Belt and road forum


Joining the community of a shared destiny


The Belt and Road Initiative follows the historical footprints of our ancestors. It is the revival of the ancient Silk Road. It covers two routes of land and sea


Beijing is the focus of the world’s attention once again as top leaders of the globe are set to attend the much-talked-about Belt and Road Forum being held in the Chinese capital on May 14-15. The conference is aimed at economic cooperation between the states that have joined the initiative.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a buzz word in the world now. If you Google “belt and road”, you will get over 115 million results. The Forum has received an enthusiastic response from the international society as many heads of state and leaders of international organisations have registered for participation.

According to Li Baodong, China’s vice-foreign minister and also secretary general of the organising committee of the forum, the number of participants has gone far beyond expectation.

“I had never thought that there are so many representatives from different regions eager to participate in the forum. A few days ago, 28 heads of state had confirmed to attend the leaders’ round table summit. Now, there are more heads of state promised to participate in the forum,” he said.

At the invitation of President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Kyrghyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev and many others would lead state delegations to the forum. More than 70 international organisations will send high-ranking representatives, mostly leaders, to take part in the forum. It is really very rare for so many countries, regions and representatives, so many heads of state and governments, to participate in a forum sponsored by one country.

The UN Secretary-General will also attend the Forum. There are also representatives from 110 countries and 61 international organisations. Guests from all over the world will gather and discuss cooperation on the Belt and Road construction under the theme of win-win cooperation.

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, with the theme “strengthening international cooperation and co-building the ‘Belt and Road’ for win-win development,” will be held from May 14-15 in Beijing.

China has designated Russia and Pakistan as “countries of significance” for the forum and hence all eyes would remain on Mr Putin and Mr Nawaz Sharif. These leaders also expected to hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit.

The forum has also attracted an unprecedented attention from the media. More than 4,000 or nearly 5,000 Chinese and foreign reporters have registered to report the forum. There are reporters from different countries and regions. Moreover, more than 70 international organisations will send representative to the forum.

In today’s world, the economically developed regions of the world usually are the coastal areas. Inland cities and countries are relatively lagging. Looking through the lens of history and reality, an important reason behind this is that the vast majority of the world’s trade is through the oceans. Distance from the sea signifies disadvantage to trade and connectivity.

The very aim of the Belt and Road initiative is to promote regional connectivity, shorten the gap between inner lands and coastal areas and let more countries and regions participate in the process of globalisation and industrialisation, to solve the problem of imbalance during the process of economic globalisation. This conforms to the development needs of the regional countries and the trend of the times.

The Belt and Road initiative firmly grasps the key linkage of connectivity, opens up global distribution channels of production factors, contributing to a balanced, inclusive and shared benefits of economic globalisation. This initiative focuses on policy communication, road connectivity, unimpeded trade, currency circulation and people-to-people bonds between countries. It promotes a higher degree of integration and interdependence, leads to the great goal of building a community of shared future for mankind.

A British academic, Mr Peter Frankopan, recently wrote a book named “Silk Roads: a New History of the World”. It soon became a bestseller in many countries. The book praises the history of the Silk Road and calls it a condensed global history and a brief history of humanity.

Over the past thousands of years, China’s great inventions, namely paper-making, printing, compass, gunpowder, silk, tea, porcelain, medicine were spread to the west along the Silk Road. Pepper, sugar from the South Asian subcontinent, frankincense and glass from the Arabian Area were brought to China along the Silk Road too. Buddhism was also brought to China and took roots in the land of China. It now becomes an important part of traditional Chinese culture. Silk Road not only enriched the people’s daily life, but also promoted the progress of both eastern and western civilisations. The eastern and western civilisation then jointly wrote the splendid history of exchange of the human civilisation.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a great achievement originated from the history of human civilisation’s exchanges. In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed the idea of building the Silk Road Economic belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in Kazakhstan and Indonesia respectively. In general, we call them the Belt and Road Initiative. This initiative has injected a new momentum into the ancient Silk Road, and has made the connection between Asia, Europe and Africa closer.

While Pakistanis drink tea, and call the tea “chaye”. It is interesting that the Chinese and South Koreans too call the tea “cha”, which has the similar pronunciation. The English word tea has a similar pronunciation to what the China’s southern coastal dialect “Teh”. These two different pronunciations of tea have different origins.

Some scholars have found that “cha”, “chaye” or similar pronunciation could be found in northern China, Mongolia, Central Asian and South Asian countries, and even could be extended to Asia Minor and Russia.

It could be traced back to the 8th century when it was spread through the Silk Road from China to Central Asia, South Asian subcontinent and the Eurasia. The pronunciation of “Tea” was spread from the coastal area of China’s southern Fujian Province to the rest of the world as early as in the 19th century along the maritime trade routes.

Pakistanis should be proud of our pronunciation of “Chaye” because we may have tasted the Chinese authentic tea far ahead of European countries. Imaging more than 1,000 years ago, our ancestors enjoyed the scent and flavour of Chinese tea in the hot summer, while the tinkling of camel bells echoed along the Silk Road.

The Belt and Road Initiative follows the historical footprints of our ancestors. It is the revival of the ancient Silk Road. It covers two routes of land and sea of Silk Road, yet the scope is far wider. It opens to the world.

Over the past thousands of years, our ancestors laboured, lived and multiplied along the Silk Road, creating and developing the rich and colourful civilisation. They were carrying the virtue of peaceful cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning, mutual benefit and win-win spirit. This is the great spirit of the Silk Road. Today, the Chinese are building the Belt and Road Initiative to make this spirit shine again.

The Belt and Road Initiative is based on traditional Chinese culture. Its key words are “peace”, “development” and “cooperation”.

Mr Peter Frankopan mentioned in his book that China is better at taking precautions in advance than any other country, and is more willing to learn about the past of other countries, and draw lessons from history. To achieve this, respect and prudence is very much needed as the Chinese leaders have said. The idea of Belt and Road Initiative is meant for the benefit of the world, and it will provide a golden opportunity for deep cooperation. China’s development is peaceful, friendly and civilised. It will benefit rather than threaten other countries.

The Chinese believe the word has expressed the essence of Chinese traditional culture. The concept of “harmony and cooperation” is the primary value and the essence of the Chinese culture. The Chinese consider peace as the most precious thing and pursue harmonious inter-state relations. The philosophy that all the people of the world are brothers are deep rooted in Chinese community. The Chinese philosopher Confucius said 2,000 years ago, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others do unto you, and to help others is to help yourself.” These ideas have become Chinese people’s motto.

On 29 April the first London-Yiwu cargo train arrived at the Chinese Yiwu city after a 19-day journey, covering 12,000 kilometers across the Asia-Euro continent. This was the first cargo train which takes products made in UK to China by railways. It saved one month time compared to cargo shipping, and 20 percent cost compared to air transportation. It is one of the freight trains connecting China, Spain, Russia, Belarus, Latvia, UK, Central Asian countries, Iran, Afghan now days. Every country along the route could enjoy the benefits from the Belt and Road cooperation.

The Belt and Road initiative has been widely participated in by regional countries and international community. The past three years have witnessed the launching, expansion, faster-than-expected progress and fruitful outcomes of the Belt and Road Initiative. More than 100 countries and international organisations have joined it, among which over 40 have signed cooperation agreements and MoUs with China.

The Initiative currently covers more than 4.3 billion people, with a total economic output of more than $21 trillion. In 2016, the total foreign trade volume between China and Belt and Road route countries amounted to $1 trillion. China signed construction contracts worth $126 billion, with a growth of 36pc. Totally FDI reached $14.5 billion, accounting for 8.5pc of China’s total foreign investment. Among these countries, Chinese enterprises have built 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in more than 20 countries, involving more than $18 billion, creating tax of nearly $1.1 billion and generating 180,000 direct jobs.

Hence, the BR forum would greatly help galvanise the world economy, connecting large and small economic for a formation of a community of shared destiny. This could largely help the South Asian economies to look beyond their petty disputes and work jointly to join the community of shared destiny.