Financial Integration Propels the Belt and Road Initiative Construction
So far, the Belt and Road Initiative has inspired enthusiastic support from more than 100 countries. Over 130 agreements on transportation and more than 100 agreements on investment have been signed. More than 100 cross-border economic cooperation zones and industrial parks have been built jointly by China and countries along the routes. During the Belt and Road construction, China deepened its financial cooperation with countries along the routes through policy-based finance, development finance, cooperating finance and commercial finance. China has strengthened cooperation in banking, securities, insurance and financial supervision. China also promoted regionalization and internationalization of currency. All these measures have supported construction of the Belt and Road and stabilized regional finance. And China, as the main force, is driving the economic growth of the countries along the routes. International multi-lateral financial organizations like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have participated in construction of the Belt and Road, meeting various countries’ demand for financing of infrastructure. International financial organizations like BRICS New Development Bank have played a lead role in pushing green development and establishing the green Silk Road. By the end of 2014, China had invested US$40 billion in the Silk Road Fund, an organization specifically formed to support infrastructure construction, connectivity, financial and industrial cooperation along the Belt and Road. In its first year of operation, AIIB, initiated by China, had invested US$1.7 billion in infrastructure.
Network for Financial Stability Since the proposal of the Belt and Road Initiative, China has strengthened connectivity of financial infrastructure with nations along the routes and made great progress in cooperation on supervising and preventing systemic financial risk.
Cooperating countries have established financial organizations in reciprocal lands. By the end of 2016, nine Chinese-funded banks had set up 26 first-tier branches in the nations along the routes. The 54 commercial banks of 20 nations along the routes have six established subsidiaries, one finance company, 20 branches and 40 representative offices in China.
Direct financing in the capital market represents the primary source for financing infrastructure construction in the regions along the routes. In 2015, China and Germany set up a joint venture called China Europe International Exchange AG (CEINEX). In 2016, Chinese futures and securities exchanges held 30 percent of stock rights of Pakistani stock. Chinese cooperation in stock markets with other countries including the UK and Russia is being discussed. China’s Securities Regulatory Commission has signed memorandums on cooperation on securities with 26 nations and regions along the routes. By the end of 2016, 14 overseas enterprises had issued 46 panda bonds totaling 83.6 billion yuan. On March 17, 2017, Russia’s United Company RUSAL Plc issued 10 billion yuan worth of bonds on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. They were the first panda bonds issued by a company from a country along the Belt and Road. Insurance capital is secure and stable, which makes it ideal to fund infrastructure. Its advantage in risk management creates guarantees for investors and traders. In 2016, overseas investment insurance underwrote 263 projects of the Belt and Road involving 29 countries with an insurance policy worth US$30.73 billion. The narrow industrial structures of many countries along the routes make it hard for them to fend off risk. To hedge against risk in the precarious global financial market, China Banking Regulatory Commission signed memorandums of understanding on bilateral supervision with counterparts in 67 countries and regions. Nations along the routes can also use public monetary goods like the RMB to combat financial risk. Already, China has carried out currency swaps with over 30 countries amounting to 3.3 trillion yuan. On October 1, 2016, the RMB became one of currencies in the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket. Countries along the routes can make full use of financial infrastructures enhanced by the Belt and Road and RMB’s stability, making the Initiative an important instrument of international trade that promotes economic growth. Increasing financial integration provides strong support for the Belt and Road construction and lifts economic development. Simultaneously, a network of stabilizing finance is taking shape, which will help countries to avoid financial crisis and propel steady growth of the economy.
The author is a Research Fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.
(This content is provided by Beijing-based China Pictorial.)