Economic Forum notes that the Belt and Road Initiative is crucial to boost cultural, trade ties
Horinger, a small county with a history dating back to 386 AD, is located alongside the ancient Silk Road in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. A professional soccer club was recently launched in the county for teenagers, preparing young talents for the national team to one day compete in the FIFA World Cup.
Shengle Mongolian Sheep FC was founded along with a training center and a soccer-themed park, as the county's development strategy focuses on the sports industry.
The county has hosted four international soccer matches with clubs from the Czech Republic, as part of a coaching exchange program, helping to improve the local team's professional standards and skills.
"This is a successful case of cooperation with countries in Central and Eastern Europe to implement the Belt and Road Initiative," said Chen Liyin, county magistrate of Horinger, at a global forum in Poland.
There is huge room for Sino-EU cooperation in the soccer industry, Chen said, given predictions China could see its total soccer market value hit 2 trillion yuan ($290 billion) by 2025, or about 40 percent of its whole sports sector, as forecast by a State Council development plan.
"Faced with such great opportunities, we hope to share industry development insights, techniques and our passion for soccer with our friends in Poland and other European countries," said Chen.
Aside from national-level investments led by the central government, local governments also intend to support soccer industry development plans, according to Chen. Local governments' total planned investments until 2025 are estimated at 7 trillion yuan.
Krynica, a county located in eastern Poland and famous for its mineral springs, holds international events as well as political and scientific seminars every year. The most famous event is the Economic Forum, the largest conference in Central and Eastern Europe, a region known as the CEE.
This year, the three-day forum started on Sept 4. More than 4,000 political, economic and social leaders from over 60 countries in Europe, Asia, the United States and the Middle East attended.
A group of 24 Chinese delegates, organized by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, attended the 2018 Economic Forum in Krynica. It was the fourth year the association has led the Chinese delegation to the forum.
Delegates included county-level local government officials from Sichuan, Fujian and Henan provinces and Inner Mongolia, seeking further cooperation opportunities with European countries.
The forum has broadened its discussions in recent years as topics related to China are considered "absolutely necessary", said Zygmunt Berdychowski, chairman of the Economic Forum Program Council.
"As a giant economy, China is attractive for European enterprises, and I hope the forum can support the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as promote cooperation between China and the CEE, because it will be an important platform to discuss BRI development with countries along the routes," he added.
Krzysztof Gawkowski, secretary-general of the Polish Democratic Left Alliance, said that Sino-Poland cooperation in poverty alleviation projects and the pension industry could be further strengthened, especially at the county and city levels.
"We could learn from each other's experiences in implementing government policies," he said.
Liu Hong, deputy director of the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office in Zhengzhou, Henan province, also introduced an example of BRI cooperation to the forum.
As the largest traffic hub in Central China, Zhengzhou is planning to start non-stop flights to European countries, "providing our citizens opportunities to taste delicious food and wine in Europe after a faster journey", said Liu, who called the direct air route a "new silk road in the air".
With its starting point in Zhengzhou, 299 freight trains traveled along the China-Europe line in the first six months of the year, carrying goods to 24 countries in the European Union and Central Asia, according to Liu.
The route from Zhengzhou is one of the busiest rail lines between China and Europe, as an important link among economies in the continents along the Belt and Road routes, strengthening trade links, according to experts.
With special tax incentive policies, Zhengzhou is a pilot zone promoting the nation's cross-border e-commerce development. E-commerce giants including Alibaba and JD, as well as global logistics companies such as UPS and DHL, have established goods distribution centers in the city.
"Now people living in European countries can receive deliveries from Zhengzhou with the tap of a smartphone button. We call it the online silk road," Liu said.
Officials from local governments in China agreed that besides capital-incentive infrastructure investments, there are various ways to strengthen the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation between China and the CEE, and across the whole of Europe.
"The key is to understand the real needs of both sides, based on in-depth communication," said Yun Linqiong, Qingshuihe county Party secretary in Inner Mongolia.