Journal

Jointly Build the “Belt and Road” Through Win-win Cooperation

Zhang Yesui Executive Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
On 28 March 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a keynote speech entitled “Towards a Community of Common Destiny and A New Future for Asia” at the opening ceremony of the annual conference of the Boao Forum for Asia. In the speech, President Xi underlined that China will follow the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (hereinafter referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative). President Xi said that the Belt and Road Initiative is not exclusive but open and inclusive, not China’s solo performance but a chorus by all countries along the routes, not an empty slogan but an undertaking involving concrete measures. President Xi’s explanation about the Belt and Road Initiative in his speech speaks to China’s new vision and new thinking on international cooperation.
 
First, wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits are the principle and defining feature of the Belt and Road Initiative.
 
Wide consultation means pooling collective wisdom, accommodating interests and concerns, and leveraging the creativity of all sides. The Initiative is to be pursued by all countries along the routes through consultation in both its conception and delivery. As a matter of fact, the ideas of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road were first put forward in Kazakhstan and Indonesia respectively. This in itself represents a form of consultation with the host countries. In formulating plans and releasing the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, China widely solicited views and suggestions from countries along the routes through bilateral and multilateral channels, and adopted many constructive ideas. These include, among others, greater emphasis on openness, giving more attention to cultural cooperation and environmental protection, pursuing early harvests, breaking investment and financing barriers and encouraging business innovation.
 
Joint contribution encourages participation by all the countries along the routes to tap into their potential and foster new drivers of cooperation. As a Chinese saying goes, “The flame will burn high when all add wood to the fire.” Countries along the routes differ in national conditions and strengths, hence they can well leverage their own advantages and contribute their share.
 
Shared benefits is about seeking the widest possible converging interests through win-win cooperation. It is just like people working together to make a big pie and divide it in a fair and equitable way. Both China and countries along the routes are the stakeholders in the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Initiative, guided by the vision of inclusive development, aims to deliver the fruits of cooperation to all countries along the routes, to the wider international community and to all the ordinary people.
 
Wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits together form an integrated whole. Wide consultation is the very basis for all endeavors to get started, joint contribution represents the essential way of actual implementation, and shared benefits provide the driving force toward the common goal. To realize wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, China has proposed a new pathway of aligning China’s national strategies and policies with those of the countries along the routes in terms of specific projects, business communities and cooperation mechanisms. Participating countries will, while respecting each other’s own plans, jointly make the plans and advance cooperation projects.
 
Second, wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits are an active endeavor for bolstering regional cooperation in a globalized world.
 
There are various kinds of theories and practices about regional cooperation. Some believe that regional cooperation should be led by major powers and advanced aggressively with synchronized actions by forging treaties and surrendering sovereignty. Others champion the approach of “a small horse pulling a big cart”, so to speak. Such an approach believes in consensus building, voluntarism, seeking gradual progress and accommodating each other’s comfort levels. It prefers informal consultation and un-institutionalized cooperation mechanisms.
 
The principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits is consistent with the trend of economic globalization, world multi-polarity and greater democracy in international relations and effectively addresses several prominent issues in regional cooperation.
 
First, the issue of equality. Countries along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative, regardless of their size, strength and contribution, enjoy equal political and legal status. We all have important roles to play in undertaking the Initiative and shall all share in its benefits. We are partners for cooperation, instead of rivals in competition. Nor are we in a relationship of some giving orders whereas others taking orders.
 
Second, the issue of openness. Building on the heritage of the ancient Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative extends across the Eurasian continent and its adjacent seas and takes intergovernmental cooperation as the main channel of implementation. Yet, it is also open to partners beyond those along the ancient Silk Road and on the Eurasian continent, and cooperation under the Initiative goes well beyond that between governments. Local governments, financial institutions, multinational corporations, international organizations and non-governmental organizations are all welcome to get involved.
 
Third, the issue of inclusiveness. The Belt and Road Initiative spans Asia, Europe and Africa, connects the economies in East Asia and Europe and reaches the South Pacific as natural extension of the maritime silk road. Hence, it helps break the barriers across the continents and sub-regions and build a bridge linking the East and West, North and South and countries of different civilizations. It can also enhance the complementarity and coordination of different cooperation mechanisms and help shape a new architecture of regional cooperation covering wider areas and with higher standards.
 
Fourth, the issue of serving common good. The Belt and Road Initiative not just outlines the strategy for China’s opening up and external cooperation in all respects. It is also a public good that China provides to the international community. It demonstrates China’s commitment to fulfilling its responsibility and making contribution to the world.
 
Third, the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits will enrich China’s diplomacy with distinctive national features.
 
The principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits is rooted in the profound Chinese culture, which calls for sharing weal and woe like passengers in the same boat, pursuing amity with one’s neighbors, bringing people around with virtue, putting oneself in other’s shoes and establishing oneself while benefiting others. These are also the characteristic features of China’s diplomacy.
 
The Belt and Road Initiative is a grand vision and plan of action for the opening-up and cooperation of countries along the routes. It has no background of the Cold War or bloc confrontation. It’s not a relationship between givers and receivers. Still less is it anyone’s instrument for geopolitical gains. The assistance China provides to the countries along the routes is never attached with political strings. The industrial cooperation China conducts with the countries along the routes is based on comparative advantages and market principles. With the support of the government, such cooperation is led by enterprises in keeping with business rules.
 
The Belt and Road Initiative builds on, yet transcends the ancient Silk Road. It is not only a road for commerce and people-to-people exchange, but also one of win-win cooperation based on mutual respect and mutual trust. Following the trend of economic globalization in a multipolar world, the Initiative is based in Asia and aims to benefit the whole of Asia. It seeks to uphold the right of all Asian countries to independently choose their development paths and set their foreign policies and contribute to Asia’s cooperative security and revitalization.  
 
The Belt and Road Initiative does not target any country or any strategy. It can live in harmony with all other mechanisms and initiatives. As an initiative for economic cooperation and people-to-people exchange, it does not concern itself with territorial or maritime disputes in principle. The joint building of the Belt and Road will only increase the shared interests and strategic trust between countries concerned, and thus create a favorable atmosphere for addressing their differences.
 
The Belt and Road Initiative is a positive contribution to the post-crisis global growth strategy. With the massive and diverse connectivity programs that increase supply, create demand and improve capital utilization, countries along the routes will become more interdependent and move up the global supply, industrial and value chains. All economic projects under the Initiative must abide by local laws and regulations, follow international rules and high standards, and enforce risk assessment and precautionary measures. Companies involved must fulfill their social responsibilities and protect the local environment.
 
The Belt and Road Initiative is becoming a common cause of China and countries along the routes. I am confident that as countries along the routes jointly undertake the Initiative under the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and enhance their cooperation in innovative ways, much will be accomplished on the way ahead.
 

Zhang Yesui is Executive Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 


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