Made Island, lying offshore in the Bay of Bengal of the Indian Ocean covering 10 sq-km, is an isolated, unknown place in Kyaukphyu area of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Its 3,000 inhabitants from five natural villages had been living on fishing and farming for more than 1,000 years.
Things started to change on the island in June 2010, when the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline project was launched under the witness of both premiers of China and Myanmar.
In 2016, when the project was concluded, the island became the starting point of a 771 km-long crude oil pipeline leading to the border with China, with a designed transmission capacity of 22 million tons per year.
Made Island has become Made Island port equipped with a 300,000-ton crude oil wharf.
The project not only helped ease the pressing demand for oil in Myanmar and southwestern China, boost the economic and trade ties between the two countries, but also turned Made Island into a modernized port with up-to-date facilities, greatly enhancing local people’s lives.
During the Water Festival of 2012, Made Island inhabitants started to use clean running water, instead of muddy water in the past, to throw on each other for festive celebration.
Electricity has already been available 24 hours a day. Some families have bought diesel-engined farming machines and motorcycles.
Schools and clinics have been set up on the island. A base of 3G mobile signal was also built to provide service for mobile phone users.
“We appreciate the pipeline project very much as it made our lives so convenient. In the past we were able to use power only for four hours a day, but now it’s 24 hours,” a villager named U Hla Kyaw said. “We used to store rainfall water for use but now we are using clean running water. This is amazing.”
U Hla Kyaw and his fellow villagers are only some of those who have benefited from the projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Proposed by China in 2013, the initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes to seek common development and prosperity.
As of August this year, the number of countries, regions, and international organizations that have signed cooperation agreements with China on the joint development of the Belt and Road Initiative has reached 69, covering various areas of transportation, industrial parks, trade zones, financial services, digital cooperation, education and others, according to China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
As of the end of 2016, Chinese businesses had built 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in more than 20 countries along the Belt and Road, with the total investment exceeding 18.5 billion U.S. dollars, generating nearly 1.1 billion dollars in tax revenue and creating nearly 180,000 local jobs.
In Asia, the priority area for implementing the initiative, many projects have been successfully concluded. Thousands of residents living along the routes have reaped the early benefits, seeing their living environment modernized, jobs and education opportunities turn up.
The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SEZ), jointly established by China and Cambodia in 2008, is the biggest SEZ in Cambodia. Over 100 factories have been opened in the zone, employing more than 16,000 people.
It plans to attract 200 more factories, providing 100,000 extra jobs, according to Cao Jianjiang, general manager of the Sihanoukville SEZ Company.
By working in the SEZ, many farmers from nearby regions have been alleviated from poverty.
The Chinese management side opened language training schools to teach free Chinese lessons to the villagers. Many of those who excel in learning are now working as clerks in offices or as translators, earning much more than those working in the factories.
The Thai-Chinese Rayong Industrial Zone, located in central Thailand, has now attracted 90 Chinese enterprises, with a total investment of 2.5 billion dollars and industrial output value of 8 billion dollars, employing over 20,000 local people.
As Chinese leaders have stated on many occasions, the objective of the Belt and Road Initiative is to share China’s achievements in economic development with the world, enhance cooperation among countries and achieve common prosperity.
“We love to come here for a visit as it is not just a new port,” a Sir Lanka teacher accompanying her students told Xinhua on a tour of Port of Hambantota, a flagship Belt and Road project in Sir Lanka.
“This is where we see our hope, our future, where our new life begins,” she said.