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Jointly Building the Belt and Road: Connotation, Significance and Think Tanks’ Mission

2015-08-14

By Cheng Guoqiang

Research Report Vol.17 No.3, 2015

I. Facilitating the Recognition of the Core Connotation of the Belt and Road Initiative

During his visit to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (hereinafter referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative), which have attracted close attention and active response from the international community. The “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (hereinafter referred to as “Vision and Actions”) issued by the relevant departments recently expounds the visions, goals, tasks, mechanisms and actions of this initiative. However, due to the influence of the political complexity in the world nowadays, some countries are still in doubt about the initiative. Some misreading or even misinterpretation of the initiative need to be cleared up gradually. We hold that we need to pay close attention to the concerns and doubts of all parties involved and promote trust, dissolve doubts and build consensus by means of deepening exchange and cooperation as well as communication and coordination. In particular, we should facilitate the recognition of the core connotation of the Belt and Road Initiative, namely, “openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit and joint construction”, on the basis of carrying on the Silk Road Spirit of “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit”. And we should do our best to make all countries involved build consensus.

First, openness. This is the fundamental spirit of the ancient Silk Road. It is also the core concept of the Belt and Road Initiative. In other words, the construction of the Belt and Road is open to all countries, economies, international organizations, regional cooperation mechanisms and non-government institutions. In terms of institutional arrangement and mechanism design, no closed circles are allowed. This initiative is not exclusive. Great efforts are particularly needed to facilitate investment and trade of all participating countries and economies so as to reduce investment and trade cost and build the new driving force for growing markets and sustainable development while opening to each other.

Second, inclusiveness. This is a typical feature different from other cooperation organizations or mechanisms. On the one hand, it means the diversity of all participants in the initiative. It is different from other cooperation mechanisms and not meant to target any third party. Nor does it set any threshold requirements for participation. All countries or regions willing to join the initiative will be the participants, builders and beneficiaries of the initiative. On the other hand, it means the diversified cooperation modes. It does not set any strict or unified rules for participation. For the need of expanding economic and trade cooperation and common development, all participants may adopt various modes of cooperation such as bilateral, multilateral, intra-regional or inter-regional, diversified, multi-areas and multi-tiered cooperation. Construction of any particular project may invite cooperation from the local enterprises along the Belt and Road, businesses from western countries and relevant international organizations and form a community of shared interests. The inclusiveness of the Belt and Road Initiative determines its advantage of being inclusive, which means it will not proactively challenge the existing regional cooperation mechanisms, but, on the contrary, will align well the current mechanisms.

Third, mutual benefit. This is the fundamental force driving the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. Any regional cooperation idea will have lasting vitality and broad prospects only with the realization of mutual benefit and win-win results. Mutual benefit is the driving force for all cooperation to be achieved and maintained. Therefore, the initiative should be promoted in a way that all participants, including China, do not engage in zero-sum games, benefit-grabbing or colonial expansion. It also requires that all participants should not engage in beggar-thy-neighbor mercantilism or dumping commodities in the name of opening-up and free trade. We should promote mutual complementarity and realize benefit sharing and common development.

Fourth, joint construction. This is the basis guaranteeing the sustainable development of the Belt and Road Initiative. From the historical point of view, created and extended by the Han Dynasty government, the ancient Silk Road was not dominated by a particular government. Rather it mainly served non-government merchants for doing business. Therefore, the ancient Silk Road Spirit implies the features of joint construction and benefit-sharing. The Belt and Road Initiative is the continuity and extension of the ancient Silk Road Spirit. Initiated and actively promoted by China, the Belt and Road Initiative is actually a project of joint consultation, joint construction and benefit-sharing, which will benefit all participants. It is not an assistance program, or the so-called Chinese version of the “Marshall Plan”. With respect to the specific institutional arrangement for mutual connectivity such as policy communication, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds, and with regard to the achieving approaches, cooperation contents, and phased objectives, all parties involved need to be engaged in joint consultation, participation, construction, and benefit-sharing so as to create a community of shared interests, development and even destiny.

II. Great Significance in Promoting the Initiative of Joint Building the Belt and Road

The newly issued document, “Vision and Actions”, truly reflects our intention to carry on the ancient Silk Road Spirit. It is a representation of the great economic vision for opening-up and cooperation between all countries along the Belt and Road. There is great realistic significance in further promoting the Belt and Road Initiative.

First, the Belt and Road Initiative will facilitate to build a new pattern of all-round opening-up in China. This initiative will enable China to further expand and deepen its opening-up and improve its open economy. It is the specific practice of implementing a more active opening-up strategy. It aims at promoting orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets; encouraging the countries along the Belt and Road to achieve economic policy coordination and carry out broader and more in-depth regional cooperation of higher standards; and jointly creating an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all. Thus, it will help China adapt to the new situation and requirements of the era for economic globalization and regional integration. It will further promote the building and improvement of the open economic system featuring mutual benefit, win-win results, balanced diversity, as well as security and efficiency. It will help develop a new system for the open economy of higher standards. In the meanwhile,based on the overall framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, China will give full play to the comparative advantages of all regions in China and further improve the economic positioning and distribution of the five regions in China such as northwest, northeast, southeast, coastal areas and Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as well as inland areas. We all need to strengthen the cooperation between the east and west regions so as to fully unleash the inland potential of opening-up, improve the opening-up level, build a new pattern of all-round opening-up, and promote the sustainable and sound development of China’s economy.

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