Some 2,100 years ago, or 1,600 years before Italian explorer Christopher Columbus found the New World, ancient Chinese General Zhang Qian braved a world of uncertainties to open up a trade route now known as the Silk Road.
To deal with the problems troubling today’s world, China has decided to give greater scope to the time-honored Silk Road spirit and launched a modern-day land and maritime Silk Road initiative to promote shared development.
Underpinning Beijing’s endeavors for global development and integration is the vision of building a community of shared future for mankind, which is championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and, in the eyes of many, represents the ultimate goal of human development. China will not close its open door, and will keep on opening up on all fronts, Xi reaffirmed at a panel discussion with Chinese lawmakers at the ongoing annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC).
More than two millenniums after Zhang Qian blazed the international trail, isolationist and confrontational elements are still haunting the world, despite the enormous benefits globalization.
A sluggish global growth and widening development gaps are exacerbated by armed conflicts, Cold War mentality and power politics, and mixed with such non-conventional security threats as terrorism, major communicable diseases and climate change.
To ride out those challenges, “China’s proposition is: build a community of shared future for mankind and achieve shared and win-win development,” announced the Chinese president in a keynote speech at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) in January. Xi’s vision “is the only future for humanity on this planet,” said UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson in an interview with Xinhua. Both Thomson and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have pledged that the United Nations will work with China to promote world peace and development.
In the government work report Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivered at an NPC plenary on Sunday, Beijing declared once again that it stands ready to work with the international community to foster a new type of international relations with win-win cooperation at the core.
As a sign of increasing global recognition of Xi’s signature concept on human development, the 55th UN Commission for Social Development approved a resolution in February that calls for more support for Africa’s economic and social development by building a human community of shared future.
To those with a propensity for zero-sum thinking, China is strategizing to “dethrone” the United States and dictate a new world order as the world witnesses a power shift from the West to the East.
Beijing has addressed such suspicions with both words and deeds. In his visit to the UNOG and other international organizations in Switzerland, Xi reaffirmed China’s commitment to peaceful development and pledge not to seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence.
In a move clearly indicative of Beijing’s commitment, China took the lead in establishing in 2015 the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is meant to supplement — rather than supplant — the international financial system and help fill the huge funding gaps for infrastructure construction.
Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor and prominent US foreign policy expert, said at a recent seminar at Johns Hopkings University in Washington: “If you look at the Chinese behavior, they have not rejected the world international system.”
Evan A. Feigenbaum, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said China is not “a revolutionary” power. China’s size, wealth and policy lead it “to demand significant changes to existing institutions, but it does not seek to overturn the current international order wholesale,” he wrote in an article published in the January/February issue of US magazine Foreign Affairs.
China has been making great efforts to build a community of shared future with its neighbors. Among the initiatives is the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism. Substantial progress has also been made in the building of a China-Africa community of shared future. Since the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in late 2015, China has disbursed or arranged nearly half of the US$60 billion funding support it promised to Africa.
In addition, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, Africa’s first modern electrified railway China helps build to link the Ethiopian capital with Djibouti’s Red Sea port, has been up and running. So will the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya, a China-funded standard gauge railway ranking as the biggest infrastructure project in the country since its independence.
The flagship of China’s endeavors is the Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and is aimed at promoting common development along the ancient land and maritime Silk Road trade routes and beyond.
So far the initiative, which was proposed by Xi in 2013, has gained the support of over 100 countries and international organizations, and more than 40 of them have signed cooperation agreements with China.
“China’s initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road, embracing the trend towards a multipolar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and greater IT application, aims at being highly efficient in terms of the allocation of resources, and at achieving a deep integration of markets among the countries concerned,” said Keith Bennett, vice chair of the London-based 48 Club Group.
(The authors are Xinhua writers.)