Belt & Road Forum, a global dialogic mechanism for worldwide connectivity
By Wenshan Jia
The Belt & Road Forum in Beijing China, which is scheduled to take place on May 14 and 15, 2017, would symbolize the initial formation of a global dialogic platform on the part of the Chinese Government together with the stakeholders and interested parties to deepen cooperation on the Belt & Road Initiative. This conference, with the reportedly confirmed attendance of 1200 attendees, featured by 28 heads of state from all regions of the world (12 Asian countries, 11 European countries, two African countries, two Latin-American countries, and one Pacific country represented) except North America and the Middle East, and representatives on behalf of 110 nation-states consisting of nine vice-premiers, seven foreign ministers, 190 cabinet members, and 61 leaders and representatives of international NGOs, will be particularly honored by the attendance of globally well-known leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Premier Sharif of Pakistan, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and IMF President Christine Lagarde, and so on.
This global forum is poised to continue a Chinese tradition of hosting its own home-made and self-branded global conferences within China ushered in by the first Boao Forum in 2002, followed by China's First World Internet Summit or the Wuzen Summit in 2014. In parallel, China has hosted a host of foreign-branded conferences such as the APEC Summit and the G20 Summit where Xi addressed the audience about the need to sustain Asia-Pacific development and the need to harness the power of new economic globalization through innovations respectively since the Chinese Communist Party 18th Party Congress was held in 2013. In addition, Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed UNESCO in Paris France about the significance of intercultural connectivity and communication in March, 2014, addressed the Davos Forum about the need to sustain globalization by shrugging off anti-globalization, and addressed about China's approaches for global governance at the UN's headquarters in Europe in Geneva, Switzerland both in January, 2017. All these other speeches implicate for the necessity of implementing China's Belt & Road Initiative as a global strategy to deal with common challenges faced by humanity. One is very likely to see Chinese President Xi Jinping's keynote speech at this maiden B&R Forum crystalize all those views he expressed at all those other global platforms and suggest future directions for B&R Initiative such as the need and ways to institutionalize B&R Initiative in both inclusive and effective ways to execute the removal of both natural and artificial barricades (such as monetary, commercial, and cultural and so on) among humans for both better globalization and better global governance in order to yield better livelihood for common people.
Besides Xi's keynote speech at the plenary session of the Forum, six parallel sessions will take place around the themes of infrastructure, industry investments, energy, financial cooperation, and intercultural communication with a focus on harnessing the breakthroughs at the five levels of connectivity suggested by President Xi when he first articulated the B&R Initiative during his visit to Central Asia in 2013.
Almost like a renewal of a UN function, this forum is anticipated to result in reaching a newer level of consensus among the conference participants about how to engineer a deeper level of world-wide interconnectivity in politics, trade, finance, infrastructure and the culture-spirit-religion continuum in the near future. An agreement of cooperation will reportedly be signed by 40 some B&R member countries and 20 action plans will be released to the public. This forum is scheduled to take place after initial results of the B&R Initiative have been achieved such as the support for the B&R Initiative expressed by more than 100 countries, agreements for cooperation signed by some 40 countries and international organizations with China, the establishment of 50 some districts of economic and trade cooperation between China and the countries along the B&R regions, and so on. Despite the achievements, divergent levels of understanding, and varying degrees of support and commitment exist about the B&R Initiative among some regions of the world, and misunderstandings abound. This is exactly what Xi's five principles of connectivity aim to address. An organized platform such as this B&R Forum would not only consolidate the gains and build upon the momentum, clear some clouds of doubt, but also reach a higher level connectivity and build much more consensus about the rationale and potential benefits of the B&R Initiative for all peoples. Through this conference, a community of communicators would be constituted and inspired by a shared vision defined by the B&R Initiative. This community of connectivity would create some organized goal-oriented and results-driven B&R networks and coordinate their conjoint action for co-prosperity and co-security. This explains why some B&R scholars call this B&R Forum as the beginning of B&R 2.0. Therefore, the significance of this conference cannot be exaggerated enough.
These five levels of connectivity, above and beyond the traditional Western platonic sense, and consisting of intercultural praxis and intercultural learning as powerful agents of change, would constitute the basic condition for the nurturance of a dialogic culture, a culture with a potential to transform the world. It is said that this initial B&R conference will, in most likelihood, take place annually to address most trying challenges commonly faced by all interested parties from any and all corners of the world during each year. With each annual conference addressing unique challenges, I see every reason why the B&R Initiative initially proposed by China, can and will eventually be implemented by all peoples and benefit the world. If this is what Chi-globalization or China-initiated globalization actually means, let it be.
Wenshan Jia, Ph. D., Research Fellow, the National Academy for Development & Strategy
Distinguished Adjunct Professor, School of Journalism & Communication, Renmin University of China