The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive: A Path­way to In­clu­sive Glob­al­iza­tion

A Path­way to In­clu­sive Glob­al­iza­tion

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Liu Wei­dong

The China-pro­posed Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive can en­hance the in­te­gra­tion of Asia, pro­vid­ing a new way of think­ing and a new driv­ing force for its ad­vance­ment.

The rise of pro­tec­tion­ism in re­cent years has ac­com­pa­nied dra­matic changes tak­ing place in the world, leav­ing global states­men and schol­ars anx­ious about the fu­ture of glob­al­iza­tion. Since the 2008 in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial cri­sis and es­pe­cially af­ter 2016, the glob­al­iza­tion trend has taken a sud­den down­turn marked by Brexit and a se­ries of pro­tec­tion­ist poli­cies im­ple­mented by the Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Once stal­wart cham­pi­ons of free trade and glob­al­iza­tion, the United States and Bri­tain both took a step back, caus­ing the lo­co­mo­tive of glob­al­iza­tion to lose power and switch tracks.

Against this back­drop, the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI), which was pro­posed by China, has be­come an an­chor for the pre­car­i­ous global econ­omy and a pro­pel­ler of the re­form and de­vel­op­ment of glob­al­iza­tion. Five years ago when it pro­posed the ini­tia­tive, China was aiming to im­prove the global eco­nomic gov­er­nance sys­tem. Now, changes in the global con­text have ob­jec­tively raised the ini­tia­tive’s im­por­tance to new heights—it is a plat­form for in­creas­ing num­bers of heads of state and govern­ment to ex­plore new modes of global eco­nomic gov­er­nance. In short, the BRI is lead­ing a new type of glob­al­iza­tion and will usher in a new era of in­clu­sive glob­al­iza­tion.

The term “in­clu­sive glob­al­iza­tion” is an im­ma­nent cri­tique of ne­olib­eral glob­al­iza­tion of the last 30 to 40 years that fea­tures both sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences with the lat­ter. In­clu­sive glob­al­iza­tion does not in­volve de-glob­al­iza­tion or a re­ver­sal of glob­al­iza­tion but rather a rad­i­cal evo­lu­tion and re­form of glob­al­iza­tion. The fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween the two is that in­clu­sive glob­al­iza­tion is de­signed first and fore­most to im­prove peo­ple’s liveli­hoods rather than only serve the in­ter­ests of cap­i­tal.

In­clu­sive Growth

In the re­search and prac­tice of both global and na­tional de­vel­op­ment, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween mar­kets and govern­ment in­ter­ven­tion has been a con­sis­tent fo­cus. An in­clu­sive growth model re­quires a more ac­tive state to avoid be­com­ing sub­servient to the needs of cap­i­tal ac­cu­mu­la­tion, with greater em­pha­sis on so­cial eq­uity, en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity and im­proved gov­er­nance ca­pac­ity. First, gov­ern­ments need to strengthen co­op­er­a­tion to ad­dress global chal­lenges such as tur­bu­lence in fi­nan­cial mar­kets, cli­mate change and sim­i­lar global pains. Sec­ond, coun­tries need to strengthen the pro­tec­tion of or­di­nary peo­ple and in­crease the liv­ing stan­dards of the poor through train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion, tar­geted poverty al­le­vi­a­tion, mass en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion, job cre­ation, in­fra­struc­ture pro­vi­sion, and other mea­sures. Third, a coun­try needs the abil­ity to guide the al­lo­ca­tion of fi­nan­cial re­sources and pro­vide ba­sic, re­li­able and af­ford­able pub­lic ser­vices. The BRI at­taches great im­por­tance to the role of gov­ern­ments, em­pha­siz­ing in­ter­ac­tive bi­lat­eral or mul­ti­lat­eral pol­icy co­or­di­na­tion, align­ment of de­vel­op­ment strate­gies, plans and projects and a proac­tive search for points of agree­ment and mu­tual ben­e­fits. The aim is not just to meet the need of cap­i­tal ex­pan­sion, but do so in ways that meet the needs of less de­vel­oped re­gions and or­di­nary peo­ple, spread the ben­e­fits to more re­gions and more peo­ple and pro­vide for in­clu­sive, win-win adap­ta­tion and ad­just­ment.

In­clu­sive In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment

In­clu­sive in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment means pro­vid­ing re­li­able and af­ford­able in­fra­struc­ture in less­de­vel­oped re­gions and coun­tries. Many stud­ies have shown that con­nec­tiv­ity is a pre­req­ui­site for a re­gion to ben­e­fit from eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion, and that in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture bot­tle­necks

can spur eco­nomic growth and so­cial and fi­nan­cial re­turns. Although mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture has linked many parts of the globe, mak­ing the world smaller in many ways, many re­gions and bil­lions of peo­ple still lack full ac­cess to the mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture sys­tem. Even in some de­vel­oped coun­tries such as the United States, in­fra­struc­ture has be­come out­dated and di­lap­i­dated due to a lack of in­vest­ment.

These prob­lems are closely re­lated to changes in na­tional and global cap­i­tal mar­kets since the 1980s. Over the past 25 years, re­gional banks and tra­di­tional sav­ings or­ga­ni­za­tions have lost out to new fi­nan­cial in­ter­me­di­aries such as pen­sion funds, mu­tual funds, sov­er­eign wealth funds, funds of pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions and cer­tain types of in­sur­ance com­pa­nies. The fun­da­men­tal prob­lem is that the funds supplied by these fi­nan­cial in­ter­me­di­aries are more likely to be in­vested in spec­u­la­tive or short-term in­vest­ments in fi­nan­cial mar­kets. Hot money that flows from one coun­try to an­other to earn short-term prof­its is ex­em­plary, as is the con­duct of in­sti­tu­tions such as hedge funds. In­fra­struc­ture projects are, how­ever, large-scale and cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive with long turnover times and long pay­back pe­ri­ods that re­quire pa­tient long-term fund­ing. The gap be­tween these needs and the pre­dom­i­nance of short-term fi­nanc­ing led schol­ars like Justin Yifu Lin to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of a se­ri­ous “ma­tu­rity mis­match” in the global in­fra­struc­ture fi­nanc­ing mar­ket and the need for more “pa­tient cap­i­tal.” One of the pri­or­ity ar­eas of the BRI is the pro­vi­sion of sub­stan­tial in­fra­struc­ture fi­nanc­ing for con­nec­tiv­ity of fa­cil­i­ties to ac­cel­er­ate ac­cess to mod­ern in­fra­struc­ture net­works in less de­vel­oped coun­tries and re­gions and pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for de­vel­op­ment. The pro­vi­sion of pa­tient cap­i­tal is one of the im­por­tant rea­sons the BRI has been wel­comed by many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

In­clu­sive De­vel­op­ment Paths

Glob­al­iza­tion does not re­quire a uni­fied de­vel­op­ment model— pro­mot­ing the so-called “best prac­tices” and es­tab­lished for­mu­las for de­vel­op­ment should be aban­doned. In the years since the 1980s, West­ern coun­tries like the United States and Bri­tain sought to trans­fer ne­olib­eral ideals and poli­cies of­ten in the shape of con­di­tion­al­ity to other coun­tries, es­pe­cially de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. In the late 1980s, the Washington Con­sen­sus emerged as a set of pol­icy pre­scrip­tions adopted by Washington-based in­sti­tu­tions such as the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, the World Bank, and the United States Trea­sury Depart­ment. In the 1990s, these and some­times a wider set of ne­olib­eral mea­sures were im­posed on coun­tries in need of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. At least un­til the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2008, the World Bank ped­dled to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries a set of “best prac­tices” whose essence was pri­va­ti­za­tion, mar­ke­ti­za­tion and lib­er­al­iza­tion.

Nearly two decades of his­tory have shown that al­most all the coun­tries that were forced to fol­low the recipe of the Washington Con­sen­sus were sub­se­quently mired in se­ri­ous eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties for some time and lost their eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence (which was in­deed an ob­jec­tive of the mea­sures). Although fre­quently rec­om­mended (but un­able to be im­posed), China did not adopt these stan­dard pre­scrip­tions. In­stead, it ex­plored its own de­vel­op­ment path of “cross­ing the river by feel­ing the stones.” As a re­sult, it achieved rapid and sus­tained eco­nomic growth. It is pre­cisely for this rea­son that un­like the ne­olib­eral glob­al­iza­tion model, China’s BRI does not in­volve the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of one best de­vel­op­ment path (namely, one cen­tered on con­tem­po­rary eco­nomic, in­sti­tu­tional and po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions in de­vel­oped coun­tries). In­stead, the BRI stresses that each coun­try should choose a de­vel­op­ment path that suits its own de­vel­op­ment con­di­tions and its own cir­cum­stances. At the Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion in May 2017, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping noted that China has no in­ten­tion to

in­ter­fere in other coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs or ex­port its own model of de­vel­op­ment, but seeks to achieve a new model of win-win co­op­er­a­tion. In­clu­sive Par­tic­i­pa­tion in Glob­al­iza­tion

The very con­cept of in­clu­sive glob­al­iza­tion em­bod­ies the no­tion that it in­volves all coun­tries and all peo­ple in the world. Although global pow­ers are the cat­a­lysts of glob­al­iza­tion, all coun­tries should have the ba­sic right to equal par­tic­i­pa­tion. In his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences of global eco­nomic ex­pan­sion, strong coun­tries ex­er­cised dom­i­nant (hege­monic) in­flu­ence. The ex­pan­sion of colo­nial trade was dom­i­nated at var­i­ous times by the Por­tuguese, Span­ish and Dutch, fol­lowed by a wave of im­pe­rial ex­pan­sion led by Great Bri­tain and sub­se­quently the United States. The lib­eral in­ter­na­tional or­der dom­i­nated by West­ern coun­tries has been as­so­ci­ated with an ex­tremely un­equal sys­tem of in­ter­na­tional trade and in­vest­ment. In the last phase of eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion, multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions and West­ern-dom­i­nated in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions sup­ported by the United States, the only global su­per­power, ex­er­cised ex­tra­or­di­nary power, leav­ing many coun­tries in a weak po­si­tion to ne­go­ti­ate with them. While fur­ther ad­vanc­ing glob­al­iza­tion, a key is­sue in pro­mot­ing an in­clu­sive path con­cerns meth­ods to care for the weak and limit the dom­i­nant in­flu­ence of great pow­ers.

The BRI ad­heres to the prin­ci­ples of “open­ness, in­clu­sive­ness, equal­ity and mu­tual ben­e­fits” as well as that of “achiev­ing shared growth through dis­cus­sion and col­lab­o­ra­tion,” lift­ing the largest com­mon de­vel­op­ment fac­tor atop the agenda and giv­ing pri­or­ity to joint de­vel­op­ment and com­mon pros­per­ity. More­over, the ini­tia­tive is nei­ther con­fined to a small group, nor just for groups with one set of be­liefs or so­cial values. The ini­tia­tive up­holds open-mind­ed­ness and wel­comes all in­ter­ested coun­tries and re­gions to par­tic­i­pate in ap­pro­pri­ate ways on equal foot­ing. The Joint Com­mu­niqué of the Lead­ers Round­table of the Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion specif­i­cally em­pha­sized the need for spe­cial at­ten­tion on least de­vel­oped coun­tries, land­locked de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, small is­land de­vel­op­ing states and other such par­ties. Such play­ers are the cor­ner­stones of a strong and in­clu­sive BRI.

Cul­tural In­clu­sive­ness

Over the past three cen­turies, West­ern Euro­pean and North Amer­i­can coun­tries led de­vel­op­ment, emerg­ing as “de­vel­oped” coun­tries and colo­nial/im­pe­rial pow­ers, and have since oc­cu­pied a lead­ing po­si­tion in the global eco­nomic or­der. These West­ern coun­tries have de­vel­oped self-cen­tric ide­olo­gies and a sense of cul­tural su­pe­ri­or­ity, un­der pres­sure from which many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have been left with a sense of cul­tural in­fe­ri­or­ity. Es­pe­cially in re­cent decades, in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful forces of eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion and the pro­jec­tion of West­ern po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal power have eroded the cul­tural in­de­pen­dence of many coun­tries and non-west­ern civ­i­liza­tional values. Hol­ly­wood movies, Mcdon­ald’s fast food cul­ture, West­ern-in­spired and sup­ported “color rev­o­lu­tions” and wars in some cases have swept through many coun­tries and re­gions, bring­ing all kinds of cul­tural con­flicts. The evil con­se­quences of the dom­i­nance of West­ern doc­trine and West­ern cul­tural su­pe­ri­or­ity are very detri­men­tal to global sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

The an­cient Silk Road’s prin­ci­ple of mu­tual re­spect and mu­tual learn­ing up­held com­pletely dif­fer­ent cul­tural values. The BRI also ven­er­ates the Silk Road spirit, re­spect­ing cul­tural dif­fer­ences and em­pha­siz­ing the prin­ci­ples of com­mon de­vel­op­ment and com­mon pros­per­ity on the ba­sis of the preser­va­tion of cul­tural plu­ral­ism and shared peace. Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has re­peat­edly stressed that the BRI does not in­volve an ide­o­log­i­cal or po­lit­i­cal agenda. There is no place for con­cepts of cul­tural su­pe­ri­or­ity or in­fe­ri­or­ity any­where in it. Through equal ex­change and mu­tual learn­ing, cul­tures have be­come more col­or­ful and more in­no­va­tive.

Two of the four key top­ics of this year’s Boao Fo­rum for Asia An­nual Con­fer­ence were “An Open Asia” and “Glob­al­iza­tion and the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.” Eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion has reached a cross­roads. Anti-glob­al­iza­tion rhetoric is be­com­ing stri­dent and trade wars are on hair-trig­ger alert. So the pro­mo­tion of in­clu­sive glob­al­iza­tion with the help of the BRI has be­come a more at­trac­tive po­lit­i­cal con­cept to more po­lit­i­cal lead­ers from around the world. In­clu­sive glob­al­iza­tion can also en­hance the in­te­gra­tion of Asia, pro­vid­ing a new phi­los­o­phy and a new driv­ing force for its ad­vance­ment.

The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive Stud­ies and as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Ge­o­graphic Sciences and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Re­search at the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences.

The China Rail­way Ex­press is a key project of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. This photo shows a view of a new con­tainer crane serv­ing the Transcon­tainer Rail Ter­mi­nal in Zabaikalsk, Rus­sia. It is the big­gest con­tainer rail ter­mi­nal on the border be­tween Rus­sia and China. by Yang Jie

A tex­tile fac­tory in Cam­bo­dia, in­vested by a Chi­nese en­ter­prise, is one of the fruits of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. VCG

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