THE Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the most important initiative that China put forward in 2013 when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to build a silk road economic belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which have come to be known as BRI. The BRI is geared towards encouraging greater policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, investment and trade cooperation, financial integration, cultural and people-to-people exchange among different countries. It has since become the most popular public goods and cooperation platform China has offered to the world.
(Last week), the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation Summit was successively held in Beijing, with leaders around 200 countries and international organisations attending the summit. President Xi looked back on the achievements of BRI over the past few years and emphasised that going ahead, we would focus on project execution, move forward result-oriented implementation and jointly promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.
President Xi Jinping in particular elaborated on the people-to-people exchangeand pledged to focus on deepening cooperation and quality of development in this area, and I quote, “We need to build bridges for exchanges and mutual learning among different cultures, deepen cooperation in education, science, culture, sports, tourism, health and archaeology, strengthen exchanges between parliaments, political parties and non-governmental organisations and exchanges between women, young people and people with disabilities in order to facilitate multi-faceted people-to-people exchanges” . This, I believe, sets clear direction for us to carry out cultural exchanges under the framework of the “Belt and Road Initiative”.
China will, pledged President Xi, in the coming five years, invite 10 000 representatives of political parties, think tanks and non-governmental organisations from Belt and Road participating countries to visit China. I hope that our Zimbabwean friends including artists present today can grasp the opportunity to visit China and have deep exchanges with partners and colleagues of China and countries around the world.
Zimbabwe is a natural and important partner of China under BRI. During President ED Mnangagwa’s State visit to China last September, the two countries signed an MOU on BRI signaling Zimbabwe being officially part of this initiative.
At the Second Belt and Road Forum, Zimbabwe government was represented by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Honourable Monica Mutsvangwa. She attended the Digital Silk Road Forum in conjunction with the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which promotes integration and connection of BRI countries with a network of digital infrastructure and satellite coverage. Her visit is a full success and I am sure she will share with us her recent experience with BRI in China.
China and Zimbabwe have enjoyed great partnership and carried major projects of cooperation under the BRI framework. This is evidenced by the completion of projects of the Kariba South Hydro Power Station, Victoria Falls International Airport and the launch of Hwange Thermal Power Station and Robert Mugabe International Airport and the building of the new Parliament.
Our cooperation in culture, arts, health and education has been fruitful as well in recent years. The “dream star” talent show help Zimbabwean talented young men and women to discover themselves. Each year we have multiple wonderful artistic troupes visit China and Zimbabwe respectively, helping Chinese and Zimbabweans better appreciate each other’s culture. And every year we select and finance through Government scholarships hundreds of Zimbabwean outstanding students to study in China including art courses. All such engagements have enhanced mutual understanding and friendly sentiments between the two peoples and strengthened the foundation of our relations. To further deepen cultural relations and to promote more cultural exchanges, we hope we could work with the Zimbabwean Government to build a Chinese Cultural Centre here in Zimbabwe in the near future. This Cultural Centre will not only help in cultural exchange but will bring our two peoples closer together. The Centre will facilitate cultural exchange programs which will see an increase in the number of trips made by Zimbabwean artists to China and vice versa. I hope we could get positive response and cooperation from the Zimbabwean side for this matter.