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Joining Hands in Working toward Building Modern Silk Road with Prosperity, Inclusiveness and Sustainability through Mutually Beneficial and Win-Win Cooperation


Joining Hands in Working toward Building Modern Silk Road with Prosperity, Inclusiveness and Sustainability through Mutually Beneficial and Win-Win Cooperation

Speech delivered at the International Symposium on the Belt and Road Initiative

(Dec 1, 2014)

Honorable Mr. Jeremić,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!

On the bright winter days, all guests gather in Istanbul, a city crossing Europe and Asia, a city where the ancient and legendary Silk Road ends. Here, we will put heads together about cooperation and renew our friendship. We will lay out a beautiful blueprint for the Belt and Road initiative together. We will draw up a new chapter in history for prosperity and development together. This is a grand meeting of great significance. On behalf of the Development Research Center of the State Council of China, I would like to extend warm congratulations on the successful opening of the International Symposium entitled "Silk Roads: Inspirations and Opportunities". I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Jeremić and his team at CIRSD, the hospitable host and those who have worked hard for this symposium. For more than 2100 years, the Silk Road is the historical achievement jointly accomplished by the people in Asia, Europe and Africa who love peace, cherish friendship and pursue mutual benefit and cooperation. It is the road of mutual learning among various civilizations and cultures. It is also the passage for trade and platform for cooperation and exchanges which has existed for the longest time and produced the most far-reaching influence in history. Until now, the stories about Zhang Qian, Zheng He and Marco Polo are widely spread. Their spirits still motivate us to explore and advance for peace and friendship without fears.

Why does the Silk Road stretch thousands of miles and span thousands of years? I think the main reason is that the Silk Road carries forward the ideas of openness, cooperation, mutual learning and win-win results. It is a pioneering endeavor for creating a thoroughfare for frequent exchanges and connectivity between the people in different countries. It brings better life to the people in the countries along the road and also advances the civilization progress of human society.

This is a road of openness. In retrospect of history, no matter what dynasty or empire it is, either the Chinese dynasties of Han, Tang, Ming and Yuan, or the Roman Empire, Arabic Empire, or the Ottoman Empire adhere to the spirit of openness, facilitate trade and business and personnel exchanges, maintain unobstructed roads and promote regional peace and stability. The old saying which goes like "there is Chang'an in the east and Rome in the west" reflects the achievements of openness and exchanges between the countries along the road. As the junction of overland and maritime Silk Roads, Istanbul enjoys thousands of years of prosperity, which is closely related with its spirits of openness and inclusiveness.

This is a road of cooperation. Stretching thousands of miles and crossing different countries with different civilizations, the Silk Road passes high mountains and vast seas. If it were not for the cooperation between countries, the Silk Road could not be a thoroughfare. It is the cooperation between countries that makes the Silk Road a clear pass. It is the cooperation that paves the way for spreading a variety of civilization achievements. With this prerequisite, silk, tea, chinaware and the "Four Great Inventions" (papermaking, compass, gun power and printing) in China, science and technology, literature and arts in Europe, spices, seeds and arithmetic in the Middle East can break through geographical obstacles and spread widely. It is the Silk Road that allows science and technology to advance faster and facilitates human process from primitiveness to civilization.

This is a road of mutual learning. For over thousands of years, countless envoys, merchants, scholars and clergy people travel on this road and greatly promote the cultural exchanges and mutual learning between east and west. On this road, the fusion and coexistence are realized between the major civilizations of Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islamism. The White Horse Temple in Luoyang is well known in China. It is the venue where two eminent Indian monks translated and spread Buddhist scriptures in the 1st century. The renowned Ayasofya Museum witnesses the history of mutual learning and fusion of civilization.

This is a road leading to win-win results. Since the birth of human civilization, the Eurasian continent is the most prosperous and vigorous region for a relatively long time. According to "the World Economy: Historical Statistics" by Maddison, total GDP and population of major countries in Eurasian continent account for 82% and 77% respectively in the world total. Economic growth rate and GDP per capita are higher than those in other regions for an extended period of time. It can be said that trade flow, cooperation and exchanges along the Silk Road boost the economic development and social prosperity in the countries on the route, and have made unforgettable historical contribution to the common development of mankind.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Continuous development in economic globalization, world multi-polarization and application of IT in every aspect of social life is characteristic of today's world. New technological revolution is nurturing more breakthroughs. Human development faces new historical challenges. In the meantime, it becomes a new normal that global economy develops at a low level. Issues of global governance such as climate change, financial stability and energy security are riveting the world focus. In the times when development and crises, reform and turbulence, cooperation and competition intertwine and coexist, there is an increasing need for us to inherit and develop the Silk Road spirit. With the ideas of openness, cooperation, mutual learning and win-win results, we need to enhance communication, build consensus, converge in opinions and resolve conflicts to jointly create a bright future for mankind. We have noticed that since the end of the World War II, transnational regional cooperation in various scales and forms has mushroomed. These cooperation activities not only give strong impetus to the development of the related countries and regions, but also greatly improve the global economic trade order. It is clear to all that the road of practical cooperation between countries is the only way for realizing common development and prosperity.

It is just in this context that Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed two initiatives successively in 2013 to jointly build "the Silk Road Economic Belt" and "the 21st Maritime Silk Road". These initiatives gained wide recognition and active response from the Silk Road countries. In the new historical setting, countries along the Silk Road need to have sufficient discussions, joint efforts and offer the Belt and Road initiatives as an important public good worldwide. This not only means to inherit and develop the ancient Silk Road spirit, but also to fill it with new content of the current times.

First, the cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative represents the global cooperation characterized by high-degree equality and openness. Due to the constraints of the factors such as transportation and trade conditions, previous cooperation covers limited areas. Now, the cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative will involve 4.4 billion people in over 60 countries. However, the cooperation is not confined to these countries and population. Any countries are welcome to join if they are willing to engage in cooperative development. Any countries can realize the national development and improve the wellbeing of their people through participating in this cooperation. It can be said cooperation is equal and open for all regardless of geographical locations and national wealth.

Second, the cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative is the strategic cooperation aiming at common development. Previous cooperation is primarily conducted voluntarily in exchange for what is needed. The cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative is the one pursuing peace and development of all countries, which represents cooperation in a proactive way. Countries along the road are ready to promote the overall economic and social development by adhering to the principles of seeking common grounds while shelving differences and respecting the core interests of each other. All countries are ready to take into consideration the shared interests of all states as well as the special interests of each country. We are willing to provide a public platform for economic cooperation, people-to-people and cultural exchanges between each other. And we are also willing to create favorable conditions for deepening South-South cooperation and developing South-North cooperation.

Third, the cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative is the one for optimizing global governance mechanism. Previous cooperation is loosely organized without mechanism arrangements. The cooperation in this initiative faces many transnational, trans-continental and cross-field governance issues. We need to eradicate the inefficiency and non-systematization embedded in governance mechanism. We call on the countries along the road to participate proactively and explore the ways for institutionalized cooperation so as to make contribution to optimizing global governance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Building "One Belt and One Road" in joint efforts complies with the need of all countries along the road to pursue common development. It is not the business of one country, but rather the shared cause for all countries on the route. It is particularly a great cause demanding for concerted efforts and cooperation. It is undoubtedly true that mutual trust needs to be enhanced, broad consensus to be built, collective wisdom to be tapped and strategic coordination to be realized. When implementing the Belt and Road initiative, we should consider the development reality in the general idea of this initiative so as to embody its inclusiveness and practicality. Thus each member may choose, on its own will, the area, the form and the depth of participation. On the other hand, it requires making careful choice and emphasis with regard to specific implementation measures. Special attention should be paid to locate the area which best suits the interests of the countries so as to facilitate the smooth and orderly development.

The key to promoting cooperation in the Belt and Road initiative lies in connectivity. At the APEC meeting held in November this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that connectivity should be a trinity of infrastructure, regulations and personnel exchanges. Connectivity should be promoted in such five areas as policy communication, facilities connection, trade flow, financing availability and personnel exchanges. In my opinion, this strategic concept of President Xi can be seen as the primary path for enhancing cooperation and development in the Belt and Road initiative.

"Policy communication" can remove disagreement over opinions, can eradicate the obstacles caused by policies and regulations so that development plans of each country can be incorporated to create an environment for fair competition and sound development. "Infrastructure connectivity" aims at ensuring the provision of infrastructure such as transportation, telecommunications and energy, thus providing more convenience for the flows of personnel, goods and information. "Trade flow" covers the main content of the cooperation initiative. It is the prerequisite for enhancing complementarity of strengths. "Financing availability" helps to lower transaction costs and break the financial bottleneck for development, which is the specific representation of deepened cooperation. The key point of "personnel exchanges" lies in enhancing political mutual trust, deepening the people-to-people exchanges to realize lasting cooperation. Through the trinity of connectivity in the five areas in phase with each other, we are committed to spare no efforts in creating a community of shared interests, responsibilities, development and destiny.

Political leaders have drawn the blueprint for jointly building the Belt and Road and also have identified the direction. The building of the Belt and Road is now entering a new phase in which the initiative evolves into actions, the blueprint becomes reality and the effort of communicating over the idea shifts to practical cooperation. The future work calls on experts, scholars and entrepreneurs of all countries to discuss the specific cooperation areas and cooperation ways. Now, I would like to put forward several opinions about how to build the modern Silk Road.

1. Economic prosperity as the solid foundation for building the modern Silk Road.

Economic development is essential for the improvement of people's lives, poverty alleviation, climate change mitigation, eco-environmental protection and maintenance of regional security. Only on the basis of economic development can people enjoy tangible benefits and will the society be filled with vibrant vigor. Only on the basis of economic development can governments have sufficient financial resources for environmental protection, ecosystem preservation and disaster prevention, which ensure a living environment of continuous improvement. Only on the basis of economic development can the public be reassured in a stable society where the extremism of all kinds is deprived of their existence and growth, and world peace is maintained. Economy develops, generally, at a low level in the countries along the Silk Road. Total gross income per capita represents only 46.4% of the global average. Therefore, promoting regional economic prosperity through cooperation is deemed to be the primary goal for building the modern Silk Road.

To further this end, we first need to accelerate the establishment of the platform, jointly build the upgraded version of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and facilitate the construction of overland economic corridors such as the new Eurasian Continental Bridge, Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar, China-Pakistan, China-Singapore corridors. We should promote the construction of maritime economic corridors based on the cooperation and development of industrial parks and ports. Second, we should strengthen the role of financial support. By expanding the scale of local currency swap and settlement, we should make finance play the important role in supporting trade activities. We should step up the efforts to build and utilize the investment and financing platforms such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Fund and BRICS Development Bank. We should make finance play its critical role in supporting infrastructure construction and industrial development. Third, research is called for establishing high level trade and investment mechanism to create a fair, stable and transparent setting for business cooperation. Fourth, we need to bring the economic and trade cooperation to a higher level, deepen the cooperation in supply chain and value chain, optimize trade structure and improve local development ability through many channels and in many ways.

2. Cultural inclusiveness as necessary prerequisite for building modern Silk Road

Without cultural inclusiveness or recognition of each other's values, there would not be deep cooperation between countries, thus no possibility to jointly build the modern Silk Road. Countries along the road differ in cultures, traditions and development need. The enhancement of mutual trust, cultural inclusiveness and people-to-people connectivity calls on all countries to make great efforts. Countries along the road should inherit the Silk Road spirit, face the differences and embrace diversity. We should dismiss prejudice with open minds and seek consensus with an attitude of being responsible for future generations. By prioritizing people's wellbeing, we should expand the shared interests and explore a new type of country-to-country relation characterized by equality and mutual benefit so as to facilitate the democratization of international relation.

It is not only the responsibility of the governments but also the responsibility of the people in all countries to establish such a relation. With increasing globalization and rapid development of network information technology, the public is more willing and more capable to participate in the governance of public affairs.

Promoting non-governmental exchanges helps to deepen mutual understanding, strengthen the basis for cooperation and realize lasting cooperation. Countries along the Silk Road should discuss how to establish multi-form communication means, communication mechanisms, talk openly and frankly with each other about related topics so as to remove disagreement over opinions, build consensus and enhance mutual trust. We should deepen the exchanges between think-tanks, media, and cooperation in the areas of humanities, culture and education. By various measures such as co-running schools, enrolling international students and co-sponsoring large scale cultural activities, we can expand personnel exchanges and facilitate cultural exchanges. We believe personnel exchanges promote cultural exchanges and cultural exchanges promote mingling. We can realize common prosperity by promoting cultural exchanges via mutual learning, and enhance mutual understanding via candid exchanges between the people in different countries, thus create a benign social environment for building the modern Silk Road.

Here, I would quote a famous line from Rumi, the great Turkish poet and philosopher. "I do not belong to the east or the west. My mind is broad enough to embrace the world." I believe that people of modern civilization can ensure the great success of the Belt and Road initiative if we really have the broad minds to embrace the world like our ancestors.

3. Sustainable development as fundamental guarantee for building modern Silk Road.

Either Atlantis legend or the historical fact of the lost ancient city of Loulan (Kroraina) shows that human being will incur severe punishment if we do not treat the earth properly, do not abide by the rules of sustainable development, or do not handle well the relation between mankind and nature.

Passing through three continents and crossing many high mountains, the Silk Road connects the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. Many places face severe threats such as water shortage, desertification, soil degradation and rising sea level. The research by Chinese Academy of Sciences shows that due to the accelerating ice melting as a result of global warming, Xinjiang of China and regions in Central Asia will see dramatic reduction of river runoff around 2045.

To avoid the repetition of the tragedy like the ancient city of Loulan (Kroraina), we must start from today and embed sustainability into building the Belt and Road. We must keep in mind the need for long-term development of future generations in the countries along the Silk Road. We must face the challenge together in protecting the ecological environment with win-win mindset and cooperative measures.

Chinese government has committed to have its carbon dioxide emission reach the maximum around 2030. In the meanwhile, non-fossil fuel consumption will take 20% of the primary energy consumption. We would like to, along with other countries, put on our agenda the international cooperation in protecting ecological environment, and properly handle the issues of protecting cross-border water resources and their utilization. We will promote water-saving agriculture, strengthen maritime environmental protection and push forward the development and utilization of new energy and renewable energy. We will explore, along with other countries, new paths and modes for green development so as to provide solid guarantee for the modern Silk Road characterized by sustainability.

4. Infrastructure connectivity as the material and technological conditions and breakthrough for building modern Silk Road

A Chinese saying goes like this. "If you want to become wealthy, you have to build roads first." Without roads, neither people can move around with convenience nor goods can be transported with speed. The grand structure of cooperative development cannot be achieved without modern infrastructure of mutual connectivity, smooth connection and efficient operation.

Currently, infrastructure in most countries in this region is still underdeveloped. According to the latest "Global Competitiveness Report" published by the World Economic Forum this year, of the countries along the Silk Road, only a few have infrastructure competitiveness higher than the global average. Moreover, the degree of integration and network connection of cross-border infrastructure falls below what is expected. The existing connected infrastructure has severe problems of "being connected but not functional" and "being functional but not unimpeded". There is an urgent need to accelerate the construction of infrastructure connectivity. At the same time, we should realize that we have the most consensus of opinion in the area of infrastructure connectivity where instant results can be produced. Thus it should be the breakthrough for building the Belt and Road.

We are ready to, along with countries on the route, step up the efforts of building infrastructure connectivity such as railways, highways, tunnels, ports and telecommunications. We will upgrade the backward infrastructure with the help of modern transportation and information technology. By improving the technology of transportation infrastructure, signals, standardization of instructions and compatibility, we will break the constraint on the flows of personnel, goods and information, formulate a new structure of connectivity and accomplish an early achievement in this domain.

We are delighted to see there is substantive development in the cooperation in this area. Currently, the high-speed railway from Istanbul to Ankara jointly built by China and Turkey is open to traffic. This not only represents the fruit of China-Turkey friendship, but also serves as a good example for deepening the cooperation in infrastructure.

In sum, building the Belt and Road should focus on the target of "connectivity in five areas" and pursue the concepts of "openness, cooperation, mutual learning and win-win results". It also requires us to adhere to the open regionalism and the principles of joint discussion, joint building and sharing. We should actively promote normalization of policy communication, liberalization of trade and investment, convenience for personnel exchanges, institutionalization of cultural exchanges and coordinated ecosystem protection. We will promote the prosperity, stability and common development of the countries along the Silk Road and spare no efforts to create the modern Silk Road of prosperity, inclusiveness and sustainability in the 21st century.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Whenever I think of the Silk Road, the glamorous accomplishments of the ancestors in China and overseas emerge in my mind. Over 2100 years, they explored the road for human development and prosperity with unremitted diligence and no fears of difficulties and hardships. Words fail to express my admiration for their achievements. Indeed, the difficulties and challenges in front of us to push forward building the Belt and Road are no less daunting than those in the old days. However, as Peng Duanshu, an ancient Chinese scholar, says in Encouraging Learning, "Is there any difference in the degree of difficulty between different tasks? If you do it, even a difficult thing turns to be easy. If you don't do it, even an easy thing becomes difficult." There is also a Turkish saying with the meaning that perseverance leads the road to the sky and courage pushes open the door of wisdom. These sayings give us enlightenments that we will approach to our common goals as long as we have no fears of the hardships and difficulties, as long as we have strong determination, as long as we think alike and focus our efforts on the shared cause.

In the process of building the modern Silk Road characterized by prosperity, inclusiveness and sustainability, think-tanks shoulder the bounden duty. In the contemporary era, with increasingly complicated economic and social relations, policy makers in all countries rely more on the wisdom of think-tanks. Without consulting and research done by the think-tanks, policies will lack scientific justification and feasibility.

Think-tanks not only play an irreplaceable role in policy making by governments, but also play an important and active role in channel public opinions and promote people-to-people exchanges. Mustering talents in all fields, think-tanks have a relative independence of various degrees in the policy making system, which is the precondition for think-tanks to play a constructive role with objectivity and fairness.

Nowadays, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of think-tanks. The Development Research Center is promoting the establishment of a new type of think-tanks with Chinese characteristics. We endeavor to expand the areas of and put more efforts in international cooperation and exchanges, which constitutes an important work for us.

I, hereby, would like to make a proposal. Let us take this opportunity to promote the establishment of the institutionalized cooperation among think-tanks, between think-tanks and governments, between think-tanks and enterprises and jointly build the Silk Road Think-tank Network. We sincerely hope to work with the think-tanks of all countries, conduct joint research on issues of great importance, jointly spread the concept of cooperation and contribute our wisdom and intelligence to building the modern Silk Road characterized by prosperity, inclusiveness and sustainability.

In conclusion, I wish the international symposium every success.

Thank you!