New Silk Roads: Progress, Challenges and Countermeasures

China International Studies (English) - - China International Studies - Fu Mengzi & Xu Gang

Strategic planning for the Belt and Road Initiative has been well orchestrated and registered gratifying progress, but it also faces multiple challenges that are impossible to ignore. To advance the initiative calls for innovative ideas, image and discourse building, and specific solutions.

It has been three years since President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which embodies innovative ideas, clear-cut goals, grand designs, strong measures and has made significant progress. It gives clear evidence of China’s characteristics, its wisdom and its experience. It can be said that the BRI has laid out the essential content of a new era, and represents the clearest path for opening up to the world economy. It will play a powerful role in shaping China’s continued rise in the region and will forge a new interconnected, interrelated and mutually beneficial pattern of relations as well as serving as an anchor for China’s status as a strong economic power, with a view towards a new phase of globalization and creating a starting point for building a community of shared future.

Progress in Construction

Since its introduction, the BRI has developed from concept to framework, to strategic plan, and onward to substantial implementation under a multi-tier but efficient guidance as it proceeds. Top-level design completed step by step

President Xi proposed to jointly build the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” during his visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia in September and October 2013 respectively, which has Fu Mengzi is Vice President of China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations (CICIR); Xu Gang is a PHD candidate at CICIR. This article was translated by Zheng Si.

attracted broad attention and marked the inception of top-level design of the Belt and Road Initiative. In November the same year, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee adopted the Decision on Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening the Reform, making it clear that China would promote the construction of the Belt and Road to shape a new pattern of opening up. The Central Economic Work Conference held at the end of 2014 set the BRI as a national strategy together with the coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, and the Yangtze River economic belt. In March 2015, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce jointly issued the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which specified the framework, priorities, mechanisms and the role of China’s various regions in pursuing opening-up. This document marked the completion of toplevel design. In March 2016, the 13th Five-year Plan for National Economic and Social Development identified the BRI as one of the major tasks and objectives in this period. It proposed to build a new pattern of opening up featuring international linkages over land and sea as well as mutual openness between West and East, and endowed the BRI with dual tasks of both domestic development and international economic cooperation.

With connectivity at its core, the Belt and Road Initiative strives to push forward the “five connectivities,” namely, policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and closer people-to-people ties. Following the ancient Silk Road, the Silk Road Economic Belt will focus on building a new Eurasian Land Bridge and developing China-mongolia-russia, China-central Asia-west Asia and China-indochina Peninsula economic corridors, as well as the Chinapakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Bangladesh-china-indiamyanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor. It brings together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe; linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st

Century Maritime Silk Road connects major sea ports, stretching from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.1

Supportive measures and guarantees

First of all, an overall coordination mechanism was set up. In April 2014, China’s Ministry of Commerce set up the Department of Eurasian Affairs in charge of economic and trade relations with 12 countries including Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In February 2015, the Chinese central government established the Leading Group for Advancing the Belt and Road Initiative, which is led and coordinated by the Department of Western Region Development of NDRC, and supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and other relevant authorities. The Leading Group consists of 4 subgroups in charge of general affairs, the land silk road, the maritime silk road, and international cooperation respectively.2 Chairing the Leading Group is Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, with four vice-chairmen: Wang Huning, Director of the Central Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee; Vice Premier Wang Yang; and State Councilors Yang Jing and Yang Jiechi. The personnel arrangement indicates the importance of the BRI at the highest government level. Ministries and provincial governments have rolled out specific measures to advance the BRI following the release of Vision and Action. The State Council has introduced a series of documents covering transportation, trade, energy, tourism, among other areas, to support the BRI. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology have also released the education action plan and the special planning on technological innovation and cooperation for jointly building the Belt and Road respectively. Up to now, almost all provinces and

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