields in the two countries.

The purpose of the initiative is to promote shared development and prosperity for participating countries, said Renat Bekturov, governor of Astana International Financial Centre, adding that China is now leading technological innovation in many sectors, and sharing these technologies will be win-win for all the BRI participating countries.

Data showed that from 2013 to 2022, the cumulative value of trade between China and BRI partner countries reached $19.1 trillion, with an average annual growth rate of 6.4 percent. Cumulative two-way investment between China and partner countries reached $380 billion, including $240 billion from China.

While praising the fruitful results of the initiative thus far, participants at the panel discussion also emphasized the role of the "Digital Silk Road," the technology dimension of the initiative, in promoting economic transformation and industrial restructuring in the BRI partner countries.

The "Digital Silk Road" project is important for the overall development of BRI participating countries, as well as for the initiative itself, said Suma Chakrabarit, former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, noting that the project should strengthen cooperation and sharing of digital technology, help local people access digital technology, and enhance their innovation capability.

His opinions were echoed by Jin Liqun, president and chair of the Board of Directors of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, saying that the construction of digital infrastructure is critical, and project sponsors must consider the digital factor in the future investment.

There exists a digital gap as low-income countries are weak in digital infrastructure and efforts should be made to improve their digital interconnection capability, he added.

The world is facing various challenges during the promotion of digital technology such as artificial intelligence considering its legal and ethical uncertainties, which need the common efforts of BRI partner countries to deal with, said Abbasi.

The BFA Annual Conference 2024 drew some 2,000 participants from March 26 to 29 in Boao, a resort town in Hainan province, South China. Founded in 2001, the BFA is a non-governmental and non-profit international organization committed to promoting regional economic integration and bringing Asian countries closer to their development goals.

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