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Belt and Road set to help global economic recovery

By Cecily Liu in Madrid ( China Daily USA ) 2015-10-30

Top expert says China's initiative can also create complementary worldwide governance structure

China's Belt and Road Initiative will play a crucial role in facilitating the global economic recovery, connecting international markets and forming a new order for world development, said Li Wei, president of the State Council's Development Research Center.

At the two-day Silk Road Forum in Madrid, which began on Tuesday and was attended by more than 300 politicians, businesspeople and scholars from 30 countries, Li expounded on the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative and added that the international community has reacted with interest since China introduced the ambitious proposal.

There are, however, some concerns, Li added, especially considering that the project will involve many countries at different stages of development and with different cultural backgrounds, interests and aspirations. He explained that the grand vision can still be achieved.

The forum is in its second session following the inaugural summit in Istanbul in December 2014.

In his keynote speech, Li said the initiative, by strengthening communication about policies and deepening economic cooperation, will help the global economy recover more quickly from the 2008 financial crisis.

He added that the integration resulting from regional cooperation can resolve structural challenges in the global economy. Through collaboration and increased market connectivity, countries will be able to fulfill their growth potential, fully utilize comparative advantages and optimize their economic structure.

The initiative direction can facilitate governance structure to complement the existing global governance system, represented by multinational institutions such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This new order will be reflective of the needs of the world today, he said.

Vuk Jeremic, president of the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development, said the Belt and Road Initiative is possibly the greatest human endeavor ever to connect countries and cultures. But to make the dream a reality requires multinational institutions to cooperate, and leaders and experts to contribute their ideas.

Stjepan Mesic, the former president of Croatia, said that the underlying ideology of the Belt and Road Initiative is peaceful cooperation. Hence conferences such as the forum are helpful as they facilitate better understanding between the different partners.

The forum is hosted by the Development Research Center in China, the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development and the Chinese embassy in Spain.

One important milestone reached at the forum was the launch of the Silk Road Think Tank Network, which currently has 43 confirmed founding members and partners from 27 countries.

Academia and think tanks can play a role in thinking critically about the implications of the Belt and Road Initiative and enhance dialogue and understanding about these developments in different societies, said Tim Summers, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, a London-based think tank.

His colleague Felix Preston said think tanks can facilitate a lot of cross-border discussion and understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative, which will be particularly useful in understanding the future implications of long-term policies

Rana Mitter, a history and politics of modern China professor at Oxford University, told China Daily that academic input into the initiative will be important, especially in building a cultural bridge for different players.

"There will need to be a whole variety of cultural initiatives to go with the economics. The fact is that the Silk Road cultures - Iran, China, Central Asia - don't know each other very well and they need to learn more about each other's cultures and languages," Mitter said.

Shaun Breslin, a professor of politics and international studies at Warwick University, said the initiative is not just about basic objectives like road, railways and trade, it is about the building of a community with a unified vision. "There is a lot of work to be done: fleshing out the vision, communicating it to others and getting them to buy in."


 Belt and Road set to help global economic recovery

Li Wei (center), president of the State Council's Development Research Center, with other participants at the second Silk Road Forum that began on Tuesday in Madrid. Tuo Yannan / China Daily