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Synergies Between the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative


When Xi Jinping announced the Global Development Initiative (GDI) in late 2021, important questions were raised about the future of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Here, two scholars from Renmin University argue that the GDI is an addition to, not a replacement of, the BRI. They tout the GDI and BRI as the “main drivers of global South-South cooperation” and useful tools to address the North-South gap and promote the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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On September 21, 2021, President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative during the general debate of the 76th United Nations General Assembly. This is another major public product that China has provided to the international community.


Development is the master key to solving all problems, and it is also the aspiration of all countries. As a contributor to global development, from the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 to the Global Development Initiative in 2021, China has contributed Chinese wisdom, Chinese solutions, and Chinese strength to solving development problems and development deficits.


China Power: Driving a New Transformation from International Development to Global Development


At present, developing countries are still the “prone areas” of global development problems and face severe challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The World Bank’s 2022 Global Economic Outlook pointed out that the risk of a “hard landing” in developing countries is rising. Not only is the debt problem of developing countries far from resolved, some countries and regions have even returned to poverty and chaos as a result of the pandemic, and the failure of governance in some developing countries has added complexity to the global development deficit. Under the existing development framework, North-South cooperation is progressing slowly, and ODA to developing countries from developed countries is less than half of the pledged amount. In particular, the least developed countries are still far behind the global pace in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


Not only has the original development process of developing countries stagnated and regressed, but developed countries are also facing new development challenges. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the development achievements accumulated by the international community over the years have been severely eroded, and developing countries have faced unprecedented shocks and tests. In July 2021, UN Secretary-General Guterres said: In 2020, there will be 720 million to 811 million people facing hunger in the world, an increase of about 161 million people compared with 2019. The data shows that in terms of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the world is “largely off track.” The post-pandemic recovery of the world economy is struggling, with inflation in some developed countries rising to multi-year highs, and interest rate hikes in the United States and Europe posing stagflation challenges to the global economy. There are also many people in developed countries who are living in dire predicaments, and social problems frequently occur. The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine has had a serious impact on the economy of the eurozone, international energy and food prices have continued to rise, and global supply chain disruptions have intensified. The North and the South still have a cognitive mismatch with regards to the global development deficit, and the fragmented global consciousness has become a major obstacle to global development cooperation.


The great changes unseen in a century and the COVID-19 pandemic are intertwined and superimposed, calling for global development to move towards a new stage of balance, coordination, and inclusiveness. According to the United Nation’s 2021 Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report, the pandemic has slowed down the progress of 17 goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and even reversed in some areas, with the Human Development Index declining for the first time in three decades. In the past, the mechanism of international development was still centered on the West, with a few developed countries holding the power to formulate rules and set agendas. President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative, emphasizing the achievement of “stronger, greener, and healthier” global development to enhance the representation and voice of developing countries in international affairs, fully demonstrating the great practical significance of China’s firm determination to attach importance to common development and promote the realization of global development.


The China Plan: Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative


It is against the background of this era that the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative, as dual programs provided by China for the world, place the promotion of common development in a prominent position and form a new force and a new point of integration. It can be seen that the development dimensions of the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative are highly compatible, the processes are connected, and the platforms are mutually reinforcing, which are in line with their respective development stages and tasks, and conform to the laws of global development. Based on the theory of Marxist internationalism, this provides strategic guidance and fundamental compliance for development and cooperation in the new era.


In terms of cooperation, the Belt and Road and Global Development initiatives, as innovative concepts, provide strategic guidance and fundamental compliance for development cooperation in the new era. The 2030 Agenda is a negotiation consensus of 193 countries around the world, fully expressing the concerns and cares of all countries in the world, and providing a common discourse system for South-South cooperation and North-South dialogue under the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative. The core concepts of the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative are people-centric, adhere to the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits, and combine Chinese concepts with the needs of the world. In 1994, China was the first among more than 190 countries in the world to release its own sustainable development action plan – China’s Agenda 21. Entering the 21st century, China’s status as a major developing country has not changed, nor has its empathy for the concerns and needs of other countries. The core of the Global Development Initiative is to promote common development, with the undertones of development priorities, upholding the primacy of people, inclusiveness, innovation, harmonious coexistence between man and nature, and the action-oriented “Six Commitments” and the goal of building a community with a shared future for global development. “The destiny of all mankind is closely related, and the interests of all countries are closely linked.” We ultimately must promote the construction of a community with a shared future for all of mankind.


In key areas, the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda are highly compatible with the five areas of the Belt and Road’s policy communication, facility connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bonds. The Global Development Initiative and the 2020 UN Decade of Action plan echo one another, focusing on the most pressing issues currently facing developing countries, such as poverty alleviation, food security, economic recovery, education and health and offering “21st century solutions.” Focusing on a series of basic issues, such as why development is needed, for whom development is needed, whom development relies on, and how to develop, the two initiatives promote one another in key areas and jointly contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. By giving play to the important platform role of the Belt and Road Initiative, we will focus on building a healthy silk road, a green silk road, a digital silk road, and an innovative silk road and will jointly build large-scale key projects and “small but beautiful and effective” projects. When promoted alongside the Global Development Initiative, we can focus on the development needs of developing countries and continuously enhance the sense of happiness, gain, and security of local people. The World Bank’s Belt and Road Economics report predicts that by 2030, the Belt and Road Initiative is expected to help 7.6 million people in related countries escape from extreme poverty and 32 million people escape from moderate poverty, injecting new impetus into global development cooperation.


In agenda setting, the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative are the main drivers of global South-South cooperation. On the one hand, China has incorporated specific sustainable development goals into its national mid- and long-term development plans and has made them clear and detailed in key special plans to promote the effective alignment of the sustainable development agenda with the 14th Five-Year Plan and the 2035 vision. China has also vigorously carried out foreign aid and international development cooperation in the new era and has provided an important cooperation platform for building a community with a shared future for mankind. On the other hand, China works with international and regional organizations, especially the United Nations system and has translated documents such as the Memorandum of Understanding on Advancing the Belt and Road Initiative and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Action Plan for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Initiative to Support Industrialization in Africa and the Least Developed Countries into practical action; China has also strengthened strategic cooperation with emerging market countries and has coordinated with the development process of small island, landlocked, and least developed countries. China has formed a consensus on the Belt and Road Initiative with two-thirds of the world’s countries and one-third of major international organizations. The launch of the Friends of the Global Development Initiative marks an important step in the construction of the initiative’s cooperation mechanism.


Chinese Wisdom: Sustainable development is good development, and development together is true development


The Global Development Initiative countdown has already begun, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets that must be achieved by 2030. The Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative were proposed by China and belong to the world. They grasp the pulse of global development and urgent needs and have received positive responses and extensive support from the international community, showing strong resilience and vitality. To further achieve mutual promotion and synergy between the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative, it is necessary to promote implementation from three dimensions.


The first is to unite developing countries and further unleash the potential of South-South cooperation. Within the framework of South-South cooperation, we will help other developing countries to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development within our capacity and respect the equal development opportunities and rights of developing countries. We will follow the action guidelines for pragmatic cooperation, seize development opportunities in the fields of digital economies, vaccine cooperation, connectivity, and green development and carry out joint self-improvement. We will adhere to the principles of “common but differentiated responsibilities” and require developed countries to live up to their words and deeds and support developing countries in their green and low-carbon transformations. We will explore new economic forms and new development models to help developing countries promote economic and social recovery and development.


The second is to unite with developed countries to further narrow the development gap between the North and the South. On July 1, 2015, China became a member of the OECD Development Center. OECD Secretary-General Gurría called it an “historic and transformative opportunity for mutual benefit and knowledge sharing.” The economic development model of “promising government and effective market” explored by China’s reform and opening up has achieved both economic growth and economic development. At the same time, it has also exerted its late-mover advantages and first-mover advantages with great appeal. As the largest developing country, the largest emerging country, and the second largest economy, China plays the role of bridge and link in the G20. This is the driving force behind the Belt and Road Initiative as it develops third-party markets. The measures taken by developed countries to accelerate economic recovery and international development commitments will determine the development path in the next five or even ten years and will directly affect the success of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We urge developed countries to implement their development aid commitments, implement responsible macroeconomic policies, curb the global spread of high inflation, and reduce negative spillover effects on developing countries. We will jointly oppose any country or individual engaging in technological blockades, technological divides, and decoupling of development. While refuting the West’s containment, suppression, attacks, and smears, we must promote North-South cooperation and trilateral cooperation.


The third is to strengthen and give play to the role of the United Nations and practice multilateralism. We will continue to push the United Nations to put development at the core of its agenda and practice multilateralism in all aspects of international development cooperation. We will take a clear stand against unilateralism and protectionism and oppose ideological demarcation and politicization of development issues. We will insist that international affairs be discussed by everyone, continue to adhere to the international development cooperation pattern with North-South cooperation as the main channel and South-South cooperation as the supplement, and promote and lead the construction of discourse systems, knowledge construction, and paradigm research for global development cooperation under the multilateral development framework. We will promote the active participation of the private sector, NGOs, expert think tanks, and the media in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.


In a word, by “refocusing” on development issues, “recommitting” to the sustainable development goals, “reboosting” global partnerships, and “reactivating” international development cooperation, China is trying to narrow the gap between the North and the South and break the development imbalance. A “roadmap” has been proposed, providing an “accelerator” for advancing the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and bringing together a strong synergy to promote a stronger, greener, and healthier global development and build a community with a shared future for mankind. The Global Development Initiative and Belt and Road Initiative have continuously contributed Chinese wisdom, Chinese solutions, and Chinese strength to the improvement of the global governance system, the promotion of global common development, and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.


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Cite This Page

陈超 (Chen Chao), 王义桅 (Wang Yiwei). "Synergies Between the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative [全球发展倡议与“一带一路”协同增效]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Beijing Daily [北京日报], May 27, 2022

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