Working Together to Build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road

By: Xi JinpingFrom:English Edition of Qiushi Journal July-September 2017|Vol.9,No.3,Issue No.32 | Updated: 2017-Sep-1 15:45
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Distinguished Heads of State and Government,

Heads of International Organizations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

In this lovely early summer when everything is full of life, I wish to welcome all of you, distinguished guests representing over 100 countries, to Beijing to attend this important forum on the Belt and Road Initiative. Today we witness a gathering of great minds. I hope that by pooling our collective wisdom and engaging in open discussion, we will further develop the Belt and Road Initiative, one of this century’s most significant projects, so that it will bring benefit to people across the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, trekking across vast deserts and open plains, opened the Silk Road, a transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa. Our ancestors, navigating rough seas, opened up a maritime Silk Road of sea routes linking the East with the West. These ancient silk routes opened windows of friendly engagement among nations, adding a new chapter to the history of human progress. The thousand-year-old “gilt bronze silkworm” displayed at China’s Shaanxi History Museum and the Belitung shipwreck discovered in Indonesia bear witness to this period in history.

Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody a spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit; this spirit has become a valued legacy of human civilization.

– Peace and cooperation. In around 140 BCE during China’s Han Dynasty, royal emissary Zhang Qian, left the Han capital of Chang’an. He and his retinue traveled westward on a mission of peace and opened an overland route linking the East and the West, a daring undertaking which came to be known as Zhang Qian’s journey to the Western Regions. Centuries later, in the years of the Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties, both land and sea silk routes burgeoned, with great adventurers such as China’s Du Huan, Italy’s Marco Polo, and Morocco’s Ibn Batutah, leaving their mark along these ancient routes. In the early 15th century, Zheng He, the famous Ming Dynasty navigator, made seven voyages to the Western Seas, a feat which is still revered to this day. These pioneers won their place in history not as conquerors with warships, guns, or swords. Rather, they are remembered as friendly emissaries leading caravans and sailing treasure-laden ships. Generation after generation the travelers of the silk routes built a bridge of peace and cooperation between East and West.

– Openness and inclusiveness. The ancient silk routes spanned the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus and Ganges, and the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. They connected the birthplaces of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations as well as the lands of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam and the homes of people of different nationalities and races. These routes enabled people of various civilizations, colors, and creeds to interact and come together with an open mind. In the course of exchange, they fostered a spirit of mutual respect and endeavored to pursue prosperity. Today, the ancient cities of Jiuquan, Dunhuang, Tulufan, Kashi, Samarkand, Baghdad, and Constantinople and the ancient ports of Ningbo, Quanzhou, Guangzhou, Beihai, Colombo, Jeddah, and Alexandria stand as living testaments to these past interactions. This part of history shows that civilization thrives with openness and that nations prosper through exchange.

– Mutual learning. The ancient silk routes not only allowed the flow of goods, but also facilitated the flow of knowledge. Along these routes, Chinese silk, porcelain, lacquerware, and ironware were shipped to the West, while pepper, flax, spices, grapes, and pomegranates entered China. Through these routes, Buddhism and Islam, and Arab astronomy, calendars, and medicine found their way to China, while China’s four great inventions and sericulture spread to other parts of the world. More importantly, the exchange of goods and knowledge spurred new ideas. For example, Buddhism originated in India, blossomed in China, and was enriched in Southeast Asia. Confucianism, which was born in China, was held in high esteem by European thinkers such as Leibniz and Voltaire. These show the appeal and rewards of mutual learning.

– Mutual benefit. The ancient silk routes witnessed the hustle and bustle of trade and travel both overland and on the seas. Along these major arteries of interaction, capital, technology, and people flowed freely, and goods, resources, and benefits were shared extensively. Ancient cities of Alma-Ata, Samarkand, and Chang’an and ports of Sur and Guangzhou thrived, the Roman, Parthian, and Kushan empires flourished, and the Han and Tang dynasties entered their golden ages. The ancient silk routes brought development and prosperity to these regions.

History is our greatest teacher. The history of the ancient silk routes teaches us that geographical distance is not insurmountable, and that we need only take the first courageous step and follow the path leading towards one another to embark on a journey for friendship, shared development, peace, harmony, and a better future.

President Xi Jinping delivers the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER WANG YE

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

From a historical standpoint, humankind has reached an age of great progress, great transformation, and profound change. In this increasingly multipolar, economically globalized, informatized, and culturally diverse world, there is an increasing trend towards peace and development, and a stronger push for reform and innovation. Never before have we seen such interdependence among countries as today or such fervent desire of people for a better life, nor have we had so many means at our disposal to overcome hardship.

From a realistic standpoint, we find ourselves in a world fraught with challenges. Global growth requires new drivers, development needs to be more inclusive and balanced, and the gap between the rich and poor needs to be narrowed. Hotspots in some regions are causing instability and terrorism is running rampant. A dearth of peace, development, and governance poses a daunting challenge to humanity. This issue is always on my mind.

In the autumn of 2013, in Kazakhstan and Indonesia respectively, I proposed building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which I call the Belt and Road Initiative. As the old saying goes, “Peaches and plums do not speak, but they are so attractive that a path is formed below the trees.” Four years on, over 100 countries and international organizations support and are involved in this initiative. Important resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council contain reference to it. Thanks to our efforts, the idea of the Belt and Road Initiative is being put into action, the vision is becoming reality, and its development is bearing rich fruit.

– These four years have seen greater policy connectivity. I have said on many occasions that the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative does not mean scrapping the old system and starting afresh. Rather, it aims to complement the development strategies of countries involved by harnessing their comparative strengths. We have better coordination with the policies and initiatives of countries along the Belt and Road such as the Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity, the Bright Road of Kazakhstan, the Middle Corridor of Turkey, the Development Road of Mongolia, the “Two Corridors, One Economic Circle” of Viet Nam, the Northern Powerhouse of the UK, and the Amber Road of Poland. We are also developing ties between China’s development plan and those of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Hungary, and other countries. China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organizations and launched a framework for industrial capacity cooperation with more than 30 countries. During the forum, a number of cooperation agreements and action plans will be signed. We will also launch a Belt and Road unimpeded trade initiative together with some 60 countries and international organizations. The effect of such policy connectivity is to produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

– These four years have seen enhanced infrastructure connectivity. Building roads and railways creates prosperity in all sectors. We have expedited building the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, and the China-Laos, Addis Ababa-Djibouti, and Hungary-Serbia railways, and upgraded Gwadar and Piraeus ports in cooperation with partner countries. A large number of connectivity projects are also in the pipeline. Today, a multi-dimensional infrastructure network is taking shape, one that is underpinned by economic corridors such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, and the New Eurasian Continental Bridge, featuring land-sea-air transportation routes and information networks and supported by major railway, port, and pipeline projects.

– These four years have seen increased trade connectivity. China has worked to facilitate trade and investment and improve the business environment with countries along the Belt and Road. I learned that for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, customs clearance time for agricultural exports to China has been cut by 90%. Total trade between China and Belt and Road countries in 2014-2016 exceeded US$3 trillion, and China’s investment in these countries surpassed US$50 billion. Chinese companies have set up 56 economic cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating some US$1.1 billion in tax revenue and 180,000 jobs in those countries.

These four years have seen expanded financial connectivity. Financial capital bottlenecks are a prominent obstacle to realizing connectivity. China has engaged in many forms of financial cooperation with countries and organizations involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has provided US$1.7 billion in loans for nine projects in Belt and Road countries. The Silk Road Fund has made investments totaling US$4 billion, and the “16+1” financial holding company between China and Central and Eastern European countries has been inaugurated. Each of these new financial mechanisms and traditional multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank have their own focus and complement each other. Thus a multi-tiered Belt and Road financial cooperation network has started to take shape.

– These four years have seen strengthened people-to-people connectivity. Friendship, fostered by close people-to-people relations, is the key to sound state-to-state relations. Guided by the Silk Road spirit, we, the countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, have pooled our efforts to develop healthcare and education, and opened up collaboration in science, education, culture, health, and people-to-people exchanges. Such cooperation has helped lay a solid popular and social foundation for pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. Every year, the Chinese government provides 10,000 scholarships to Belt and Road countries. China’s local governments have also set up special Silk Road scholarships to encourage international cultural and educational exchanges. People-to-people collaborative projects such as Silk Road cultural festivals, tourism festivals, art festivals, film and TV projects, seminars and think tank dialogues are flourishing. Interactions such as these bring our people closer together.

These fruitful outcomes show that the Belt and Road Initiative has broad prospects as it keeps up with the times, adapts to the laws of development, and meets the interests of people of all nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

As we often say in China, “The first step is always difficult.” A firm first step has already been taken in pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, and we should build on this momentum to steer the Belt and Road Initiative towards greater success. In pursuing this endeavor, I offer a few suggestions:

First, we must develop the Belt and Road as a road for peace. The ancient silk routes thrived in times of peace, but declined in times of war. The Belt and Road Initiative requires a peaceful and stable environment. We should foster a new model of international relations centered on win-win cooperation, and we should forge partnerships based on dialogue rather than confrontation and on friendship rather than alliances. All countries should respect each other’s sovereignty, dignity, and territorial integrity, each other’s approach to development and social systems, and each other’s core interests and major concerns.

Some regions along the ancient Silk Road used to be land of milk and honey. Yet today, these places are often associated with conflict, turbulence, crisis, and challenge. Such states of affairs should not be allowed to continue. We must foster a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security, and create a secure environment built and shared by all. We must work to settle disputes in hotspots through political means, and promote mediation in the spirit of justice. We should intensify efforts to counter terrorism addressing both its symptoms and root causes, and strive to eradicate poverty, underdevelopment, and social injustice.

Second, we must develop the Belt and Road as a road of prosperity. Development is the master key for solving all problems. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should focus on the fundamental issue of development, bringing out the latent potential for growth in Belt and Road countries, so as to realize economic integration, interconnected development, and shared benefits.

Industries are the bedrock of an economy. We must further industrial cooperation so that the industrial development plans of different countries complement and reinforce each other, with a focus on launching major projects. We must strengthen cooperation on international industrial capacity and equipment manufacturing, and seize new development opportunities offered by the new industrial revolution to foster new businesses and maintain dynamic growth.

Finance is the lifeblood of a modern economy. Only when the blood circulates smoothly can one grow. We must establish a stable and sustainable system of financial safeguards that keeps risks under control, create new models for investment and financing, encourage greater cooperation between government and private capital and build a diversified financing system and a multi-tiered capital market. We should also develop inclusive finance and improve financial service networks.

Interconnected infrastructure is the foundation of cooperative development. We must promote land, maritime, air, and cyberspace connectivity, concentrate our efforts on key thoroughfares, cities, and projects, and connect networks of highways, railways, and sea ports. We have already set the goal of building six major economic corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative, and we must endeavor to meet it. We need to embrace the trend towards a new energy mix and the revolution in energy technologies to develop global energy interconnection and achieve green and low-carbon development. We must improve trans-regional logistics networks and promote connectivity between policies, rules, and standards to provide institutional safeguards that enhance connectivity.

Third, we should develop the Belt and Road as a road of openness. Opening up brings progress while isolation leads to backwardness. For a country, opening up is like the struggle of a chrysalis breaking free from its cocoon. There will be short-term pains, but they soon bring forth new life. The Belt and Road Initiative should be oriented towards openness to bring both economic growth and balanced development.

We must develop an open platform for cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy. We need to jointly create an environment conducive to opening up and development, establish a fair, equitable, and transparent system of rules for international trade and investment, and spur the orderly flow of the factors of production, efficient allocation of resources and full integration of the market. We welcome efforts by other countries to grow open economies, participate in global governance, and provide public goods based on their national conditions. Together, we can build a broad community of shared benefits.

Trade is an important engine driving economic growth. We must embrace the outside world with an open mind, uphold the multilateral trading system, continue building free trade areas, and promote liberalization and ease of trade and investment. Of course, we must also focus on resolving issues such as uneven development, difficulties in governance, the digital divide, and income disparities, and make economic globalization open, inclusive, balanced, and beneficial to all.

Fourth, we must develop the Belt and Road as a road of innovation. Innovation is an important force propelling development. The Belt and Road Initiative is itself a pioneering venture and we need to encourage innovation in pursuing this initiative.

We should pursue innovation-driven development, intensify cooperation in frontier fields such as the digital economy, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and quantum computing, and further develop big data, cloud computing, and smart cities, linking these to create a 21st century digital silk road. We must fully integrate science and technology into industries and finance to create ripe conditions and pool resources for innovation. We need to create space and build workshops for young people from around the world to cultivate entrepreneurship in this digital age and help them realize their dreams.

We must put the new vision of green development into practice to usher in lifestyles and production methods that are green, low-carbon, circular, and sustainable. We also need stronger cooperation in environmental protection to become ecological civilizations so as to realize the goals set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fifth, we must develop the Belt and Road as a road between civilizations. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative with other civilizations, we must transcend estrangement with exchange, conflict with mutual learning, and superiority with coexistence. This will boost mutual understanding, mutual respect, and mutual trust among different countries.

We need to establish a multi-tiered mechanism for cultural and people-to-people exchange, and develop more platforms and open more channels for cooperation. Educational cooperation needs to be boosted, the scope of student exchanges expanded, and the performance of cooperatively run schools enhanced. Think tanks must play a greater role and think tank networks and partnerships need to be developed. In the cultural, sports, and health sectors, new cooperation models are needed to facilitate projects with real benefits. Historical and cultural heritage should be taken full advantage of to jointly develop tourism and protect heritage that is distinctive of the Silk Road. We must strengthen exchanges between parliaments, political parties, and non-governmental organizations of different countries and also between women, youths, and people with disabilities to realize inclusive development. We also need to strengthen international cooperation to counter corruption so that the Belt and Road will be a road of high ethical standards.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

China is at a new starting point in its development. Guided by principles for innovative, coordinated, sustainable, open, and inclusive development, we will adapt to, understand, and steer the new normal of economic development. We will actively promote supply-side structural reform to achieve sustainable development, inject strong momentum into the Belt and Road Initiative and create new opportunities for global development.

– China will enhance friendship and cooperation with all Belt and Road countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. We are ready to share our development experience with other countries, but we have no intention to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, export our own social system and model of development, or impose our will on others. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we will not resort to outdated geopolitical artifices, but instead will initiate a new model of win-win cooperation. We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability, but instead to create a big family whose members coexist in harmony.

China has reached practical cooperation agreements with many Belt and Road countries, covering not only projects of hardware connectivity like transport, infrastructure, and energy, but also software connectivity like telecommunications, customs, and quarantine inspection. The agreements also include coordinated plans and specific projects in the fields of economy and trade, industry, e-commerce, and marine and green economies. Chinese railway authorities will sign agreements with their counterparts abroad to further cooperation on a regular China-Europe railway cargo service. We will work to launch these cooperation projects at an early date and see that they deliver early benefits.

– China will scale up financial support for the Belt and Road Initiative by contributing an additional 100 billion yuan to the Silk Road Fund, and we are encouraging financial institutions to initiate overseas RMB funds with an estimated value of about 300 billion yuan. The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will set up special lending schemes worth the equivalent of 250 billion yuan and 130 billion yuan respectively to support Belt and Road cooperation in developing infrastructure, industrial capacity, and finance. We will also work with the AIIB, the BRICS New Development Bank, the World Bank, and other multilateral development institutions to support Belt and Road related projects. We will work with other parties to jointly formulate guidelines for financing Belt and Road development projects.

– China will strive to build win-win business partnerships with Belt and Road countries, facilitate trade and investment with them, and build a Belt and Road free trade network to promote growth both in our respective regions and globally. During this forum, China will sign business and trade cooperation agreements with over 30 countries and enter into consultation on free trade agreements with countries involved. China will host the China International Import Expo starting from 2018.

– China willingly boosts cooperation with other countries on innovation. We will launch the Belt and Road Science, Technology, and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan comprising four projects covering science and technology and people-to-people exchanges, joint laboratories, science park cooperation, and technology transfer. In the coming five years, we will offer 2,500 short-term research visits to China for young international scientists, train 5,000 foreign scientists, engineers, and managers, and set up 50 joint laboratories. We will set up a big data service platform for environmental protection. We advocate setting up an international coalition for green development along the Belt and Road, and we will provide support to Belt and Road countries in adapting to climate change.

– Over the next three years, China will provide assistance worth 60 billion yuan to developing countries and international organizations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative for them to launch more projects to improve people’s well-being. We will provide emergency food aid worth 2 billion yuan to developing countries along the Belt and Road and make an additional contribution of US$1 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation. China will launch 100 “happy home” projects, 100 poverty alleviation projects, and 100 health care and rehabilitation projects in Belt and Road countries. China will provide US$1 billion to international organizations involved to implement cooperation projects that will benefit Belt and Road countries.

– China will set up a liaison office for the Belt and Road Forum’s follow-up activities, and establish the following centers: Research Center for Belt and Road Financial and Economic Development, Center for Promoting the Belt and Road, the Multilateral Development Finance Cooperation Center set up in cooperation with multilateral development banks, and IMF-China Capacity Building Center. We will also develop a network for cooperation between NGOs in Belt and Road countries and new platforms for people-to-people exchange such as a Belt and Road news alliance, and a music education alliance.

The Belt and Road Initiative has its roots in the ancient Silk Road. It focuses on the Asian, European, and African continents, but is also open to all other countries. Whether from Asia, Europe, Africa, or the Americas, all countries can be international partners of the Belt and Road Initiative. The pursuit of this initiative is based on extensive consultation and its benefits will be shared by us all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

An ancient Chinese saying goes, “A long journey can only be made by taking one step at a time.” Similarly, there is an Arab proverb which says that “The Pyramids were built by piling one stone on another.” In Europe, there is also the saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The Belt and Road Initiative is a great undertaking which requires great efforts. Let us pursue this initiative step by step and deliver outcomes one by one. By doing so, we will bring true benefit to both the entire world and all our peoples!

In conclusion, I wish the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation a complete success!

Thank you!

(Originally issued in Chinese by Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, May 14, 2017)