The One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is an ambitious project that aims to connect countries spread across Asia, Africa and Europe. Also known as the Belt and Road Initiative, the ‘belt’ is a network of roads and railways, whereas the ‘road’ is a network of sea routes. Worth over USD1 trillion, the project is rapidly expanding and currently spans over 70 countries, more than half of the world’s population.
Through this initiative, Brunei Darussalam and the People’s Republic of China aim to strengthen bilateral ties, in addition to enhancing regional connectivity. In April 2019, 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 attended the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China. His Majesty joined representatives from over 100 countries and international organisations at the forum established by China to assist the growth and expansion of free trades.
During the session, His Majesty highlighted the need to enhance trade connectivity and reinforce a stable and transparent multilateral trading system. This will in return boost trade linkages and provide business-friendly environments.
His Majesty encouraged the People’s Republic of China to explore synergies with other subregional initiatives, the Pan Beibu Gulf and other regions in China. His Majesty also said that the increased infrastructure development in the sub-region can promote growth in agrifood and natural resource production.
As the host country, China together with other parties, took stock of what has been achieved, drew a blueprint and enriched the vision for future cooperation. Priorities were identified and cooperation mechanisms will be strengthened to make concrete progress towards quality cooperation with a goal to further enrich the OBOR cooperation.
The importance of the OBOR initiative was further highlighted in Brunei when Brunei-China One Belt One Road Association was established in late 2018, led by Jackson Ting as the president. At the swearing-in ceremony, several memorandums of understanding were signed on cooperation in the field of education, innovation and technology.
Speaking at the ceremony, the president of the association shared that the establishment of the association carries the vision of promoting Brunei’s socio-economic development through China’s OBOR initiatives. He said the association’s mission is to establish a platform that encourages and fosters business, trade, investments and cultural exchanges between Brunei and China.
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Brunei Darussalam Yu Hong on numerous occasions has stressed on the OBOR initiative’s significance for the two countries. In a statement titled ‘Jointly Promote Belt and Road Initiative for Beautiful Future of China-Brunei Relations’, the ambassador said that Brunei is an important link along the ancient maritime Silk Road. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of its relations with Brunei, said the ambassador.
Since the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 1991, China and Brunei have deepened their political mutual trust. Over the years, the two countries have supported and collaborated with each other on regional and international issues. In 2018, the China-Brunei trade volume increased by 86 per cent, the fastest growth among China and ASEAN countries.
The Hengyi Industries oil refinery and petrochemical plant at Pulau Muara Besar is the biggest Chinese investment in Brunei to date and will contribute to the diversification of Brunei’s economy, said the ambassador.
In November 2018, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Brunei. China and Brunei pledged to cooperate to benefit each other’s economy and citizens, and to further boost bilateral trade and investment. A memorandum of understanding was signed to move forward with the OBOR initiative, signifying the mutual cooperation between the two countries.
The ambassador said that both countries will continue to work together towards the OBOR initiative, developing their bilateral relations and creating a better future. Brunei also welcomes more foreign direct investment interests from China in its efforts to build a strong and sustainable economy.
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