State coun­cilor urges co­op­er­a­tion in Silk Road projects

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By PU ZHENDONG and ZHAO YAN­RONG in Bei­jing, and ZHENG YANGPENG in Boao, Hainan

Asian coun­tries should build trust and op­ti­mize de­vel­op­ment mech­a­nisms in the spirit of re­gion­al­ism to ad­vance the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and the 21st Century Mar­itime Silk Road ini­tia­tives, a se­nior Chi­nese of­fi­cial said on Thurs­day.

“China’s pro­posal for ‘The Belt and The Road’ is an open and co­op­er­a­tive pro­posal,” State Coun­cilor Yang Jiechi said at a sub­fo­rum ti­tled “Rein­vent­ing the Silk Road” un­der the Boao Fo­rum for Asia in Hainan prov­ince.

“The new Silk Road, cen­tered on eco­nomic and cul­tural co­op­er­a­tion, aims to nei­ther build exclusive blocs nor in­ter­fere with cur­rent mul­ti­lat­eral frame­works,” Yang said. “The Asian land and ocean are wide, and the Asian mind is wider.”

Yang said the con­struc­tion of the new Silk Road, fo­cus­ing on eco­nomic and trade co­op­er­a­tion, will deepen trust be­tween Asian and Euro­pean coun­tries as well as be­ing mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial.

“The Silk Road, no longer just a con­cept in his­tory books, has evolved into a story of mod­ern lo­gis­tics and Sino-Euro­pean co­op­er­a­tion,” he said.

In a speech in Kaza­khstan in Septem­ber, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping pro­posed that China and Cen­tral Asia es­tab­lish a Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt, a mod­ern and in­no­va­tive ver­sion of the an­cient Silk Road from more than 2,000 years ago.

One month af­ter that, dur­ing his trip to In­done­sia, Xi again voiced the idea of build­ing a 21st Century Mar­itime Silk Road with South­east Asian coun­tries.

Xiao Lian, an ex­pert on eco­nomic stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said the new eco­nomic pro­pos­als, which will be able to reach more coun­tries and re­gions than be­fore, will strengthen China’s eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and trade with coun­tries in Asia, Europe and Africa.

“In an­cient times, China opened to the world through the Silk Road. To­day, China still has strong de­mands of trade with other coun­tries,” Xiao said.

“The land project will largely im­prove those coun­tries’ trans­porta­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and the mar­itime project can help ease dis­putes in the South China Sea be­tween China and some South­east Asian coun­tries,” he said.

Yang said Europe’s in­ter­est in the old Silk Road and the mod­ern Silk Road is not a co­in­ci­dence, as the roads have brought tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits to its people.

“It re­flects the global re­dis­cov­ery of an­cient Asian civ­i­liza­tions and their cur­rent de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tials, as well as the new trend of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween East and West against the back­drop of po­lar­iza­tion and glob­al­iza­tion,” he said.

Vas­sil­ios Costis, the Greek am­bas­sador to China, said the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt project will not only pro­duce more op­por­tu­ni­ties for eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and trade, but also will en­hance the con­struc­tion of pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing en­ergy pipe­lines, in all par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries.

“The projects will im­prove the open­ness among par­tic­i­pants, and are likely to at­tract more coun­tries from East Asia, South Asia and Europe to join the process. With its spe­cial ge­o­graphic lo­ca­tion (in south­east­ern Europe), Greece is also very in­ter­ested in the two projects, es­pe­cially the 21st Century Mar­itime Silk Road,” Costis said.

Last year, trade vol­ume be­tween China and coun­tries on the new ini­tia­tives reached $1 tril­lion, ac­count­ing for one-fourth of China’s to­tal for­eign trade turnover.

How­ever, Yang said a “trust deficit” among Asian coun­tries has been stunt­ing the in­ter­con­nec­tion of the con­ti­nent.

“Trust should be built on the foun­da­tion of re­spect for his­tory, the path of peace­ful de­vel­op­ment and re­spect for each other’s core in­ter­est and ma­jor con­cerns,” Yang said.

He said the Silk Road has built con­fi­dence in Asia’s de­vel­op­ment, with di­ver­sity and pluralism be­ing the con­ti­nent’s char­ac­ter­is­tics and ad­van­tages.

“Ev­ery civ­i­liza­tion on the Silk Road is grow­ing on its own soil and fol­low­ing its own de­vel­op­ment path, and is equal and unique. There is no need for uni­for­mity,” Yang said. “Only based on di­ver­sity can busi­ness­peo­ple sup­ply each other’s needs and can in­tel­lec­tu­als com­mu­ni­cate, mak­ing the world a col­or­ful place.”

Xiao said there are also some chal­lenges to the projects. “For in­stance, the se­cu­rity is­sue in Cen­tral Asia may threaten the safety of rail­way con­struc­tion and trans­porta­tion along the Silk Road in the fu­ture.” Con­tact the writer at puzhen­dong@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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