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The Belt and Road: an Initiative Proposed by China and Shared by the World

Submit Time:05-06-2017 | Zoom In | Zoom Out

Author:Lin Minwang | Source:Guangming Daily


The Belt and Road Initiative is about to usher in a new chapter of construction. On the media briefing held on April 18 on the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Foreign Minister Wang Yi introduced the relevant circumstances of the forum, saying that a total of 28 heads of state and government had confirmed their attendance at this event, and other 110 participants would include officials, scholars, entrepreneurs, personages from financial institutions, media, etc., as well as 89 persons-in-charge of 61 international organizations, with the participating countries covering Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Oceania, and the Belt and Road circle of friends coming from around the globe. And this means that despite the fact that the Belt and Road Initiative was put forward by China, it represents the common aspirations shared by the entire world. 

The Belt and Road Initiative has received extensive support, indicating that China really understands the common aspirations of the developing countries. And this is obviously due to China’s practical experience, and in particular, the great course of reform and opening up has comprised the ideological background and basic experience for the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by the country. When China kicked off the pace of its economic opening to the outside world, its leadership, including Deng Xiaoping and Ye Jianying, had already realized that the core problem of the country’s opening up was focused on how to win support from the outside world. Similarly, at the moment, the developing countries, which are also generally faced with the dilemma previously confronting China, are eager to seek open development, but cannot acquire the effective capital and technological support from the outside world. 

At present, China has developed from the previous “bringing in” to the current stage of economic opening up laying equal emphasis on both “going global” and “bringing in”, and it has not only completed the process of being integrated into the world economic system, but also is about to enter the process of shaping the world economy. To seek common development and common prosperity is China’s goal, and especially the export of its capital and capacity, as well as its construction of railway, ports and other large-scale infrastructure projects. When paying a visit to Kazakhstan in 2016, I deeply perceived that, for many landlocked countries, the natural and geographical barriers hindering economic development are much larger than those in coastal countries, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative is to expand the development opportunities of landlocked countries, so that they can also enjoy the advantages of coastal countries.      

In a more macro sense, the Belt and Road Initiative is not only to involve the economic cooperation between the participating countries, but will also play the role of shaping the economy of the entire world. Being “the world’s factory”, China can already play an enormous role in acting as “the bellows” of the world economy. On the one hand, it imports a gigantic quantity of raw materials and produce a tremendous amount of finished products; and on the other hand, it provides high-quality and inexpensive goods for the rest of the world via the commodity circulation links (e.g., transportation network, insurance mechanism, payment system, etc.) opened up through the Belt and Road endeavors. And the participation of an ever-increasing number of countries in the Belt and Road construction is to inject new impetus and vigor into the impeded process of globalization, just as President Xi Jinping noted at the World Economic Forum in Davos that, “Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from. Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies, and channel the waters in the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible. Indeed, it runs counter to the historical trend.” And the Belt and Road Initiative is bound to be a Chinese version of a “globalized” assertion.   

The extensive popularity enjoyed by the Belt and Road Initiative also stems from its openness. Cooperative openness of the initiative is one of its most important characteristics different from other forms of regional cooperation. The TPP agreement, for example, which became aborted when the US President Donald Trump came to power, had set the “access threshold” for joining negotiations, constructed the corresponding qualification barriers, and therefore formed “rejection” against many countries.  Whereas the openness and inclusiveness of the Belt and Road Initiative are embodied through the fact that it imposes no requirements on threshold or qualifications at all. As long as it cherishes the intention to join hands with China for cooperative development and is willing to jointly seek the interest space docking its own development strategy with the Belt and Road Initiative, any country can join the Belt and Road construction through policy communications. 

In addition, the principle of joint consultation, construction and sharing practiced in a real sense has constituted an important reason for the Belt and Road Initiative enjoying extensive support. Over the past three years, the Belt and Road has undergone differences in the implementation progress, cooperative forms and development focuses. Instead of unilaterally setting the development progress of any project, China has facilitated the implementations of joint construction through giving full play to the enthusiasm of the parties concerned and through consultations and respect for each other’s wishes. For instance, the flagship program, or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has achieved 18 early harvest projects which are still under construction or have already been completed, and is about to enter the stage of gradually realized early harvests; while the BCIM Economic Corridor is yet to reach consensus on its joint research report. Of course, the rapid development of CPEC has benefited from Pakistan’s deeming the Belt and Road as its own development opportunity, hoping to actively take the ride of the “express train” of China’s economic development, in order to achieve the development and prosperity of its own. 

In a word, the Belt and Road is a development initiative put forward by China, but it is also a development opportunity to be shared by the entire world. Through a community of shared interests, destiny and responsibility built by the various participating countries, the Belt and Road Initiative is bound to go even further. 

(The author is from the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University)

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