The Boao Forum for Asia, an annual economic dialogue held in China’s Hainan Province, was an especially high-profile meeting this year; Chinese President Xi Jinping himself delivered the keynote address. The reason for the special emphasis was clear: Beijing selected the Boao Forum as the venue to deliver the first in-depth explanation of China’s vision for the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road, collectively known as the “Belt and Road.”
During the Boao Forum, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), in conjunction with China’s Foreign Ministry and Commerce Ministry, issued an action plan for the Belt and Road. Xinhua provided an English-language translation of the document. Beijing is not shy about its ambitions for the project — “The plan is expected to change the world political and economic landscape through development of countries along the routes, most of which are eager for fresh growth,” Xinhua wrote. Beijing hopes that annual trade volume between China and “Belt and Road” countries will “surpass 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars in a decade or so,” Xi said.
The plan is geographically ambitious as well, envisioning the Belt and Road as encompassing Asia, Africa, and Europe and their near seas. The land route “focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe,” the document noted. The Silk Road is envisioned as “a new Eurasian Land Bridge” created by transportation routes, with “core cites” as links in the chain. There were less details on the maritime route, though the plan noted there would be two legs: one linking China to the Indian Ocean via the South China Sea and the other traveling through the South China Sea to the South Pacific. There was no list of concrete projects associated with the Belt and Road, but China held up the $23 billion worth of deals just signed with Kazakhstan as a model for other countries.