Experience guides Belt and Road future
  ·  2021-09-14  ·   Source: NO.37 SEPTEMBER 16, 2021


Railway station staffs talk at Tuanjiecun Railway Station in Chongqing  on March 16. The  China-Europe freight train has been operating there since 2011 (XINHUA) 

The Belt and Road Initiative has yielded substantive results since it was initiated eight years ago, and it is expected to inject impetus to promote the healthy development of globalization, experts said. In 2013, during his visits to Central and Southeast Asian countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the major initiatives of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. This launched a new journey in China's high-level opening up to the world. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released The Handbook of the Belt and Road 2020 in Beijing on September 7. The event gathered Chinese and foreign experts alike for a discussion on how to promote the Belt and Road Initiative. Edited excerpts of their views follow: 

Xie Fuzhan, President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) 

Aimed at fostering the common development and prosperity of all countries, the Belt and Road Initiative has brought tangible benefits to countries and regions along its routes. At a time when the world faces new problems and challenges brought about by COVID-19 and other unstable international situations, three aspects could be strengthened in order to achieve greater development of this initiative. 

The first is to summarize the new experience gained from practice in order to build on the theoretical system of the Belt and Road Initiative. The initiative has gradually transformed from concept to action, from vision to reality in eight years, and has achieved fruitful results. By the end of 2020, Chinese enterprises had invested nearly $40 billion in overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in countries along the routes, over $4.4 billion in taxes and fees were paid to host countries, and 330,000 local jobs were created. Affected by COVID-19, global trade and investment shrank sharply in 2020, but projects under the Belt and Road Initiative still showed strong resilience and vitality. Thus, it provides a broad space for theoretical research and social scientists are able to research current practices in order to provide solid theoretical guidance for promoting its high-quality development. 

This research should be focused on real world problem-solving. The process of theoretical innovation is the discovery of problems, screening problems, researching into problems, and problem-solving. At present, the world's unprecedented changes and the pandemic are intertwined, bringing more instability and uncertainty to the international situation. Governance deficit, trust deficit, development deficit and peace deficit are increasing. There is a long way to go to achieve universal security and promote common development. The complex international environment poses major challenges to the Belt and Road Initiative, and many practical problems need to be solved. We are in urgent need of in-depth study in social sciences. 

The Belt and Road projects cannot be separated from the understanding, recognition and support of the people in the countries and regions along the routes. The English version of The Handbook of the Belt and Road 2018 is a wonderful example of dialogue and cooperation between scholars in China and the West and at the heart of our mission to explain, and to connect people across countries and cultures.

Cai Fang, Chief Expert of the National High-End Think Tank at the CASS 

Over the past eight years, the Belt and Road Initiative has increasingly become an open and inclusive platform for cooperation across national and regional boundaries, different stages of economic and social development, and diverse civilizations. It is now a global public good jointly participated by all parties interested.

No country or region can develop in a state of separation from one another, and thus all countries and regions are destined to be part of globalization. At the same time, the healthy development of globalization does not arise naturally, nor will it be a process free from constraints.

That's why it needs to be repaired, improved and maintained. Pressure brought on by the pandemic has pushed some countries to attempt to decouple from global supply chains. However, the disruption of supply chains during the pandemic, and the chaos and losses caused by the blockage of the Suez Canal in March after the grounding of a container ship, are proof that globalization cannot be reversed and remains fragile. This demonstrates the fact that there are still huge gaps in the infrastructure that connects the world.

The initiative involves a large number of countries along the routes and third parties, along with large numbers of current and future construction. Therefore, there are difficulties caused by economic systems, policy concepts, cultural traditions and other factors that must be overcome.

Zhai Dongsheng, Director General of the China Center for Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative under the National Development and Reform Commission 

We need to develop some new areas, for example, we are now proposing the construction of the Green Silk Road, the Digital Silk Road and the Health Silk Road. People-to-people exchanges need to be strengthened and people's livelihoods should also be improved, all of which require new measures.

All projects must follow market rules, commercial rules and international practices, to make sure the Belt and Road Initiative is truly market-oriented. Efforts should also be made to align Belt and Road standards with international rules, as well as to manage the coordination between the initiative and development strategies of critical partners along the routes.

We have to put a special emphasis on risk prevention. The government, enterprises and social organizations should shoulder different responsibilities. The government should increase its supervision and management. Enterprises need to strengthen self-discipline. For some major infrastructure construction projects, the feasibility study is important.

George N.Tzogopoulos, EU-China Program Director at the Centre International de Formation Européenne 

Cooperation can give some new hope to the global community. The first is the international cooperation against the COVID-19 pandemic. What we need is to join forces, because it is influencing all countries and makes no distinction between them.

Another area where international cooperation is necessary is that of regional security. We saw a few weeks ago that the new situation in Afghanistan is causing anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Countries need to work together not only to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, but also to contribute to the prosperity of the people in the country. It is clear evidence that the Belt and Road Initiative can function as a source of growth in several countries. Why not in Afghanistan?

There should also be international cooperation on climate change. In 2021, summer was dramatic for several countries, including my country, Greece, which suffered from wildfires. No one would disagree that countries need to sit at the same table and join the same causes in order to work together for a better future for the next generations.

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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