Jamil Anderlini: I want to ask you about Xinjiang. Can you tell us what's the main reason for the security crackdown in the last couple of years? What does it mean for Belt and Road going into the neighboring countries through that region?
Le Yucheng: For Xinjiang, stability is of paramount importance. A few years ago, extremism and terrorism, violent terrorism in particular, caused casualties and economic losses not just in Xinjiang but also in cities including Beijing and Kunming. Therefore, the government must resolutely crack down on terrorism. Being soft on violent terrorists is tantamount to being harsh on the people.
In recent years, we have channeled substantial resources to Xinjiang for maintaining stability and promoting development. The measures we have taken have paid off, as evidenced by greater stability, a growing economy and a stronger sense of security among its people. In 2017, Xinjiang's economy grew by 7.6%, higher than the national average. Last year, I took a trip to Xinjiang, and I saw close-up the stability and development there, which has been the result of all the efforts we have made, efforts that are endorsed and supported by the people of Xinjiang. The Chinese government will not allow Xinjiang to become another Syria, Libya or Iraq. Furthermore, the spillover of instability in Xinjiang may affect stability in Central Asia and the Middle East, or even Europe.
The BRI will also contribute to Xinjiang's stability and development. As an important gateway linking China to regions westwards, Xinjiang, together with other western provinces, have become the forward in opening-up, no longer the backfielder they used to be. This marks a new dimension of China's opening-up.
Jamil Anderlini: The US has said they want to look at the idea of the Indo-Pacific, and they want to fund some investments there. Do you think this is something that can work with the BRI? Or is it a competitor for the BRI?
Le Yucheng: The Asia-Pacific has a huge demand for infrastructure investment and connectivity. At the same time, there is a big gap in resources. Some institutions estimate that every year, the Asia-Pacific needs about US$1.7 trillion of investment in infrastructure. Apparently, that cannot be filled by China alone. Everybody needs to pitch in. We welcome various initiatives that will be conducive to regional development and hope to see them complement and reinforce each other.
The United States has announced its Indo-Pacific strategy or Indo-Pacific Economic Vision. As we have seen, there are various versions of Indo-Pacific strategy, the Japanese, American and Indian version. Southeast Asian countries are also working on their own version. We are open to all initiatives that will help regional development and cooperation. What we are firmly against is attempts to use the Indo-Pacific strategy as a tool to counter the BRI or even contain China. We hope to see parties working in concert rather than pursuing their own agenda and undercutting each other's efforts. If that's the case, instead of one plus one equals more than two, the result will be one minus one is less than zero. Whether it is the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, or the Atlantic Ocean, they should serve as a broad platform that everyone brings into play their strengths, not a theater for rivalry. Parties should work together in concert instead of in contest.
The BRI is an open initiative, not an exclusive bloc. It aims to connect development strategies rather than seek to exclude each other. We have been working with various parties for trilateral cooperation or multi-party cooperation in the BRI framework. Siemens has partnered with over a hundred Chinese companies to explore the BRI market. Standard Chartered will be providing at least US$20 billion of financing to BRI projects by 2020. GE has landed US$2.3 billion of orders from the BRI. Such trilateral cooperation should be encouraged in the future.
Jamil Anderlini: I want to go back just very briefly to Xinjiang. The media is talking about these camps in Xinjiang. Do you see these camps as part of the solution? Like this is part of stabilizing the region?
Le Yucheng: Again, stability is most important for Xinjiang. Why are there terrorists or extremists and their organizations in Xinjiang? Because some people are brainwashed by radical ideologies, especially radical Islamic ideologies, and choose to pursue a wrong and destructive cause, posing a threat to their family and the public and ruining their own life. We need to help them deradicalize, return to a normal life and reintegrate into the society. When there is an illness, treat it before it is too late. Whenever there is a sign of people being influenced by radical religious ideas, we need to help them rather than sit on our hands and do nothing as they move to the point of no return.
The government has done so within the confines of law, including the criminal law and the anti-terrorism law. All governments act to uphold their national security in accordance with the law. The UK is also a victim of terrorist attacks. On 7 July 2005, London was hit by a series of bombings. One of my colleagues lived close to one of the underground stations that was hit by the bombing. His five-year-old kid experienced that horrible tragedy and is still traumatized, unable to forget that experience even today. All governments are obliged to keep the country and their people safe.
Jamil Anderlini: Chinese government and Chinese officials often say China is a developing country and rightly points out that per capita GDP is still much lower than other countries. So do you think maybe this is a bit early for China to be doing something like BRI while there are so many challenges back home. Do you think that maybe that some of this investment and money could be spent back here in China?
Le Yucheng: China is still the largest developing country. Our per capita GDP ranks behind 70th in the world, and we have over 30 million poor people, which is half of UK's population. And we do face the daunting challenge of inadequate and unbalanced development. But I don't think it is too early to pursue external cooperation at this point. On the contrary, that's what is needed at the moment. Because today's world is a globalized world, countries' interests are more closely intertwined than ever before, and China's interests are deeply integrated with the rest of the world.
China imports about 70% of its oil needs and more than 90 million tons of soybeans every year. We also depend heavily on imports for many other commodities, which makes it impossible for us to develop behind closed doors. President Xi has made clear repeatedly that the door of reform and opening-up will not close, but will only open wider and wider. We welcome foreign investment to China. At the same time, we also encourage Chinese companies to explore the global market.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reform and opening-up. It's about time to take it to a higher level. The BRI is an upgraded version of China's reform and opening-up. It will help diversify trade, allocate production factors and development resources globally, and improve the reform and opening-up structure of China. Following the coastal areas, the hinterland is rapidly catching up, making the western region the new forefront of China's opening-up.
We hope that through the BRI, we can achieve greater development and also be better positioned to help other developing countries. We believe that people, or countries for that matter, can't just care about themselves, put self-interest above everything else or seek a beggar-thy-neighbor approach. For the past five years, the total volume of goods traded between China and BRI countries has exceeded US$5 trillion. Direct Chinese investment surpassed US$70 billion, and the total value of contracted projects is over US$500 billion.
During last year's Belt and Road Forum, China and relevant countries reached a total of 279 outcomes, which have been or on course to be delivered. Around the world, China has helped build 82 economic and trade cooperation zones, contributing over US$2 billion of tax revenues and over 200,000 jobs to host countries. With our cooperation, Kazakhstan, the largest landlocked country, has a sea outlet and can now access the Pacific through the Lianyungang port in China. The China-Laos railway is expected to turn Laos, a landlocked country, into a land-linked country. And Maldives, a country of islands, has seen its dream of being connected by bridge come true. For the first time in its history, Belarus has its own passenger car production facility, and the industrial park set up by China there is the largest in Eurasia.
The construction of the Jakarta-Bandung railway and the Belgrade-Budapest railway has been kicked off. Four railways have been completed in Africa, and a number of railways and roads are under way. These are the early harvests of the BRI and they fully demonstrate that the BRI is in line with China's development stage. Rather than being ahead of the times, the BRI is in keeping with and leading the trend of the times.