Introduced by the Chinese government in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an important platform for cooperation between China and other countries including Brunei Darussalam. The initiative is a long-term policy and investment programme in infrastructure development and acceleration and economic integration of countries along the route of the historic Silk Road.
From January to October 2021, trade between China and countries along the Belt and Road route reached CNY9.3 trillion, an increase of 23 per cent. According to a report by the World Bank, the BRI is expected to lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty by 2030.
Ambassador of China to Brunei Darussalam Yu Hong said, “The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), constantly developing through cooperation with all parties involved, has now grown into the largest international cooperation platform both in scope and scale, and the most popular international public good.”
The Belt and Road cooperation, she highlighted, “has shown great resilience and vitality in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2021, President Xi Jinping delivered a written address to the Asia and Pacific High-level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation, which was attended by ministers from nearly 30 Asia-Pacific countries including Brunei.
“President Xi said China will work with all sides to build a closer Belt and Road partnership of solidarity, cooperation, connectivity and common development, and advance the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. By October 2021, China had signed more than 200 documents on Belt and Road cooperation with 172 countries and international organisations, and promoted the establishment of more than 90 bilateral cooperation mechanisms.”
Introduced by the Chinese government in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an important platform for cooperation between China and countries around the world including
In April 2021, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam stated at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2021 that BRI would further complement the revitalisation of economies, adding that it is a significant plan that would contribute to regional connectivity and further enhance the economic landscape, while presenting opportunities to work together in a number of areas and through sub-regional fora such as Brunei Darussalam – Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
“The policy communication mechanism between the two countries has been continuously improved,” said Ambassador Yu Hong, noting that in January 2021, State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi visited Brunei and co-chaired the second meeting of the Joint Steering Committee between the two governments with Brunei’s Minister of Foreign Affairs II, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof.
“Both sides reaffirmed their continued commitment to strengthening Belt and Road cooperation. Both ministers attended the launching ceremony of the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties. In June, Wang Yi reiterated in the meeting with Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan in Chongqing, of China’s willingness to promote the healthy development of China-Brunei Strategic Cooperative Partnership.”
She revealed that both ministers had four phone calls throughout the year and exchanged views to deepen bilateral cooperation. In addition, the two sides maintained close communication on the Belt and Road cooperation in various fields.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah attended the Asia and Pacific High-level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation. Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong attended the Belt and Road Ministerial Forum for International Cooperation in Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management.
Minister of Energy Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny bin Haji Mohd Hussein attended the Second Belt and Road Energy Ministerial Conference.
Chief Justice of the Brunei Supreme Court Dato Seri Paduka Steven Chong attended the Maritime Silk Road (Quanzhou) International Forum on Judicial Cooperation.
Meanwhile, the cooperation in connectivity and infrastructure between the two countries has been continuously enhanced, said Ambassador Yu Hong.
“China supports Brunei’s efforts to build the development hub of the BIMP-EAGA with focus on Muara Port, and to jointly build a new pattern of China-BIMP-EAGA cooperation. The expansion of the Muara Port container terminal began in the second half of 2021. Once completed, the container handling capacity will increase nearly five times.
“Huawei ICT Academy2, a partnership between Huawei Technologies Brunei and Universiti Teknologi Brunei set up in March 2021, aims to cultivate talents of innovation and application for Brunei,” she continued. “The Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge, co-constructed by a Chinese company, was put into use in 2020 and has become a new symbol of Brunei’s modernisation. Projects such as Pulau Muara Besar Bridge, Trisai- Lumu Expressway and Uludu East Dam were constructed with high efficiency, high quality and advanced technology by Chinese companies, which greatly improved Brunei’s connectivity.
“During the pandemic, the two countries maintained direct flights and sea transportation, which played an important role in stabilising the industrial chain and supply chain of both sides.”
She also highlighted that the benefits of unimpeded trade between the two countries have continuously unfolded. “Due to the impact of the pandemic, world trade in goods fell by 5.6 per cent year-on-year in 2020, the largest decline since the international financial crisis in 2008.
However, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Brunei has maintained a good momentum, with the volume of trade in goods growing significantly against the trend of global economy, which reached USD1.91 billion in 2020, up 72.5 per cent year-on-year, much higher than the growth rate of China-ASEAN trade in goods of the same period of time. From January to October 2021, it hit a record high of USD2.37 billion, 24 per cent more than last year’s annual trade volume.
“In 2020, Hengyi has played an active role in promoting Brunei’s economic development, having expanded Brunei’s oil and gas downstream industry, making vital contributions to the promotion of local employment and economic diversification.”
The 5th China-Brunei Consultation Meeting on Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation was held in September 2021. “Both sides jointly announced the establishment of China-Brunei Investment and Economic Cooperation Working Group. Brunei participated in the Country Exhibition of the 4th China International Import Expo for the first time, and enterprises actively participated in the 18th China-ASEAN Expo,” shared the ambassador.
“The two sides signed the Protocol on Inspection, Quarantine and Veterinary Health Requirements for Aquaculture Products Imported to China in July 2021, further strengthening the cooperation on aquaculture products. The two sides continue to explore the potential for cooperation in areas such as e-commerce, small and medium-sized enterprises, digital technology, and expand the mutual benefits of economic and trade cooperation.”
The access to finance for both countries has been continuously expanded. Ambassador Yu Hong said, “Brunei, a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, has been working together with China to maintain regional financial stability and development. China welcomes Brunei’s application to use the China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund (CAF) and the Special Loan for China and BIMP-EAGA Cooperation to further promote the integration of ASEAN Community.”
“Set up in Brunei since 2016, the Brunei branch of the Bank of China has been providing quality financial services for the country’s economic development and project construction. Brunei’s financial enterprises have actively taken in Chinese e-payment methods, with Alipay and UnionPay landing in Brunei successively, raising the level of convenience of local payment methods.”
In addition, the mutual understanding between the two peoples has been continuously deepened, she said.
“The Logo Design Competition for the 30th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between China and Brunei was held jointly by the Embassy of China and Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Wang Yi and Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan attended the awards ceremony of the Logo Design Competition in January 2021.”
She added, “Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, attended and addressed the virtual reception in celebration of Chinese National Day and the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties.”
The ambassador noted that since the onslaught of the pandemic last year, both peoples helped each other and joined hands in fighting the pandemic.
“The Brunei Government came forward with funds for Hubei Province of China. China donated a total of 152,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines in February and September 2021 as well as a large quantity of anti-epidemic materials, strongly supporting Brunei’s fight against the coronavirus.”
“Local governments of Guangxi Province and City of Nanjing, Chinese businesses, and ordinary people of both countries also came forward with anti-epidemic supplies and funds. Evyd Technology has assisted in the development of emergency response platform and the continued improvement of BruHealth, both playing an increasingly important role in Brunei’s fight against the pandemic. Chinese company BGI responded swiftly to the request of the Bruneian Government, and set up the first mobile inflatable Huo-Yan emergency test laboratory in Southeast Asia, significantly improving the testing and detection capacity of Brunei and boosting public confidence in winning the fight.”
She shared that China provides scholarships to Brunei through various channels, and Chinese enterprises in Brunei actively cooperate with universities in both countries to train talents in Brunei.
The Chinese Embassy organised an art competition for primary school pupils, a gathering with Bruneian students China alumni, and donated books on China and Chinese language to colleges and schools, so as to continuously enhance exchanges and friendship between the two peoples.
Moreover, the regional economic cooperation continues to make new progress, and synergise with BRI.
The ambassador said. “China has always supported free trade, and advocates the establishment of an open, transparent, mutually beneficial and win-win regional free trade arrangement.
“After signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), China, Brunei and other countries have completed the domestic ratification procedures, and RCEP will enter into force on January 1, 2022.
“In September 2021, China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), declaring to the world once again China’s willingness and determination to continue to deepen reforms and open up.”
Ambassador Yu Hong added, “China is committed to promoting the high-quality development of BRI and providing new opportunities for the wider world with China’s new development.”
“China stands ready to strengthen the synergy between China’s Long-Range Objectives through the Year 2035 and Brunei Vision 2035, to focus on economic recovery and explore new opportunities in the post-pandemic era, making new contributions to the continuous development of bilateral relations and the peace, stability and prosperity of the region.”
Copyright 2019 Borneo Bulletin Yearbook 2019 All rights reserved.