Champion the Community of Common Destiny


release time:2017-03-22 09:55:21  view count:279393  source:Boao Forum for Asia

--A dialogue between and BFA Secretary General Zhou Wenzhong

The world is being threatened by one “black swan” after another—such as the division among EU members reflected in Brexit, the global concerns triggered by Donald Trump’s “America first” and the convergence of financial, debt and refugee crises that are looming over Europe, and so on. In this context, Zhou Wenzhong, Standing Committee Member and Vice Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, CPPCC and BFA Secretary General, said that in face of globalization setbacks in the US and Europe, it is necessary to put this process in perspective and champion a more inclusive globalization at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference.

During the “Two Sessions”, (ZX) had an exclusive interview with Zhou Wenzhong (Zhou), who shared his insights regarding issues ranging from globalization to the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and the development of a community of common destiny.

ZX: What do you think are the root causes for the rise of anti-globalization populism, trade protectionism and unilateralism? What will the prospects of globalization be like?

Zhou: Globalization is an issue of common interest and is an inevitable mega trend, from which both developing and developed countries have benefited enormously. The sustainable development of the world would not be possible without globalization. I believe what truly drives this process is not human wishes, but the intrinsic needs of the market.

However, developed countries have problems with their wealth distribution mechanisms, with interest and wealth held in the hands of a minority of people, while the majority of the general public can benefit very little from globalization and therefore have begun to question this process, mistaking globalization as the cause for their domestic challenges. Moreover, some political groups have also played a misleading role in shaping the public perception of globalization in order to reach their political aims or swing votes. I think the west would be myopic to blame globalization for their issues and challenges.

Certainly, globalization does come with certain issues. For example, there was no process or framework that could guarantee equity and efficiency when new international rules were developed; most of them were originally written by developed countries. Now, with their increased economic and national strength, developing countries also want to make their voices better heard, which is a legitimate demand. All such issues must be addressed.

I think conflicting views are inevitable in globalization, but if the international community can sit down and put these issues on the table to find reasonable solutions through effective communication, globalization will have a bright future ahead.  

ZX: It has been 16 years since the Boao Forum for Asia was founded. Do you think it has played its due role?

Zhou: As one of the foremost platforms for dialogue among Asian and emerging economies, the BFA is committed to deepening regional cooperation, with an aim to advance regional integration. In this sense, we can safely say that the BFA has played its due role since it was inaugurated 16 years ago.

Our Board of Directors has 19 members and convenes regular meetings. It has broad representation, with its membership composed of politicians from Asia and other continents, as well as internationally recognized business and academic leaders. Each of our Annual Conferences consists of 60 to 70 sessions, covering a wide range of issues such as globalization and trade liberalization. Our original purpose was to give voice to Asia and build consensus across this region. From this point of view, the BFA has fulfilled its purpose over the past 16 years.  

ZX: The Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2017 is to be held soon. What will be the biggest highlight this year?

Zhou: The theme is the biggest highlight. Based on the feedback of various stakeholders, we have established “Globalization & Free Trade: The Asian Perspective” as the theme of the conference.

Faced with globalization setbacks in the US and Europe, it is necessary to put this process in perspective and champion a more inclusive globalization at the BFA Annual Conference.

The theme is developed with the hope of sorting out all the aspects of globalization and building consensus. We are also going to launch a globalization initiative at this year’s annual conference.

ZX: What issues have been covered in the program this year? How will the “One Belt, One Road” initiative be reflected in the program?

Zhou: The program this year totally include 65 events, including 45 sessions, 17 roundtables and several closed-door dialogues. The conference will be attended by 6 heads of state/government as well as 80-plus international organization leaders and ministers of economic affairs. It will provide opportunities for close interaction between business leaders and heads of state/government and ministers.

The program is mainly divided into four modules—globalization, growth, reform and new economy. On globalization, the program features a dialogue between political leaders and subject matter experts and scholars; on growth, the program will explore the topic from various perspectives. Moreover, the program has also arranged two sessions for rethinking at the 20th anniversary of the Asian financial crisis and the 10th anniversary of the subprime mortgage crisis. To address the growth module, the program will explore issues such as the supply-side structural reform as well as the reform of healthcare, land, fiscal and tax regimes. On entrepreneurship, innovation and new economy, the program will address issues ranging from industrial design to artificial intelligence, virtual reality, live streaming and Internet-driven cars.

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative has been echoed by more than 100 countries and international organizations. The Chinese government has signed relevant memorandums of understanding with 65 countries. This initiative has a bearing not only on the economic sustainability of the world, but also on the transformation and reshaping of the world order and rules. It is an enhanced epitome of peace and development—the two themes that will dominate the 21st century.

As a non-governmental regional organization, the BFA is happy to provide a platform for stakeholders to have an in-depth exploration of this initiative, so we can collectively identify how to advance and implement it. If you read our program, you will see a session dedicated to this initiative.

ZX: How do you interpret the relationship between “the community of common destiny” and the “One Belt, One Road” initiative?

Zhou: Since the 18th CPC National Congress, President Xi Jinping has proposed two epoch-making ideas—the “community of common destiny” and the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, both of which are conceived in the same context of the unsustainability of the old post-war world order and rules and the making of new ones. It is at this critical juncture that President Xi proposed to create a “community of common destiny”. In 2015, we incorporated this concept into the theme of the BFA Annual Conference, which was “Asia’s New Future: Towards a Community of Common Destiny”.   

My understanding is that creating a community of common destiny also requires cooperation and sharing, as does the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Of course, political systems and ideology varies from country to country, but they all face the shared challenge of how to maintain the momentum to develop and grow.

My work experience over the years since I assumed the role of Secretary General has allowed me to strongly feel the popularity of this initiative among the countries along the Belt and the Road, as well as the enthusiasm of Chinese companies in participating in the initiative. Therefore, advancing the initiative in a way that is open, inclusive, balanced and win-win will be an extremely effective path towards the community of common destiny.  

ZX: This initiative has entered a critical stage. How do you think we can advance and implement it?

Zhou: As you said, the initiative is currently at a critical stage. I think it should be advanced in a systematic, not fragmented, way. On this, I’d like to emphasize three points:

First, we must be fully aware of its far-reaching impact. The initiative is not only a catalyst of improving the depth and breadth of regional economic cooperation around the world, but more importantly, it is a strategic lever for China to be part of the transformation and improvement of the existing international order and rules as an institutional right. Through the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, countries can work together to boost sustainable development; on the other hand, the specific collaborative projects under the initiative will also help reform and reshape international trade and investment rules, improve financial and monetary regimes and create a more equitable framework for political and economic order.

Second, relevant institutions and rules must be developed or improved for the implementation of specific projects under the initiative. When pushing ahead with the initiative, we must balance trade and investment projects with systems and rule development to institutionally ensure the win-win and mutual benefits of collaborative projects, as part of the effort to improve relevant order and rules. Based on the initiative’s actual progress, we should also help create a mechanism for global investment protection and arbitration as an institutional safeguard of our projects along the Belt and the Road.

Third, we should leverage our strengths in telecom, E-commerce and electric grid by first pushing for connectivity in these three sectors. Generally, investment in such sectors require smaller amounts of capital, feature shorter life cycles and are easier to implement systematically. Moreover, Chinese companies in these three sectors possess obvious market advantages and technical expertise that qualify them as standard setters. Starting with these three sectors will not only make the systematic implementation of the initiative much more efficient, but will also help establish China’s dominance and influence in the institutional arrangements of these three domains, thus allowing China to play a leadership role in the creation of a new international order that will shape the community of common destiny for mankind. 

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