Work Together to Build the Belt and Road*
May 14, 2017
Distinguished heads of state or government,
Heads of international organizations,
Ladies and gentlemen,
In this lovely season of early summer when every living thing is full of energy1, I wish to welcome all of you, distinguished guests representing over 100 countries, to this forum on the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing. This is indeed a gathering of great minds. In the coming two days, I hope that we will fully exchange views and contribute our ideas on how to pursue the Belt and Road Initiative, a project of the century, which will benefit people across the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, trekking across vast steppes and deserts, opened the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, known today as the Silk Road. Our ancestors, navigating rough seas, created sea routes linking the East with the West, namely, the Maritime Silk Road. The ancient Silk Road, embracing both the land silk road and maritime silk route, opened windows of friendly engagement between nations, adding a splendid chapter to the history of human progress. The thousand-year-old gilt bronze silkworm displayed at China's Shaanxi History Museum and the Belitung shipwreck discovered in Indonesia bear witness to this exciting period of history.
Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient Silk Road embodies the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization.
– Peace and cooperation. In China's Han Dynasty, around 130 BC, Zhang Qian, an imperial emissary, left Chang'an, capital of the Han Dynasty. He traveled westward on a mission of peace, and opened an overland route2 linking the East and the West, a daring undertaking which came to be known as Zhang Qian's journey to Western Regions. Centuries later, during the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties, the Silk Road, by both land and sea, became increasingly busy. Great adventurers, including Du Huan of China, Marco Polo of Italy and Ibn Battuta of Morocco, left their footprints along these ancient routes. In the early 15th century, Zheng He, the famous Chinese navigator of the Ming Dynasty, made seven voyages to the Western Seas, a feat which is still remembered today. These pioneers won their place in history not as conquerors with warships, guns or swords. Rather, they are remembered as friendly emissaries leading camel caravans and sailing treasure-laden ships. Generation after generation, the Silk Road travelers built a bridge for peace and East-West cooperation.
– Openness and inclusiveness. The ancient Silk Road spanned the valleys of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus and Ganges, and the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. They connected the birthplaces of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian and Chinese civilizations, the lands of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, and homes of people of different ethnic groups and races. Through the Silk Road, people of different civilizations, religions and races interacted with and embraced each other with open minds, in the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences. In the course of exchanges, they fostered a spirit of mutual respect and were engaged in a common endeavor to pursue prosperity. Today, the ancient cities of Jiuquan, Dunhuang, Turfan, Kashi, Samarkand, Baghdad and Constantinople, as well as the ancient ports of Ningbo, Quanzhou, Guangzhou, Beihai, Colombo, Jeddah and Alexandria stand as living monuments to these past interactions. This part of history shows that civilization thrives with openness and nations prosper through exchanges.
– Mutual learning. The ancient Silk Road was not for trade only; it boosted the flow of knowledge as well. Through the Silk Road, Chinese silk, porcelain, lacquerware and ironware were shipped to the West, while pepper, flax, spices, grapes and pomegranates entered China. Through the Silk Road, Buddhism, Islam and Arab astronomy, calendar and medicine found their way to China, while China's Four Great Inventions (gunpowder, printing, the compass and paper-making) and silkworm breeding spread to other parts of the world. More importantly, the exchange of goods and know-how spurred new ideas. For example, Buddhism originated in India, blossomed in China and was enriched in Southeast Asia. Confucianism, which originated in China, gained appreciation by European thinkers such as Leibniz and Voltaire. Herein lie the appeal of mutual learning and the fruit of exchanges.
– Mutual benefit. The ancient Silk Road witnessed bustling scenes of visiting emissaries and traveling merchants jostling one another on the land and numerous ships calling at ports. Along these major arteries of interaction, capital, technology and people flowed freely, and goods, resources and culture were shared widely. The important ancient cities of Alma-Ata, Samarkand and Chang'an prospered, and the Port of Sur and Guangzhou Port thrived, as did the Roman Empire and the Parthian and Kushan kingdoms. The Han and Tang dynasties of China were a golden age. The ancient Silk Road brought prosperity and development to these regions.
History is our best teacher. The glory of the ancient Silk Road shows that geographical distance is not insurmountable. If we take the first courageous step towards each other, we can embark on a path leading to friendship, shared development, peace, harmony and a better future.
Ladies and gentlemen,
From the historical perspective, mankind has reached an age of great progress, great transformation and profound change. In this increasingly multipolar, economically globalized, digitized and culturally diversified world, the trend towards peace and development has become stronger, and reform and innovation are gaining momentum. Never have we seen such close interdependence between countries as today, and such a fervent desire of people for a better life, and never have we had so many means to prevail over difficulties.
In terms of reality, we find ourselves in a world fraught with challenges. Global economic growth requires new drivers, development needs to be more inclusive and balanced, and the gap between rich and poor needs to be narrowed. Flashpoints in some regions are causing instability, and terrorism is rampant. Deficits in the spheres of peace, development and governance have posed daunting challenges to humanity. All this has always been on my mind.
In the fall of 2013, I proposed building the Silk Road Economic Belt in Kazakhstan and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in Indonesia, which is now known as the Belt and Road Initiative. As a Chinese saying goes, "Peaches and plums do not speak, but they are so attractive that a path is formed below the trees."3 Four years on, over 100 countries and international organizations have become involved in this initiative. Important resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and Security Council contain references to it. Thanks to our efforts, the Belt and Road Initiative is becoming a reality and bearing rich fruit.
– These four years have seen deeper policy coordination. I have said on many occasions that the Belt and Road Initiative is not meant to reinvent the wheel. Rather, it aims to leverage the comparative strengths of the countries involved and coordinate their development strategies. We have enhanced policy coordination with relevant countries for such initiatives as the Eurasian Economic Union proposed by Russia, the Master Plan on Connectivity by ASEAN, the Bright Road initiative by Kazakhstan, the Middle Corridor initiative by Turkey, the Development Road initiative by Mongolia, the Two Corridors, One Economic Circle initiative by Viet Nam, the Northern Powerhouse initiative by the UK, and the Amber Road initiative by Poland. We are also promoting the coordination of the national development plans of China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Hungary and many other countries. China has signed cooperation agreements with over 40 countries and international organizations, and institutionalized cooperation in industrial capacity with more than 30 countries. During the forum, a number of agreements on policy coordination and action plans will be signed. We will also launch the Belt and Road cooperation initiative on trade cooperation together with some 60 countries and international organizations. Such policy coordination will have a multiplying effect on cooperation among the parties involved.
– These four years have seen enhanced infrastructure connectivity. Building roads and railways helps create prosperity in all sectors. We have accelerated the implementation of such projects as the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, China-Laos railway, Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, Hungary-Serbia railway, and Gwadar and Piraeus ports in cooperation with the relevant countries. In addition, a large number of connectivity projects are in the pipeline. Today, a multidimensional infrastructure network is taking shape, one that is underpinned by economic corridors such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor and New Eurasian Continental Bridge, connected by land-sea-air transportation routes and information expressways, and supported by major railway, port and pipeline projects.
– These four years have seen increased trade cooperation. China has worked with other countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative to promote trade and investment and improve the business environment. I was told that for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries alone, customs clearance time for agricultural produce being exported to China has been cut by 90 percent. Total trade between China and other Belt and Road countries in 2014-2016 exceeded US$3 trillion-worth, and China's investment in Belt and Road countries has surpassed US$50 billion. Chinese companies have set up 56 economic and trade cooperation zones in over 20 countries, generating some US$1.1 billion in tax revenue and 180,000 jobs.
– These four years have seen expanded financial integration. Financing bottlenecks are a key challenge to realizing connectivity. China has engaged in multiple forms of financial cooperation with countries and organizations involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has provided US$1.7 billion in loans for nine projects in participating countries. The Silk Road Fund has invested US$4 billion in those countries, and the Sino-CEEC Financial Holding Company Limited, or a "16+1" arrangement, has been officially inaugurated. With a distinctive focus, these new financial mechanisms and traditional multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank complement each other. A basic multitiered Belt and Road financial integration network has taken shape.
– These four years have seen increased people-to-people contacts. Friendship, which derives from close contacts between peoples, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. Guided by the Silk Road spirit, we countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative have pooled our efforts to build the educational Silk Road and the health Silk Road, and carried out cooperation in science, education, culture, health and people-to-people exchanges. Our cooperation in all these fields has helped lay a solid popular and social foundation for pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. Each year, the national government of China provides 10,000 government scholarships to participating countries of the Belt and Road Initiative, and its local governments have also set up special Silk Road scholarships to encourage international cultural and educational exchanges. A series of people-to-people exchange projects such as the Silk Road culture year and tourism year, art festivals, film and TV projects, seminars and think-tank dialogues have been introduced and conducted. These interactions and exchanges have brought our peoples increasingly closer.
These fruitful outcomes show that the Belt and Road Initiative responds to the trend of the times, conforms to the law of development, and serves the interests of the people. It surely has bright prospects.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we often say in China, "The beginning is the most difficult part." A solid first step has been taken in pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative. We should build on the sound momentum and steer the Belt and Road Initiative towards greater success. In this regard, I would like to share with you my thoughts on how to advance the Belt and Road Initiative for a better future:
First, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of peace. The ancient Silk Road thrived in times of peace, and declined in times of war. Without a peaceful and stable environment, it would be impossible to pursue the Belt and Road Initiative. We will foster a new model of international relations featuring mutually beneficial cooperation, and forge partnerships through dialogue instead of confrontation and friendship rather than alliance. All countries should respect each other's sovereignty, dignity, territorial integrity, development path, social systems, and core interests, and accommodate each other's major concerns.
Some regions along the ancient Silk Road used to be "lands of milk and honey". Yet today, these places are often associated with conflicts, turbulence, crises and challenges. This state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. We should foster a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and ensure that a security environment is built by all and for all. We should work to resolve flashpoint issues through political means, and promote mediation in the spirit of justice and fairness. We should intensify counterterrorism efforts by addressing both symptoms and root causes, and by eradicating poverty, backwardness and social injustice.
Second, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of prosperity. Development holds the master key to solving all problems. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should focus on the fundamental issue of development, release the growth potential of participating countries, achieve economic integration and interconnected development, and work for the benefit of all.
Industry is the foundation of an economy. We should deepen industrial cooperation so that the industrial development plans of different countries complement and reinforce each other. Focus should be put on major projects. We should enhance international cooperation in industrial capacity and equipment manufacturing, and seize the development opportunities presented by the new industrial revolution to foster new businesses and maintain dynamic growth.
Finance is the lifeblood of a modern economy. Only when the blood circulates smoothly can one grow. We should establish a stable and sustainable financial safeguard system that keeps risks under control. We should create new models of investment and financing, encourage closer cooperation between government and private capital, and build a diversified financing system and a multitiered capital market. We should also develop inclusive finance and improve financial service networks.
Infrastructure connectivity is the foundation of development through cooperation. We should promote land, maritime, air, and cyberspace connectivity, concentrate our efforts on key passageways, cities and projects, and connect networks of highways, railways, and sea ports. Since we have set the goal of building six major economic corridors under the Belt and Road Initiative, we should endeavor to meet it. We need to seize the opportunities presented by the new round of change in energy mix and the revolution in energy technologies to develop global energy interconnection and achieve green and low-carbon development. We should improve transregional logistics networks, and promote coordination in policies, rules, and standards so as to provide institutional safeguards for better connectivity.
Third, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of opening up. Opening up brings progress, while isolation results in backwardness. For a country to open itself to the outside world, it is like a silk moth breaking free from its cocoon. There will be short-term pains, but one gets a new life afterwards. The Belt and Road Initiative calls for opening up, which in turn will enable us to achieve both economic growth and balanced development.
We should build an open platform of cooperation, and uphold and foster an open world economy. We should jointly create an environment that is friendly to opening up and development, establish a fair, equitable and transparent system of international trade and investment rules, and boost an orderly flow of factors of production, efficient allocation of resources and full market integration. We welcome efforts made by other countries to foster an open economy in light of their respective national conditions, participate in global governance and provide public goods. Together, we will build a broad community of shared interests.
Trade is an important engine driving growth. We should embrace the outside world with an open mind, uphold the multilateral trading regime, advance the building of free trade areas, and promote liberalization of trade and investment. Of course, we should also focus on resolving issues such as imbalances in development, difficulties in governance, the digital divide and income disparity, and on making economic globalization open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all.
Fourth, we should build the Belt and Road into a road of innovation. Innovation is an important force powering development. The Belt and Road Initiative itself is new by nature, and its implementation needs to be driven by innovation too.
We should pursue innovation-driven development, intensify cooperation in frontier areas such as the digital economy, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and quantum computing, and advance the development of big data, cloud computing, and smart cities, so as to turn them into a digital Silk Road of the 21st century. We should spur the full integration of science and technology with industries and finance, improve the environment for innovation, and pool resources for innovation. We should create space and build workshops for young people of various countries to cultivate entrepreneurship in this internet age and help realize their dreams.
We should pursue the new vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable. Efforts should be made to strengthen cooperation in ecological and environmental protection and build a sound ecosystem so as to realize the goals set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Fifth, we should build the Belt and Road into a road connecting different civilizations. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should ensure that, when it encounters different civilizations, exchange will replace estrangement, mutual learning will replace clashes, and coexistence will replace a sense of superiority. This will boost mutual understanding, mutual respect, and mutual trust between different countries.
We should establish a multitiered mechanism for cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and build more cooperation platforms and channels. We should boost educational cooperation, increase the number of exchange students, and improve the performance of cooperatively run schools. Efforts should be made to give think tanks a bigger role to play and establish think tank networks and partnerships. In the cultural, sports and health sectors, new cooperation models should be created to encourage projects for concrete results. Historical and cultural heritages should be fully tapped to jointly develop tourism products and protect heritage items in ways that preserve the distinctive features of the Silk Road. We should increase exchanges between parliaments, political parties and non-governmental organizations of different countries as well as between women, youth and people with disabilities, with a view to achieving inclusive development. We should also enhance international cooperation in the fight against corruption so that the Belt and Road will be a road of high ethical standards.
Ladies and gentlemen,
China has reached a new starting point in its development endeavors. Guided by a vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development, we will adapt to and steer the new normal in economic development, and seize the opportunities it presents. We will actively promote supply-side structural reform to achieve sustainable development, inject a strong impetus into the Belt and Road Initiative, and create new opportunities for global development.
– China will enhance friendship and cooperation with all countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. We are ready to share development experiences with other countries, but we have no intention of interfering in other countries' internal affairs, or of forcing our social system and development model on others, and even less of imposing our own will on others. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering. What we hope to achieve is a new model of mutually beneficial cooperation. We have no intention of creating a small group detrimental to stability; what we hope to create is a big family of harmonious coexistence.
– China has reached practical cooperation agreements with many countries in relation to the Belt and Road Initiative. These agreements cover not only projects of hardware connectivity, like transport, infrastructure and energy, but also software connectivity, involving telecommunications, customs and quarantine inspection. The agreements also include plans and projects for cooperation in business and trade, industry, e-commerce, maritime activities and green economic development. The Chinese railway authorities will sign agreements with their counterparts of relevant countries for further cooperation in China-Europe regular railway cargo services. We will work to launch these cooperation projects at an early date and see that they deliver early benefits.
– China will scale up financing support for the Belt and Road Initiative by contributing an additional RMB100 billion to the Silk Road Fund. We have encouraged financial institutions to conduct overseas Renminbi fund business with an estimated amount of about RMB300 billion. The China Development Bank and ExportImport Bank of China will introduce special lending schemes respectively worth RMB250 billion equivalent and RMB130 billion equivalent to support Belt and Road cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, industrial capacity and financing. We will also work with the AIIB, BRICS New Development Bank, World Bank and other multilateral development institutions to support Belt and Road-related projects. We will work with other parties concerned to formulate guidelines for financing Belt and Road-related development projects.
– China will endeavor to build a mutually beneficial business partnership with other countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, enhance trade and investment with them, and build a Belt and Road free trade network. These efforts are designed to promote growth both in our respective regions and globally. During this forum, China will sign business and trade cooperation agreements with over 30 countries, and enter into consultation on free trade agreements with related countries. Moreover, China will host the China International Import Expo starting in 2018.
– China will enhance cooperation in innovation with other countries. We will launch the Belt and Road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan, which consists of the Science and Technology People-to-people Exchange Initiative, Joint Laboratory Initiative, Science Park Cooperation Initiative and Technology Transfer Initiative. In the coming five years, we will offer 2,500 short-term research visits to China for young foreign scientists, train 5,000 foreign scientists, engineers and managers, and set up 50 joint laboratories. We will set up a big data service platform for ecological and environmental protection. We will propose establishing an international coalition for green development on the Belt and Road, and we will provide support to related countries in responding to climate change.
– In the coming three years, China will provide assistance worth RMB60 billion to developing countries and international organizations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to launch more projects to improve peoples' wellbeing. We will provide emergency food aid worth RMB2 billion to developing countries along the Belt and Road and make an additional contribution of US$1 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation. China will launch 100 "happy home" projects, 100 poverty alleviation projects and 100 healthcare and rehabilitation projects in countries along the Belt and Road. China will provide relevant international organizations with US$1 billion to implement cooperation projects that will benefit countries along the Belt and Road.
– China will put in place the following mechanisms to boost Belt and Road cooperation: a liaison office for the Forum's follow-up activities, Research Center for Belt and Road Financial and Economic Development, Facilitation Center for Building the Belt and Road, Multilateral Development Financial Cooperation Center in cooperation with multilateral development banks, and an IMF-China Capacity Building Center. We will also develop a network for cooperation among the NGOs in countries along the Belt and Road as well as new people-to-people exchange platforms such as a Belt and Road news alliance and a music education alliance.
The Belt and Road Initiative is rooted in the ancient Silk Road. It focuses on the Asian, European and African continents, but it is open to all other countries. Countries from all the five continents, Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and South America, can be partners of the Belt and Road Initiative. The initiative should be implemented through extensive consultation, and all should benefit from it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
An ancient Chinese saying goes, "A long journey can be covered only by taking one step at a time."4 Similarly, there is an Arabic proverb which says that the pyramids were built by piling one stone block upon another. In Europe, there is also a saying which says, "Rome was not built in a day." The Belt and Road Initiative is a great undertaking which requires dedicated efforts. Let us pursue this initiative step by step, and deliver its achievements one by one. By doing so, we will bring true benefits to both the world and all its peoples.
In conclusion, I wish the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation every success.
* Speech at the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
1 Gao Lian: Eight Treatises on the Nurturing of Life (Zun Sheng Ba Jian). Gao Lian was a dramatist of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
2 Sima Qian: Records of the Historian (Shi Ji). Sima Qian (c. 145 or 135-? BC) was a historian and writer of the Western Han Dynasty.
4 Xun Zi.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)