Work Together to Build the Silk Road Economic Belt*
September 7, 2013
More than 2,100 years ago during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), a Chinese envoy named Zhang Qian was twice sent to Central Asia on missions of peace and friendship. His journeys opened the door to friendly contacts between China and Central Asian countries, and started the Silk Road linking the East and West, Asia and Europe.
Shaanxi, my home province, is right at the starting point of the ancient Silk Road. Today, as I stand here and look back at history, I seem to hear the camel bells echoing in the mountains and see the wisps of smoke rising from the desert, and this gives me a specially good feeling.
Kazakhstan, located on the ancient Silk Road, has made an important contribution to the exchanges between the Eastern and Western civilizations and the interactions and cooperation between various nations and cultures. This land has borne witness to a steady stream of envoys, caravans, travelers, scholars and artisans traveling between the East and the West. The exchanges and mutual learning thus made possible the progress of human civilization.
The ancient city of Almaty is also on the ancient Silk Road. In Almaty, there is a Xian Xinghai1 Boulevard, which got its name from a true story. After the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War in 1941, Xian, a renowned Chinese composer, found his way to Almaty. By then, he was worn down by poverty and illness and had no one to turn to. Fortunately, the Kazakh composer Bakhitzhan Baykadamov took care of Xian and provided him with the comfort of a home.
It was in Almaty that Xian composed his famous works: Liberation of the Nation, Sacred War and Red All over the River. He also wrote the symphony Amangeldy based on the exploits of the Kazakh national hero. These works served as a rallying call to fight Fascism and proved immensely popular with the local people.
Throughout the millennia, the peoples of various countries along the ancient Silk Road have written a chapter of friendship that has been passed on to this very day. More than 2,000 years of exchanges demonstrate that on the basis of unity, mutual trust, equality, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutually beneficial cooperation, countries of different races, beliefs and cultural backgrounds are fully able to share peace and development. This is the valuable inspiration we have drawn from the ancient Silk Road.
Over the past 20 years, the relations between China and Eurasian countries have grown rapidly, and the ancient Silk Road has gained new vitality. In a new way, it is lifting the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Eurasian countries to a fresh height.
A neighbor is better than a distant relative. China and Central Asian countries are close and friendly neighbors. China values its friendship and cooperation with these countries, and takes improving these relations as a foreign policy priority.
China's relations with the Central Asian countries now face a golden opportunity of growth. We hope to work with these countries to strengthen trust, friendship and cooperation, and promote common development and prosperity to the benefit of all our peoples.
– We should pass on our friendship from generation to generation and remain good neighbors living in harmony. China is committed to peaceful development and an independent foreign policy of peace. We respect the development paths and domestic and foreign policies pursued independently by the people of every country. We will never interfere in the internal affairs of Central Asian countries. We do not seek to dominate regional affairs or establish any sphere of influence. We stand ready to enhance consultation and coordination with Russia and all Central Asian countries to sustain harmony in our region.
– We should firmly support and trust each other and be sincere and good friends. Rendering each other firm support on major issues concerning core interests such as sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and stability underlies China's strategic partnership with the Central Asian countries. We will reinforce trust and cooperation with the Central Asian countries bilaterally and within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)2 to combat the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism as well as drug trafficking and organized transnational crimes, and this will create a favorable environment for promoting economic development and improving the wellbeing of the people in this region.
– We should vigorously enhance practical cooperation and be good partners of mutually beneficial cooperation. Both China and the Central Asian countries are at a crucial stage of development, and we face unprecedented opportunities and challenges. We have all set medium- to long-term development goals based on our national conditions. Our strategic goals are the same – to ensure sustainable and stable economic development, build a prosperous and strong nation and achieve national revitalization. Therefore, we need to enhance practical cooperation across the board, use our good political relations, geographical proximity and economic complementarities to boost sustainable growth, and build a community of shared interests and mutual benefit.
– We should expand regional cooperation with a more open mind and broader vision, and achieve joint progress. Global economic integration is accelerating, and regional cooperation is booming. The Eurasian region has a number of regional cooperation organizations. The members and observers of the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) and the SCO are from Eurasia, South Asia and West Asia. By intensifying cooperation between the SCO and the EAEC, we will create further space for development.
To forge closer economic ties, deepen cooperation and expand development space in the Eurasian region, we should take an innovative approach and jointly build an economic belt along the Silk Road. This will be a great undertaking benefitting the people of all countries along the routes. To turn this vision into reality, we may start in specific areas and connect them over time to cover the whole region.
First, we need to step up policy consultation. Countries should have full discussions on development strategies and policies, adopt plans and measures for advancing regional cooperation through consultation in the spirit of seeking common ground while setting aside differences, and give the policy and legal "green light" to regional economic integration.
Second, we need to improve road connections. The SCO is working on an agreement on transport facilitation. Its early signing and implementation will open up a major transport route connecting the Pacific and the Baltic. On this basis, we can actively discuss the best way to improve cross-border transport infrastructure and work towards a transport network connecting East Asia, West Asia and South Asia to facilitate economic development and travel in the region.
Third, we need to promote unimpeded trade. The envisaged economic belt along the Silk Road is inhabited by nearly three billion people and it represents the biggest market in the world, with enormous, unparalleled potential for trade and investment cooperation between the countries involved. We should discuss a proper arrangement for trade and investment facilitation, remove trade barriers, reduce trade and investment costs, increase the speed and raise the quality of regional economic flows and achieve mutually beneficial progress in the region.
Fourth, we need to enhance monetary circulation. China and Russia already have sound cooperation on settling trade in local currencies, and have made good progress and yielded rich experience in this respect. This good practice can be shared with others in the region. If our region can realize local currency convertibility and settlement under the current and capital accounts, it will significantly lower circulation cost, increase our ability to fend off financial risks, and make our region more competitive internationally.
Fifth, we need to increase understanding between our peoples. Friendship between peoples is the key to good relations between states. To pursue productive cooperation in the above-mentioned areas, we need the support of our peoples. We should encourage more friendly exchanges between our peoples to enhance mutual understanding and traditional friendship, and build strong public support and a solid social foundation for regional cooperation.
* Part of the speech at Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan.
1 Xian Xinghai (1905-1945) was a Chinese musician.
2 The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organization established on June 15, 2001, in Shanghai (China) by six countries – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its prototype was the Shanghai Five Mechanism. The main goals of the SCO are strengthening mutual confidence and good neighborly relations among the member countries; promoting effective cooperation in politics, trade and economy, science and technology, and culture as well as education, energy, transportation, tourism, environmental protection and other fields; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a new, democratic, just and rational political and economic international order. The heads of state meet once every year, and the heads of government meet at fixed time, alternatively in each of the member states.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)