COVID-19 pandemic speaks volumes of BRI cooperation for greater connectivity: experts

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of cooperation between countries, and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would provide opportunities for greater cooperation in economic recovery, participants at a BRI Post COVID-19 dialogue said on Tuesday.

In his welcoming remarks at a forum held visually by the Malaysia-China Friendship Association, its president Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan said the pandemic had highlighted the importance for cooperation between countries despite disrupting physical connections.

“BRI is about connectivity and cooperation. This recurring theme continues even with the onset of COVID-19,” he said.

“In Malaysia and elsewhere, the disastrous impact of the pandemic has disrupted people-to-people connectivity and slowed down physical connectivity building,” said Majid, who is also a former Malaysian ambassador to China.

“Cooperation between countries now have become more important than ever before. Given the difficulties faced by many of the BRI countries currently, these are indeed pertinent questions,” he added.

Majid reiterated that Malaysia has always been a supporter of BRI, being one of the first countries to get involved and hosting two major projects, namely the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP).

Proposed in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

M. Supperamaniam, former Malaysian ambassador to World Trade Organization, praised China’s “very impressive” reforms in the past decades, saying he believed China will push ahead to sustain and enhance growth trajectory in the upcoming 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development.

Lee Heng Guie, executive director of Malaysia’s Socio-Economic Research Center (SERC), said it was “heartening” to know the BRI is to make a success in the 14th Five-Year Plan, which will be very positive for the economies in the region in the post COVID-19 era.

Lee specifically highlighted that high-quality development was underscored for the Belt and Road cooperation.

Xu Liping, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the BRI would be a key avenue for cooperation between China and Malaysia.

“Looking forward, China and Malaysia can carry out close cooperation in interconnected infrastructure, tropical agriculture, marine economy and tourism, enhance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and Malaysia, and be the first to benefit from China’s dual circulation development pattern,” he said.

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