WANG Yiwei: Three Essentials for the Coordination between the “Belt and Road” Initiative and European Policies and Strategies
Origin:Boao Forum for Asia      Time:2017-09-10 21:24:42     Views:236161

Prof. WANG Yiwei is an authority on the “Belt and Road” initiative and has been conducting in-depth study of various European countries. Within three years, Prof. WANG has published five monographs in a row. Through visiting various European countries, participating in over100 academic conferences and discussing with local scholars, Prof. WANG has gained an insight into the “Belt and Road” initiative.

On Sept 14th and 15th, Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) will hold a special meeting in Paris, France. The meeting is themed as “‘Belt and Road’ Initiative: Building Synergy with EU Policies and Strategies”. Before the meeting, Prof. WANG Yiwei took an exclusive interview by the BFA and the content is as follows.

Three Essentials for Building Synergy with EU

Europe is where the developed countries concentrate the most in the world with its traditional advantages in capital, technology and talent. The participation of EU in the “Belt and Road” construction means the “Belt and Road” initiative will be more inclusive and have higher standards. He who wins Europe will win the whole world.

At the same time, China-European cooperation is also facing some barriers. For example, the rule-oriented globalization championed by Europe is in conflict with the development-oriented globalization championed by China. In addition, the one size-fits-all European standard is not applicable to the conditions of the underdeveloped countries along the “Belt and Road” route. In the past, Europeans had doubts about the “Belt and Road” initiative largely due to their concerns about geopolitics, debt, transparency, environmental protection and sustainability. The process in which Europeans get to know about the “Belt and Road” initiative is also one in which they know about the China model. It is necessary to grasp the “essentials” in our cooperation.

I. Make Sure Everyone Get a Fair Share of The Big Pie

Europe itself has the task of connectivity and integration. For example, the “Juncker plan”, “Three Rivers” (Elbe, Danube, Oder) through the “Three seas” (Baltic Sea, Adriatic Sea, Black Sea), reconstruction of 9 corridor lines of the pan-European railway network, infrastructure upgrading in Western Europe, fill the infrastructure “depression” in Central and Eastern Europe, and the “Southern Gas Corridor” plan and so on.

In the field of infrastructure, the European ideas and planning highly fit in well with the “Belt and Road” initiative. The two sides can complement each other with their respective advantages in production capacity. In Europe, China can coordinate with the “Juncker plan” and promote the construction of the platform for connectivity between China and Europe. Externally, China and Europe can jointly develop a third party market. Many countries along the “Belt and Road” were once colonies of Europe. Therefore Europeans have a better understanding of these markets with more experience.

It should be noted that the balance of interests should be properly handled in the China-European cooperation. The European affairs are rather complex and when taking actions, their interests should be taken into account and we cannot simply copy the practices of China-African cooperation or domestic affairs.

As for China's investment, on the one hand, the EU welcomes bidding of various countries, and on the other hand it also worries that these projects will rob the region of employment opportunities, violate EU principles and that they will lose their advantages in cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property rights. For example, German politicians repeatedly asked to stop “Midea” from acquiring “KUKA robot” for fear of technology outflow. Therefore, we should make sure the big pie is fairly shared in the third market of the B & R capacity cooperation, free trade, and joint investment.

II. The European Multi-tiered Governance asks for the Multilayer Coordination of the “Belt and Road” Initiative

Policy coordination is the first step for project cooperation. In this process, we cannot simply set each country as a single unit but should instead have more understanding about the concept of the EU's multi-level governance.

Most of the time, Europe is governed by a five-tiered governance structure--European Union, countries, regions, provinces, municipalities and prefectures. The communications are both top-down and bottom-up. First, we must abide by the EU principles and laws; second, we should coordinate with the development plans and policies of different countries; third, we should understand the policies at all levels within the state.

The policy of Belgium Region is different from that of the central government, but they have equal status. Each country within the European Union is an independent nation, and also a member of the European Union at the same time. These countries adopt uniform European Union standards for their infrastructure, trade and investment. For example, some countries in Central and Eastern Europe transfer part of their power to the European Union, and projects in these countries must coordinate with the European Union.

It is suggested that a demonstration country is selected in each region so as motivate other parts of Europe, such as Greece in Southern Europe, Czech and Hungary in Central and Eastern Europe, Denmark in Northern Europe, and Britain in Western Europe.

China-Central and Eastern Europe 16+1 cooperation is a highlight. At present, the Central and Eastern European countries are “looking to the east” in the hope of serving as a bridge that connects Europe and Asia, and these countries are the most active participants in the “Belt and Road” construction. Germany and some other European powers have a misgiving that “16+1” may divide Europe. In this context, China needs to do more work on balancing multilateral and bilateral relations, help promote the Chinese small and medium enterprises to invest in central Europe and east Europe.

After Brexit, Britain is paying more attention to the development opportunities brought about by the “Belt and Road” initiative and is actively coordinating its “northern England revitalization plan” with the “Belt and Road” initiative. Britain boasts a strong financial services sector and can make a difference in the areas of financing, in particular the internationalization of the RMB.

III. Grasp the Highlights in Cooperation and Start from Culture

Digital connectivity is also a highlight. Europe now lags behind China and America in the Internet and mobile communications markets. Of the ten largest IT companies in the world, four are in China, six are in the United States and no European country is among them.

At the same time, China and Europe still have a lot of room for cooperation in the single digital market, such as 5G. China is now at the forefront of 5G development. Germany should learn from experience and choose to join forces with China. Network security, e-commerce, and sharing economy are also starting points. For example, Mobike enjoys a very good reputation in the UK.

Culture is another breakthrough point. China is the starting point of the Silk Road while Europe is the end point. The “Belt and Road” is a road for people-to-people bonds. Its purpose is not only to promote mutual understanding, but also create common memories, common identities and a common future.

China and Europe have consistent goals in championing multilateralism, open and inclusive cooperation, free trade and globalization, climate change “Paris agreement”. In 2016, President XI Jinping proposed in Uzbekistan to build a green, healthy, intelligent and peaceful Silk Road, which highly fits the Europe's ideal Silk Road.

France plays a vital role in European integration with its profound influence in culture, economy, politics and civilization. When Boao Forum for Asia holds meeting in Paris, France, culture can be taken as one of the starting points to stimulate the historical and cultural imagination of the “Belt and Road” initiative.


About the author

WANG Yiwei is Jean Monnet Professor, Director of Institute of International Affairs, Director of Center for European Studies at Renmin University of China. He was formerly diplomat at Chinese Mission to the European Union (2008-2011) and professor of Center for American Studies at Fudan University (2001-2008). His main research interests include Belt & Road Studies, European Integration, Public Diplomacy, Chinese foreign policy and EU-China relations. His recent books include China Connects the World: What Behind The Belt & Road Initiative, New World Press, April. 2017; The Belt & Road Initiative: What China Will Offer the World in Its Rise (both in Chinese and English, both book of year 2015, 2016), Haishang: Revelations of European Civilization (both in Chinese and English) and China NATO Studies Series.

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