Press release

10 Oct 2023 Beijing

Empowering high-quality development of the Belt and Road with focus on green and digital economic growth

BEIJING, 10 OCTOBER 2023 — EY Greater China Region releases the Navigator Series Special Edition for the 10th Anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Progress and outlook for jointly building the Green Silk Road and Progress and outlook for jointly building the Digital Silk Road. These reports, viewed through the lenses of sustainability and digitalization, summarize the progress, achievements and trends in jointly building the Belt and Road (B&R) since 2013. They also showcase cases and experiences of some Chinese enterprises participating in B&R construction, offering valuable insights to encourage more Chinese and multinational companies to participate in the high-quality development of the BRI.

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EY Greater China Region releases the Navigator Series Special Edition for the 10th Anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): Progress and outlook for jointly building the Green Silk Road (ZH) and Progress and outlook for jointly building the Digital Silk Road (ZH). These reports, viewed through the lenses of sustainability and digitalization, summarize the progress, achievements and trends in jointly building the Belt and Road (B&R) since 2013. They also showcase cases and experiences of some Chinese enterprises participating in B&R construction, offering valuable insights to encourage more Chinese and multinational companies to participate in the high-quality development of the BRI.

Loletta Chow, Global Leader of EY China Overseas Investment Network (COIN), EY Belt and Road Taskforce Leader, stated, “In the current era marked by the continuous emergence of new industries, new business formats and new models, developing countries generally require greater external support to achieve recovery and transformation. The BRI, as a platform for global cooperation, presents development opportunities for all participating nations. The year 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the BRI. Over the past decade, the B&R construction has steadily deepened and Chinese enterprises have expanded into diverse domains. The green and digital economies have emerged as pivotal drivers for Chinese enterprises participating in international cooperation and competition, as well as for implementing the ‘dual circulation’ strategy. They also give China the opportunity, in collaboration with B&R countries, to collectively propel a ‘re-globalization’ of the world economy.”

The Green Silk Road (GSR): A continuous driver for deepening cooperation

Since the inception of the BRI in 2013, the principles of green, low carbon and sustainable development have progressively and deeply integrated into the B&R construction. The GSR has emerged as a pivot agenda in the high-quality advancement of the BRI. In recent years, an increasing number of countries and regions have set forth future goals for carbon neutrality or net-zero emissions in the future. However, the construction of the GSR also faces various risks and challenges, such as climate change.

Amid an increasingly complex international environment and slow global economic recovery, the advancement of a green economy has become a significant driver and opportunity for countries to secure future development advantages in the coming decades. Green development is not only effective for addressing climate issues but also stands as a rare area of international unanimity, carrying significant weight in the promotion of multilateral cooperation. China's active promotion of the GSR demonstrates its commitment and responsibility to global sustainability.

Alex Zhu, Energy, Infrastructure Advisory and Carbon Neutrality Leader of EY Greater China1, Investment and Merger & Acquisition Services Leader of the EY Belt and Road Task Force, stated, “The B&R countries, primarily emerging economies and developing nations, face challenges in green transformation due to limited green technology capabilities and high reliance on traditional energy sources. With the ongoing progress of urbanization and industrialization, these countries’ carbon emissions are expected to rise further. Thus, in the future, balancing carbon emissions control and economic growth is essential. On one hand, Chinese enterprises can actively expand overseas industrial opportunities brought by the export of China’s green technologies. On the other hand, China also needs to enhance alignment with the green standards of B&R countries and drive the establishment of an innovative B&R green standard system.”

The report, Progress and outlook for jointly building the Green Silk Road, summarizes developments and trends in five major areas: green energy, green construction, green transportation, green consumption and green finance.

1. Green energy: Many B&R countries possess abundant natural resources for green energy, providing a solid foundation for transformation. Chinese enterprises actively engage in B&R renewable energy cooperation through various means including EPC projects, overseas manufacturing, investments as well as mergers and acquisitions by leveraging their experience and technological capabilities in the area. China has officially declared the cessation of new overseas coal-fired power projects. In the future, Chinese enterprises will further leverage their advantages and form a collaborative network when “go abroad”, harnessing strengths and creating synergy.

2. Green construction: The construction industry is a key area for energy efficiency and environmental conservation. As population and urbanization levels grow in B&R countries and regions, infrastructure construction, commercial and residential building demands will continue to increase rapidly. Therefore, it’s crucial to promote energy efficient practices, green building materials and sustainable construction methods. Currently, Chinese enterprises have initiated numerous green construction projects in B&R countries, actively promoting green building technologies, preserving ecological environment and adhering to green development principles throughout operational phase after completion.

3. Green transportation: With the accelerating urbanization and motorization processes in B&R countries, transportation-related environmental issues, health concerns and traffic congestion issues have become prevalent. Currently, China holds a certain advantage in the new energy vehicle (NEV) industry. Promoting cooperation with B&R countries is not only beneficial for these countries to enhance their NEV industry, but also significant for the internationalization of Chinese NEV brands and the development of the GSR. Chinese enterprises also actively collaborate with B&R countries in green rail transportation, exemplified by the growth of the China-Europe freight train network.

4. Green consumption: Sustainable development is vital for consumer product companies. The challenges and opportunities they face span the entire value chain, including aspects such as water resource utilization, biodiversity conservation, circular economy and sustainable finance. Chinese enterprises not only actively export green and sustainable consumer products to B&R countries, but also invest in or acquire local green technology companies or companies dedicated to sustainable development. They are also promoting long-term development by R&D cooperation with companies in B&R countries.

5. Green finance: Global climate governance requires substantial investments in low-carbon industries for industrial transformation and technological upgrading. Various financial institutions participating in the GSR help meet the funding needs of enterprises and offer innovative green financial products, which can improve resource allocation efficiency, minimize transformation costs for businesses, supporting the high-quality B&R development.

The Digital Silk Road (DSR): Creating new opportunities for global development

In response to global challenges like economic slowdown and reshaping of international dynamics, countries are accelerating policy adjustments and focusing on technological innovation, the development of digital infrastructure, and the restructuring of digital industrial chains. These are propelling the global digital economy into a fast lane. At the enterprise level, industries spanning energy, transportation, consumer products and entertainment are all facing transformation demands. Digitalization, as one of the primary drivers of innovation, not only empowers businesses to address growing operational complexity but also fosters new opportunities in the era of new globalization.

Roy Shao, Partner of Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) Consulting Services at EY Greater China1, Digital Transformation Strategy Leader of the EY Belt and Road Task Force, stated, “The development of the DSR plays a pivotal role in advancing the BRI. It not only propels the upgrading and transformation of China’s technology and industries but also effectively harnesses China’s market and technological advantages, fostering high-tech cooperation between China and B&R countries. It also accelerates the upgrading of host countries’ traditional infrastructure, enhances their digital capabilities, narrows the digital disparity between developing and developed nations. All these, in turn, provide essential support for the deepening of regional economic and trade development. Looking ahead, as a pivotal force driving global digital economic growth, China will continue to expand and deepen international cooperation, advancing the high-quality development of the DSR.”

The report Progress and outlook for jointly building the Digital Silk Road summarizes developments and trends in five major areas: digital infrastructure, digital supply chains, smart manufacturing and intelligent engineering, smart cities, cross-border e-commerce and digital entertainment products. 

1. Digital infrastructure: Digital infrastructure is essential for enhancing economic efficiency and underpins the digital economy development. As the digital economy advances, the concept of digital infrastructure has broadened, including not only information infrastructure but also the digitalization of physical infrastructure. The development of the DSR offers opportunities for developing countries and regions to rapidly catch up with the digital world. In particular, China’s expertise in global 5G technology supports the high-quality development of the DSR and international expansion of other Chinese digital firms.

2. Digital supply chains, smart manufacturing and intelligent engineering: Smart manufacturing integrates advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, robotics and the Internet to improve efficiency and productivity in enterprise operation. Intelligent engineering represents the digital transformation in the field of construction, enabling an integrated and efficient project management approach. China values cooperation with B&R countries and regions in supply chain area, striving to replicate advanced supply chain practices to jointly create a high-quality cross-border industrial supply chain ecosystem driven by innovation, digitalization and technology.

3. Smart cities: As smart city projects spread in China, Chinese enterprises have accumulated numerous practical cases and a robust industrial chain. China’s rapid development in technologies such as cloud computing and big data plays a fundamental role in its participation in jointly building B&R smart cities. As infrastructure in B&R countries continues to improve, coupled with government support in funding and policies, the future market prospects for smart city projects are promising. 

4. Cross-border e-commerce: Cross-border e-commerce is a crucial driver of the development of the DSR, benefiting from multi-level policy support from both China and foreign nations, widespread integration of emerging technologies in e-commerce, and the accelerated connectivity in cross-border logistics. In many B&R countries and regions, a growing population and vast consumer potential present significant development opportunities for Silk Road e-commerce. 

5. Digital entertainment products: The rapid development of network infrastructure and digital technology has created favorable conditions for digital entertainment products to go global. Chinese enterprises, particularly in the gaming industry, are actively going abroad, creating opportunities for cultural exchange and connectivity with B&R countries. Moreover, Chinese companies in fields like video and music are also actively exploring B&R market opportunities.

Ernst & Young (China) Advisory Limited

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About COIN
The China Overseas Investment Network (COIN) connects EY professionals around the globe, facilitates cooperation and provides consistent and coordinated services to the Chinese clients to make outbound investments. Building on the existing China Business Group in the Americas, EMEIA, and Asia-Pacific areas, COIN has expanded its network to over 70 countries and territories around the world. COIN is part of the EY commitment to provide seamless and high-quality client services to assist Chinese companies in going global and doing business overseas. The EY global organization with strong local experience and deep industry knowledge enables faster responses and professional services for the clients.

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