ON 20 NOVEMBER 2017, Papua New Guinea (PNG) formally signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative, with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill assuring his guests that ‘China is one of our strongest development partners, and this direct investment is an example of the huge confidence that China and Chinese companies have in Papua New Guinea’.
Forum: All I Have To Do Is Dream
INTERVIEWED BY JINHUA DAILY in March 2016, Said Bahaji, a trader from Jordan, spoke with enthusiasm of Yiwu 义乌, a county-level city in eastern Zhejiang province: ‘Yiwu is an amazing place, a land of opportunity where we can achieve our Chinese dream’. Said Bahaji is one of about 4,000 traders from North Africa and the Middle East who have settled down in Yiwu, in pursuit of their own ‘Chinese dreams’. Playing the role of intermediaries, these ‘Arab Traders’ help buyers from all over the world, but especially from their region, search for and buy products in Yiwu and elsewhere in China. Their businesses and personal stories have recently become the focus of Chinese media attention as a result of the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, which emphasises ‘people-to-people’ bonds (in addition to the more common focus on infrastructure). However, the connection of these Arab traders with Yiwu predates the launch of this policy.
IN JUNE 2017, forty-five Muslim students — Dungans 东干族 from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — celebrated their graduation from a four-year course of study at Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, Gansu province. They were the first Dungans to graduate with financial support from the provincial governments of Gansu and Shaanxi, as part of a program that began in 2013. Following their Chinese-language training and study of business, agricultural technology, and natural resource management, most of them will return to Central Asia to work as liaisons between Chinese and Central Asian companies. ‘We would like to become the messengers along the Silk Road,’ the students told Chinese media.