The inclusion is evidence that China hinges its future development on intensifying cooperation which will endure beyond Xi’s tenure. In his speech at the congress, President Xi explained the importance of adopting policies to promote high level economic liberalisation and the facilitation of trade and investment:
"Openness brings progress, while self-seclusion leaves one behind. China will not close its door to the world; we will only become more and more open. We should pursue the Belt and Road Initiative as a priority, give equal emphasis to “bringing in” and “going global,” follow the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, and increase openness and cooperation in building innovation capacity."
The Belt and Road Initiative has gained support and recognition since its launch in 2013, through major events such as this year’s inaugural summit, in Beijing, when President Xi Jinping pledged US $124bn in funding for the initiative. Mr Vincent HS Lo, from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, estimates that China has so far invested US $515bn in Belt and Road countries. For him, the potential of the Belt and Road Initiative is enormous:
"Many of the Belt and Road countries are developing countries which need to reduce poverty, and by improving the infrastructure as a fundamental step, then industrialisation and growth will follow. If this is achieved through the Belt and Road Initiative, it will translate into profits, jobs, knowledge, better transportation and better lives for all."
Another mechanism which started to deepen connections between China and 16 Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) in 2012, is now building momentum along the Belt and Road. The so-called ‘16 +1’ initiative has already brought numerous tangible results for Slovenia: average annual trade with China stands at 15% in recent years, with particularly high growth for Slovenian exports (increase of 83.5% in 2016 and 52% in the first half of 2017). At the summit of the Heads of Government of the 16+1 countries in Budapest, in November, Slovenia took the opportunity to formally join the Belt and Road Initiative. Slovenian Prime Minister, Dr Miro Cerar, met with his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, at the summit and praised the initiative: “For the Slovenian economy, which is very open and export-oriented, this initiative means a window of new opportunities”. The signed Memorandum of Understanding includes priority areas for cooperation such as logistics, the promotion of trade and investment, financial cooperation and cooperation in the areas of technology, tourism, culture and sport.
Further opportunities are expected through future projects such as the newly announced, world-class, China International Import Expo which will take place in Shanghai in November 2018. China invites the business community and government officials from across the world to support trade liberalisation and economic globalisation, while actively exploring the Chinese market.