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Walking the Talk
By Yang Jian | NO. 42 OCTOBER 18, 2018
The Tian'en owned by COSCO Shipping Specialized Carriers plows through ice in the East Siberian Sea on its voyage to Europe through the Polar Silk Road on August 20 (XINHUA)

After 40 years of reforming and opening up, China draws closer to realizing its dream of national rejuvenation and bringing its people to prosperous life. As a responsible member of the international community and the largest developing country in the world, China shares people in the developing world's aspiration for development. That's one of the most important motivations China has put forward the conception of building a community with a shared future for mankind through common development.

China's vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind gives international society an option to reform and improve the international system, while the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is a practical platform to implement the vision and achieve win-win cooperation by sharing opportunities for development with other countries.

Bridging the gap

The development of capitalism in the past created a long-standing imbalance in the international division of labor in the world economy. Western countries took control of capital, technology, the market and intellectual property rights, and dictated the rules of international governance. Other countries, the so-called underdeveloped nations, were reduced to either providers of cheap land and labor or suppliers of raw materials for global production.

In 1964, the Group of 77 at the UN, the coalition of developing nations, proposed to rename underdeveloped countries as developing countries, indicating the common aspiration of the less developed countries to change the irrational division of labor and work together to eradicate poverty. However, in the past half century, the gap between the North and the South has not seen any remarkable bridging. If we do not pay attention to this, the imbalance will not improve on its own, despite the new industrial revolution.

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, says in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution that while the revolution will produce far-reaching effects, it is also highly likely to exacerbate inequality, especially widening the gap between capital and labor returns. Unbalanced income distribution and uneven spatial development have caused and would continue to raise concerns worldwide.

In their 2012 report, The Global Partnership for Development: Making Rhetoric a Reality, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Gap Task Force expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of global partnership, noting that after reaching a peak in 2010, the volume of official development assistance declined for the first time in many years in 2011. At the launch of the report, then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged a stronger global partnership to advance progress on the MDGs amid declining aid from developed countries and called on the international community not to place the burden of fiscal austerity on the backs of the poor.

The UN MDGs have not yet resolved the problem of the lack of common and balanced development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has also encountered difficulties with some developed countries shirking their responsibilities. Global challenges such as climate change and the use of new and low-carbon technologies have triggered new demands for a balanced global development.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a positive response to the development of global partnership and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Chinese Government wants to prove that only with practical actions can the world finally achieve balanced development. The initiative emphasizes equal opportunities and balanced development and its implementation is driving the transformation of emerging economies into capital, technology and knowledge-based economies, helping countries that used to rely on resource exports to strengthen their domestic momentum.

Through the joint implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, China has achieved economic cooperation with a large number of countries, aiming at balanced development on a global scale. It would boost the common development of mankind and balanced development between mankind and nature. It would also help prevent confrontation between the North and the South.

Linking land and sea

The Age of Discovery, the historical period from the 15th to the 18th century, enabled Europeans to discover new routes with their navigational techniques and form a global market centered on Europe through maritime trade. This caused a gap between the inland economies and the coastal economies. This imbalance in development and trade has existed for hundreds of years. Almost every wealthy economy today is located along coastlines. Economies defined as suppliers of resources and raw materials were stuck at the bottom of the global value chain, with no effective improvement so far.

This explains why the UN MDGs specifically mention the need for global cooperation to meet the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states, the least developed countries in particular.

During the 40 years of reform and opening up, China has integrated terrestrial and maritime civilization within it and achieved synergetic development. Led by these successful experiences, it proposed a combination of modern maritime civilization and the ancient Silk Road to help countries along the routes seek prosperity and development again.

The Belt and Road Initiative emphasizes the integration of land and sea, focusing on infrastructure connectivity to promote flows of major economic factors between the inland economy and the marine economy for overall development. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an example. The first multilateral financial institution proposed by China, it focuses on supporting infrastructure construction, promoting the economic integration process in Asia and strengthening the interconnectivity of relevant countries.

The transportation and communication network developed by China with other countries has created a wider, more convenient and more balanced connectivity and mobility of goods, technology, information and capital along the Belt and Road routes. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to grasping the opportunities brought about by technological innovation, strengthening the construction of information infrastructure and international cooperation in the digital economy.

Developments such as cross-regional logistics networks, energy, the Internet, free trade zone networks and the construction of entrepreneurial spaces that bring together young talents from different countries have brought new opportunities to landlocked developing countries along the Silk Road.

The construction of the Belt and Road has paved the way for the development of the Digital Silk Road and a knowledge-based economy. Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE are providing technologies and solutions for the elimination of the digital divide between the countries along the routes and making China's contribution to the coordinated development of land and sea.

 

The British All-Party Parliamentary Group formed to learn more about the Belt and Road Initiative at the launch in London on September 10 (XINHUA)

Coping with crisis

Inadequate momentum and innovation are failing to support a sustainable and steady growth of the world economy. The world economy is undergoing a shift in its driving forces with new drivers of economic growth yet to be formed. The transition period is marked by population growth, structural changes and the transformation of trade and financial models.

The short-term stimulus policies adopted by some countries have thwarted the willingness of the rest to cope with challenges through international cooperation. To improve their short-term economic performance, some Western countries have turned to protectionism and internalism, challenging the multilateral trading system.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao in June, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the need for all parties to work together to build a powerful engine to achieve common development and prosperity. He said that countries should increase the complementarity of their development strategies, continue to advance Belt and Road cooperation under the principle of delivering shared benefits through extensive consultation and joint contribution, and accelerate regional trade facilitation.

The Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote new driving forces for the economy based on innovation and to make economic globalization more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable. The newly established Silk Road Fund, AIIB and Asian Financial Cooperation Association are providing financial support to stimulate the new growth momentum of the world economy, while trade agreements signed between China and other countries have increased the market vitality of these countries.

To realize the common prosperity of mankind on the basis of peaceful development, China is trying to foster partnerships based on dialogue and non-alliance. The partnerships, absorbing advantages from economic complementarities, serve the need for mutual benefits and common development. The innovative strategic partnership between China and Switzerland, and the future-oriented new type of partnership between China and Finland are examples of such partnerships.

International cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative is also laying a solid foundation for a new round of growth and prosperity for the world economy through labor, land, human resources and market readiness. If the world economy embraces a new period of prosperity, developed countries can gain long-term benefits as they need the vast markets of developing countries.

Pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative as a priority, China is giving equal emphasis to "bringing in" and "going global," and increasing openness and cooperation in building innovation capacity. With these efforts, it hopes to cover new ground in opening up further through links running eastward and westward, across land and over sea, and form globally oriented networks of trade and investment, financing, production, and services.

While the world was still suffering from the economic downturn, China held the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in 2016 and the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing the following year, indicating its determination to assume international responsibilities and promote common development. Since the international financial crisis started in 2008, China's contribution to global economic growth has averaged over 30 percent annually. In the Belt and Road Initiative, people have seen a hope for common prosperity and an open and inclusive, green and low-carbon development potential for the world economy.

The UN Security Council has reflected the consensus of the international community by incorporating the notion of "a community with a shared future for mankind" in a resolution.

Broader cooperation sought

Development is the biggest political issue of the world. China doesn't seek military allies but tries to enlarge its friend circle by jointly promoting development by encouraging all countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative.

A large number of developing countries have already responded, while most Western countries have recognized its significance and expressed their willingness to participate in the initiative and work together to promote global development. However, a handful of developed countries showed reluctance toward the China-proposed blueprint for promoting common development, which stems largely from their long-standing hegemonic thinking, their monopoly in global governance and their inability to adapt to the overall development of emerging markets and developing countries.

China welcomes broader international cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and is willing to participate in international competition conducive to the development of countries along the Belt and Road routes. It welcomes other countries to participate in the construction based on the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, jointly promote the economic and social development of countries concerned, and achieve balanced, inclusive and sustainable development worldwide.

The author is Vice President of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

Comments to yulintao@bjreview.com

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