Full coverage: 2015 Boao Forum
By Wang Yiwei, director of institute of international affairs, Renmin University of China
Why do we have to revive the Silk Road now when we already have established trade routes?
Is the Belt and Road Initiative China’s Marshall Plan?
Such questions were frequently raised with me after I finished speaking about the belt and road at the Italian think-tank Istituto Per Gil Studi Di Politica Internazionale. It therefore seems the ideal time for the Boao Forum to seek consensus and publish a white paper on the Belt and Road Initiative.
In fact the initiative refers to the sharing of production between China and countries along the Silk Road, rather than a one-sided exporting of the Marshall Plan.
Compared with the Marshall Plan, the initiative has richer connotations. According to the initiative, relevant countries should work together to discuss project investment, build infrastructure and share the benefits of cooperation. They should promote as their five major goals policy coordination, facility connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds.
There are three missions ahead for the Belt and Road Initiative.
1)Seeking a way for global economic growth in the post-crisis era
As globalization, Americanization and Westernization wane in influence, the new engine of global economic growth, China, brings its advantages in productivity, technology, funding, experience and development and then model them into cooperation opportunities and market advantages. The Belt and Road Initiative is the result of this transformation and China’s all-round opening-up drive.
Through construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, China shares the dividend of its reforms and development and also brings the experience and lessons it has drawn from its own development to other countries. China strives to promote cooperation and dialogue among countries along the Silk Road, set up a new type of global partnership that is more equal and balanced as well as strengthen the foundations for long-term and sustainable development of the world economy.
2) Realizing global rebalancing
Traditional globalization starts from the sea. Coastal regions and maritime states develop first, while inland countries fall behind, forming a massive wealth gap. Traditional globalization was ushered in by Europe and carried forward by the US, creating a West-centric world in which the East was subject to the West, rural areas inferior to urban areas and land not as important as the sea.
Nowadays the Belt and Road Initiative is rebalancing the planet. It encourages opening up to the West to promote development of China’s western areas as well as inland like the Central Asian countries and Mongolia. It also advocates the concept of inclusive development in the international community.
At the same time, China takes the initiative in promoting its high-quality production and industries with comparative advantages to the West. Countries along the Silk Road will be the first to benefit from this. This will change the situation in which these countries only served as a corridor for trade and cultural exchanges between the East and West and were less developed in the past. Hence the initiative will overcome the wealth gap and regional imbalance caused by the globalization that originated with Europeans. It will help build a harmonious world with lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
3) Creating a new model for regional cooperation in the 21st century
China’s reform and opening-up drive is the greatest innovation in today’s world. As an all-around opening up strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative stresses broad consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. It transcends the Marshall Plan, outbound assistance and globalization strategies. The initiative introduces new concepts for international cooperation in the 21st century.
For example, the concept of an economic belt is an innovative regional economic cooperation model. A new Eurasian Land Bridge, the China-Mongolia-Russia, China-Central Asia-West Asia and China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridors work as growth poles to benefit surrounding areas. The concept of a Silk Road Economic Belt is different from various economic zones and unions that have appeared in history. The economic belt is more flexible and can be easily applied to broad areas.
All participants are equal. In line with the principle of voluntary participation and coordination for common progress, they shall uphold the Silk Road spirit of being open for cooperation, harmonious and inclusive and mutually beneficial. As was pointed out in the just-published Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, the initiative aims at promoting orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets.
This will encourage countries along the belt and road to coordinate economic policy and carry out broader, more in-depth regional cooperation of a higher standard. The initiative will encourage countries to jointly create an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all.
Jointly building the belt and road is in the interests of the global community. Reflecting the common ideals and pursuit of human societies, the initiative is a positive endeavor that seeks new models of international cooperation and global governance. The belt and road will inject new positive energy into world peace and development.
(Professor Wang Yiwei is author of Belt and Road Initiative Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges, published by People's Publishing House in April 2015.The author is also a senior research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China)