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Create a New Era of Common Development of Asia and Europe in Pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative

Time:2017-09-16 02:35:08    Views:1059755    Origin:Boao Forum for Asia

Create a New Era of Common Development of Asia and Europe in Pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative

Remarks by Mr. Zeng Peiyan

Vice Chairman of Boao Forum for Asia at

Boao Forum for Asia Paris Meeting

Paris, 15 September 2017

 

Mr. Jean-Pierre Raffarin,

Mr. Gérard Larcher,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning! Autumn is the most beautiful season in Paris with an enchanting landscape of blue sky, golden leaves and clear Seine. It gives me great pleasure that in such a pleasant season, we are gathered in Paris for this great event jointly hosted by Boao Forum for Asia and Foundation Prospective and Innovation of France where we will have discussions on synergizing development strategies of Asia and Europe in pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.

People in Asia and Europe started their exchanges since ancient times. The ancient Silk Road dating back to over 2,000 years ago had been a bond linking Asia and Europe and the civilizations in the east and the west, promoting economic exchanges and trade among Asian and European countries as well as development and progress of human society. In terms of historical rules, the more smooth the road linking Asia and Europe had been and the more different countries opened up to each other, the more frequent exchanges and trade among countries along the Silk Road had carried out. And it was the same for economic prosperity and stability as well as people’s livelihood.

In the 21st century, the world economy has undergone profound transformation and adjustment since the outbreak of international financial crisis, facing new challenges. Two paradoxes emerged. One is the development paradox: though new scientific and industrial revolution is in the making and new economic growth drivers are gathering momentum, economic growth rate remains slow with no new expansion of consumer market, sluggish trade and investment, persistent unemployment and widening wealth gap. The other is the peace paradox. Despite deep integration of interests of countries and more urgent need for peace, development, cooperation and win-win outcomes, regional conflicts occur frequently, global challenges such as terrorism, ethnic and religious problems and refugees keep cropping up and non-traditional security risks are on the rise.    

Against this major backdrop, President Xi Jinping of China put forward the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 based on his observation and thinking about the world situation and the experience of the ancient Silk Road. Asia and Europe enjoy the largest capacity of economic production. Their GDP and trade volume account for around 55% and 70% of the world total respectively. There live over 60% of the world population which make a big market of 4.6 billion people. However, development of Asian and European economies is not balanced. The per capita GDP is lower than the world average, connectivity capacity is inadequate, cultural, ethnic and religious relations are complex and the potential of internal trade and investment is yet to be fully tapped. The Belt and Road Initiative pursues to build in the region connectivity of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people exchanges. This will lead to consolidation and effective flows of talents, capital, technology and goods and strongly advance in-depth economic and trade integration between Asia and Europe, contributing to full economic prosperity in the two continents and common development and peace of the world.   

A saying in France goes that a single sparrow does not make it spring. A similar Chinese saying also says that one flower does not mean spring. This shows that people in Asia and Europe have similar wisdom. To make an achievement needs joint participation of all parties, just as diversified birds and flowers make beautiful spring. The development of the Belt and Road Initiative also needs the active participation of all countries. The Initiative follows the principle of peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and win-win progress. On this big platform, every country is an equal participant, contributor and beneficiary. The core principle is extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits as proposed by President Xi Jinping. Extensive consultation indicates that we should pool our wisdom and work for win-win outcomes through consultation so that the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative will accommodate interests and concerns of all parties and reflect their wisdom and creativity. Joint contribution means that all parties should give full play to their respective strengths and potentials and accumulate their efforts in a persistent way. Shared benefits are designed to ensure that the achievements will benefit more people of all countries in a fairer way so as to build a community of common interest and shared future.

It is understandable that people may have little understanding or even some concerns about an initiative in its early stage. Some friends have some worries and misgivings about certain specific questions in pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, such as its purposes, the investment returns, environmental protection and exports of production capacity. Here, I wish to share with you some of my personal views.

As I said before, the Belt and Road Initiative has been put forward by President Xi Jinping against the background of coping with the post-crisis international situation and for the purpose of seeking new growth drivers of world economy, realizing balanced development for universal benefits and bridging the wealth gap. It is aimed at getting stronger through unity, promoting structural adjustment of countries and pursuing common prosperity. The Belt and Road Initiative will not repeat the old game of geopolitical competition or export social systems or development models. It is not a geopolitical tool, neither is it a foreign aid program. Instead, it is a platform of practical cooperation and an initiative for interconnected development. It will create new opportunities for implementing the 2030Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Belt and Road Initiative focuses on Asia, Europe and Africa with a fully open and inclusive vision, in which all economies around the world can participate. The Initiative has been supported by over 100 countries and international organizations and countries in Africa and Latin America have shown increasing enthusiasm for taking part in it. This shows that the Belt and Road Initiative is not a small circle demarcated by a certain country. It is rather a new avenue for advancing inclusive development of economic globalization.

The pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative must rely on market-based operation and major players of investment are enterprises of various types. Only when enterprises are involved with their active participation, will the Belt and Road Initiative be full of vitality and dynamism. And it is very important for governments to create an enabling investment environment. Many projects, especially infrastructure projects at the initial state, should not seek only short-term economic returns. Instead, focus should be put on their integrated returns from a longer-term perspective. Attention should be paid to the overall spill-over effect of a single project for regional connectivity rather than only to its effect in a limited range of areas. For some projects which do not show good effects in the short term but have significant long-term effects, development financial institution such as AIIB, ADB, EBRD and the Silk Road Fund have much to achieve and should give such projects strong support. In the meantime, PPP, as a market-based model of providing public products and services involving private capital, can also play an important role.

On production capacity export, I wish to make some additional comments. In the past, expansion of production capacity in China was mainly for meeting the needs of domestic economy and development of urbanization. The current problem of excessive production capacity has something to do with economic cycle. In 2008 when the international financial crisis broke out, China adopted a package of measures to cope with it. This has made important contribution to promoting world economic recovery and to a certain extent spurred production capacity expansion as well. To deal with it, China will spend three to five years in cutting production capacities of 150 million tons of steel and 500 million tons of coal. It must be made clear that the Belt and Road Initiative is not to sell excessive production capacity. Instead, it is aimed at developing advanced production capacity, which includes both integrated use of new technologies, materials, processes and equipment to push traditional industries to the medium and high end, and new industries such as intelligent manufacturing, new energy, environmental protection and modern transportation systems. China and the EU enjoy strengths in funds and technology. This has put them in a good position to carry out practical cooperation and create more jobs to the benefit of the people so as to advance adjustment and upgrading of industrial structure and new economic growth in countries concerned.

On sustainable development, most countries in Asia and Europe including China and France have been actively implementing the Paris Agreement to push for transformation into green and low carbon economy and formulated clear targets and measures concerning sustainable development and tackling climate change. The Belt and Road Initiative should synergize with strict international standards of sustainable development, respect the specific requirements on environmental protection of host countries for projects, draw lessons from the past practice of pollution first, then treatment and strengthen constraints on projects in indicators such as energy efficiency, environmental protection and carbon emission within the framework of sustainable development and coping with climate change. 

The Belt and Road Initiative is conducive not only to sustainable economic prosperity in Asia and Europe, but also to defusing geopolitical risks such as refugees and terrorism and advancing peace and stability in Asia and Europe. Looking at a map, one can easily find that West Europe and East Asia, two ends of the Eurasian continent, are high grounds of development. The vast middle part of the continent used to be a land flowing with milk and honey, but now many places there have become synonyms of conflicts, turmoil and crisis. It is conceivable that when the Belt and Road Initiative forms a synergy with Junker Plan and development plans of countries along the route, it can effectively drive the growth of underdeveloped areas in Asia and Europe and promote harmony and stability of the whole region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Human civilization is moving into a new great historical era. High-speed railways, giant freighters, large airplanes and quantum communications have given us more reasons to strengthen connectivity than in any other era. More than 2,000 years ago, our ancestors travelled on foot throughout Asia and Europe in very harsh conditions. Their journeys have pushed forward economic development and civilization progress of Asia and Europe. Today, the Belt and Road Initiative will closely link various peoples along the route at a new historical starting point of human civilization to achieve win-win cooperation and common development and make the Eurasian continent a community of shared future and interest in a real sense. France is a country with creative thinking and can play an important and active role in pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. Please let me use an analogy: each economy in Asia and Europe is a beautiful, unique and indispensable piece of a jigsaw puzzle. As long as all the pieces are perfectly connected, there will be a splendid vista of prosperous Asia and Europe. We are convinced that through concerted efforts, Asian and European countries will build a new Silk Road rooted in history and oriented towards future which will bring tremendous benefits to the people in Asia and Europe.

Thank you!     

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