Since the 2008 global financial crisis, the landscape of cooperation between the countries has greatly changed mainly due to the ongoing power shift from the North to the South. In this context, the rising economy of China is taking the lead in driving forward the infrastructure development and helping the countries to develop their economies despite lingering challenges that call for collective actions and mutual support among the countries
especially the developing countries. For this purpose, China unveiled its plans under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has evolved from being purely about infrastructure build projects to about supply chain development. Many of the 2,500 projects that China has assisted with either financing, or building, or both are now coming to fruition. Under BRI, China is investing billions of dollars
in several countries including Pakistan, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar in infrastructure development, and energy sectors. It is also enhancing trade activities with the BRI countries that will not onlyhelp China to productively use its surplus currency reserves but also significantly facilitate the other participating countries to develop their economies.
Based on the principle of achieving shared benefits through consultation and collaboration, China’s Belt and
Road Initiative (BRI) has presented a good opportunity for reinvigorating the cooperation especially the South-South
cooperation and drawing concerted efforts from the international community to reduce the global deficits in peace, development, and governance. In the long run, the BRI is expected to facilitate a new round of economic globalization and help shape a more balanced and efficient system of global economic governance, which will serve as the basis for jointly building a “community of shared future for mankind” proposed by the Chinese
government. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asia faces an infrastructure funding gap of an estimated USD 26 trillion through 2030. Therefore, many countries across the world have accepted the Chinese bid to develop their economies.
Since the historic 1955 Asian–African conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, South-South Cooperation (SSC) has
undergone profound development. Although the fundamental principles of SSC
respect for sovereignty, mutual benefit,
non-interference, and non-aggression remain the same as six decades ago, its objectives, modalities, and even major
players have changed. Due to the lasting effect of the 2008 global financial crisis, SSC was on the wane for some time. But it has begun to gather momentum in recent years thanks to the growing engagement
of rising economies like China. As the largest developing country in the world, China has made a tremendous contribution to the progress of SSC. Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which
calls for policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and strengthened
people-to-people ties. The aim is to build a community of shared interests and responsibility, with a shared future
for all nations, based on mutual trust, economic integration, and cultural inclusiveness. Apart from its five-pronged
approach, China’s BRI may prove to be an unparalleled opportunity to revitalize SSC in that it provides insights on tackling challenges faced by the Global South by introducing China’s own experience of socio-economic development. In this sense, strengthening the alignment of the BRI and SSC will not only consolidate the achievements of the BRI but also advance the progress of SSC.
The basic principles of the BRI are highly consistent with and fully reflected in the traditional philosophies of SSC.
As the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned in his 2017 Report on South-South Cooperation, the BRI championed by China, with over 100 countries expressing interest in the partnership, will provide new opportunities and impetus for international collaboration, including South-South cooperation.
Since the BRI is set to achieve mutual benefits and common prosperity among all countries, especially developing ones, and makes development a viable solution to peace and security problems, it is conducive to addressing the imbalance of development in the Global South through mobilizing and pooling resources. It is thus widely anticipated that the implementation of the BRI will revitalize SSC and tap the great potential of developing
countries.First of all, strengthening infrastructure connectivity as a priority of the BRI can meet enormous demands from the Global South. For decades, the socioeconomic development of BRI countries has been hugely delayed due to their poor infrastructure. Since the 1980s, infrastructure connectivity has become an increasingly hot topic in the North-South relationship and SSC, while the actual aid effectiveness is far from satisfactory. The BRI is of particular significance in this regard. A recent World Bank report concludes that infrastructure connectivity under the BRI will significantly stimulate growth in trade and outbound investment, driving global economic growth
and creating new growth centers along economic corridors, thus improving global and regional imbalances.Another report released in September 2018 based on the data of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also indicates that China-supported connectivity projects will help reduce economic inequalities within and among countries, creating positive economic externalities. Second, Southern countries are expected to enter into new rounds of industrial upgrading thanks to the implementation of the BRI. After years of growth, developing countries, emerging economies, in particular, have accumulated their advantages in industrial capacity and productivity. Today, China is renowned for its industries of high-speed railway, nuclear power, and engineering machinery Third, the BRI will significantly facilitate trade and investment among Southern countries. Indeed, the BRI attaches great importance to the improvement of trade and investment promotion mechanisms, as well as attempts to stimulate trade and investment activities through cooperation on industrial capacity and equipment manufacturing. Combined with new trade-promoting platforms like the China International Import Expo, which further opens up the markets of developing countries to each other, the BRI is fostering more channels of trade growth for Southern countries
by facilitating and expanding the scale of trade, especially through burgeoning e-commerce transactions.
Fourth, Southern countries can expect to reap huge benefits from the BRI to enhance their innovation capacity. The
BRI calls for open and inclusive cooperation in the fields of knowledge, technology, and talent, and is committed to seizing opportunities in the digital economy and artificial intelligence and to building up a network of think tanks to pool intellectual resources. For example, China has pledged to provide 10,000 government scholarships each year, starting from 2017, to students from BRI countries; it has launched training programs on the subject of connectivity
for professionals from neighboring countries. China has also established training bases of scientific research and education in Africa and Central Asia. In the long run, it is believed that more BRI countries will join in capacity-building cooperation under the BRI.Finally, the BRI is conducive to strengthening people-to-people bonds in Southern countries. The BRI not only advocates diversified approaches of development but also encourages knowledge cooperation on socioeconomic governance. It is worth mentioning that China has laid
great stress on “Track Two” dialogues in enhancing institutionalized knowledge cooperation among BRI countries. In October 2015, the Development Research Center of the State Council of China took the lead in launching the Silk Road Think Tank Network (SILKS), which has quickly grown into a new platform for cooperation among think tanks of BRI countries. In April 2016, the Institute of SouthSouth Cooperation and Development was set up at Peking University to share governance experience with and train senior officials from developing countries. In March 2017, the Chinese government announced the establishment of the China Centre for International Knowledge on Development (CCIKD) in Beijing as a hub of research and exchange among developing countries, which helps improve public understanding of and earn support for SSC. Through mutual learning and joint knowledge creation, China and BRI countries can better assess their achievements and scrutinize their development practices.
In short, BRI is offering immense opportunities to countries across the globe especially the developing states in
the South as these developing states lack proper infrastructure and are also facing an energy crisis. Chinese investments, under BRI, in the participating countries have significantly contributed to develop their infrastructure and meet the energy requirements. Pakistan is a glaring example in this regard. BRI has also re-energized the South-South cooperation as most of the BRI projects are concentrated
in the South.