Cooperation agreements and MoUs under the Belt and Road Initiative

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is often subject of controversial debates. Something that frequently heats up the minds and ignites political debates are governmental-level bilateral signed BRI-MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding), which not only promise cooperation within the framework of BRI, but also substantiate the legitimacy of the initiative. This was seen only recently, when the Australian state of Victoria decided to sign a MoU with China on the BRI. While some stated that signing this MoU is no big deal as the furor over Victoria’s MoU with China overlooks that – in Beijing’s eyes – the BRI is already at work in Australia, neither federal Labor nor the federal government were amused about Victoria’s solo run.

How many Belt and Road MoUs are already signed?

There is no official list or comprehensive compilation on which countries or organizations already have signed BRI-MoUs with China. But when reading Chinese state media during the last year, chances were high to at least once a week find a picture of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, signing a MoU on BRI. According to state-run Xinhua, so far, China has signed 123 cooperation documents on the Belt and Road development with 105 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the South Pacific region, and 26 such documents with 29 international organizations.

Structure of Belt and Road MoUs

Even if there are differences in the detailed designs of the MoUs, the basic structure of the agreements is similar. After agreeing on enhancing (policy) coordination and deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, both signing parties reach an “understanding” of cooperating on the five cooperation priorities of BRI 1. Policy coordination, 2. Facilities connectivity, 3. Unimpeded trade, 4. Financial integration, 5. People-to-people bonds. The five priorities are “guided by the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits”. Genereally speaking, cooperation can cover a wide range of fields such as joint transportation infrastructure development, joint set-up of industrial parks, establishment of sister-city networks, trade and investment promotion, financial cooperation (such as strategic cooperation with the Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank, AIIB) or the joint collaboration in regional initiatives.

Are Belt and Road MoUs legally binding?

At the end of the documents (see e.g. BRI-MoU China-Victoria or BRI-MoU China-Latvia), both parties agree that the document is not legally binding. But even if not legally binding, according to Chris Devonshire-Ellis, “certain elements within the MoU could be interpreted by either party, and especially the Chinese. Such interpretations can, in fact, influence the way in which China views statements made within the MoU, and regard these as important in future diplomatic talks. In short, the purpose of these non-legally binding MoU is to influence, rather than direct.”

“The MoU appear largely benign; however, it does contain the seeds of what could, in future, be used as diplomatic tools in terms of insisting that agreements have been reached over certain areas.” (Chris Devonshire-Ellis)

Countries and organizations, which officially pledged support to the Belt and Road Initiative (by MoUs or Joint Statements/Communiques)

*this list is not complete and is being updated continuously

FranceJoint Declaration2018
AfghanistanJoint Statement2018
African UnionMoU2018
Antigua and BarbudaMoU2018
Bosnia and HerzegovinaMoU2017
Czech RepublicMoU2015
European UnionJoint Statement
FinlandJoint Declaration2017
FranceJoint Declaration2018
IndonesiaJoint Statement2015
KazakhstanJoint Declaration2015
MaledivesJoint Communique2017
MyanmarJoint Communique2016
New ZealandMoA2017
PakistanJoint Statement2018
Papua New GuineaJoint Communique2016
PhilippinesJoint Statement2017
South AfricaMoU2015
ThailandJoint Communique2014
Timor-LesteJoint Statement2014
TongaJoint Communique, MoU2018
Trinidad and TobagoMoU2018
United Arab EmiratesFramework Agreement2017
Victoria, AustraliaMoU2018
Arab Chambers of CommerceMoU2017
Cote d'IvoireMoU2018
Sierra LeoneMoU2018
Costa RicaMoU2018

BRI Factsheet Series – Sachal Wind Farm

In September 2017, Pakistan’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority released the information that the share of wind power in the overall energy mix had increased by 0.46 per cent to 1.23 per cent. This brings the country closer to reach its 2030 target of 5 per cent wind-power of its overall electricity output. An important component of this wind power expansion is the Sachal Windfarm Project, a wind farm, developed on 275 hectare of land, with a total installed capacity of 49.5 MW. The project is located in the Jhimpir wind corridor in the Thatta District, Province of Sindh, being developed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of the Belt and Road Initiative.

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Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway with a total length of 1,300 km connects the Pakistani provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan with China’s western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. On the Chinese side it becomes the China National Highway 314. It is the main artery between China and Pakistan since it is the only overland link between the two countries. The highway passes through the Karakoram mountain range at an elevation of 4,714 meters making it a popular tourist attraction. It was built by the governments of Pakistan and China in 1959 and opened in 1979. About 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese workers lost their lives during the construction work. Landslides, earthquakes and floods are not uncommon in the region, frequently damaging parts of the highway. A reconstruction and upgrade of the Karakoram Highway is underway under the framework of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is said to be essential in the economic success of the Gwadar port. The reconstruction and upgrade is divided in different parts and phases.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Construction of Breakwaters, Gwadar Port

The Gwadar Port was inaugurated back in 2007. In 2015, it was announced that both the city of Gwadar as well as its port will be further developed under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Gwadar Port is owned by the Pakistan government Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) but since 2015 it is operated by the state-run Chinese firm China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC), which leased it for 43 years. The specifics of the lease have been agreed on in a Concession Agreement. In this agreement it is stated, that the Construction of Breakwaters of the Gwadar Port is the responsibility of the Gwadar Port Authority in order to facilitate construction of additional terminals at the Port. Breakwaters are structures constructed on coasts which protect from weather and longshore drift. The Construction of Breakwaters of the Gwadar Port is part of a larger series of construction projects in Gwadar.

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BRI Factsheet Series – New Gwadar International Airport

The New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA) is part of a larger series of construction projects in Gwadar under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The airport will be constructed 25km northeast of the existing Gwadar International Airport and is financed through China, Pakistan and Oman. The new airport is hoped to develop the Gwadar peninsula and foster trade especially between Pakistan and China and will be the biggest airport of Pakistan, operating under the open sky policy.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Gwadar East-Bay Expressway

The Gwadar East-Bay Expressway is part of a larger series of construction projects in Gwadar under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The 19km long, six lane expressway will connect the Gwadar Port with the Makran Coastal Highway and is a direct route for cargo traffic to and from the port.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Motorway M-5 (Sukkur – Multan)

The Motorway M5 (Multan-Sukkur section) connects Sukkur in Pakistan’s Sindh province and Multan in the Punjab region. The 392km long stretch, following the Left Bank of River Indus, is part of the Peshawar-Karachi motorway, a key project of the planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the Belt and Road Initiative.

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BRI Factsheet Series – Orange Line Metro Lahore

The Orange Line Metro Lahore (OLMT) is Pakistan’s first mass transit system and the first of three rail lines of the Lahore Metro system. The project is part of the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under the Belt and Road Initiative.

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China’s Space Silk Road

On May 4, 2018, China launched a Long March 3B rocket from its Xichang Satellite Launch center, carrying an Apstar-6C communications satellite into space. The satellite is part of China’s BeiDou (BěiDǒu 北斗, named after the Big Dipper asterism) Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and China’s Space Silk Road.

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China’s Polar Silk Road

Due to climate change and global warming, Arctic sea ice is increasingly diminishing in the summer months. The melting ice leads to changed conditions for the development of the Arctic. This applies in particular to the commercial use of maritime trade routes, scientific research and the exploration and exploitation of resources. China, since May 2013 accredited observer of the Arctic Council, considers itself as a „Near-Arctic State” and has a vital interest in the future of the Arctic, an area covering a total of 21 million square kilometers.

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