Belt and Road: a new path for global governance reform

China Plus Published: 2018-08-28 22:53:29
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Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."

In September and October 2013, China's President Xi Jinping proposed the construction of the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" initiative during visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia. At a symposium held in Beijing to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi said that the construction of the Belt and Road accords with the need to reform the global governance system. He also spoke about its importance in terms of building a sense of community among nations in times of difficulty, in which rights are shared and obligations are mutually shouldered. And it has provided new ideas and solutions that are helping to drive the reform of the global governance system.

Containers from China are carried at terminal in the Duisburg port on July 16, 2018 in Duisburg, Germany. [Photo: VCG]

Containers from China are carried at terminal in the Duisburg port on July 16, 2018 in Duisburg, Germany. [Photo: VCG]

The Belt and Road Initiative is significant not only because it promotes economic cooperation between China and the world, but also because it promotes the transformation of the global governance system. When it was first put forward five years ago, it was hard to see the tremendous value that it could offer the world. Today, more than 100 countries and international organizations around the world actively support and participate in the construction of the Belt and Road. The accumulated volume of trade between China and Belt and Road countries exceeds five trillion U.S. dollars. Linked foreign direct investment exceeds 60 billion U.S. dollars. And investment from China has created more than 200,000 jobs in participating countries.

Martin Jacques, a professor at the University of Cambridge, said that many countries have jumped on board the initiative because "They see China offering them a new kind of possibility", namely the opportunity for global governance reform through the new concept of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration. With the global trade disputes heating up and tariff barriers rising, economic globalization and the multilateral trading system are facing a counter-current, and traditional governance concepts and practices have struggled to meet the needs of the changing international political and economic landscape. But more than that, our traditional approach is inadequate when it comes to addressing the big questions of how we are to solve the deficit in peace, development, and progress in human society.

The philosophy underlying the Belt and Road Initiative contains the essence of how we can work towards addressing these big questions. A fundamental of modern global governance is the value of equality, which is achieved through collaboration and negotiation. A vast number of developing countries have strong demands for accelerating industrialization and urbanization, and achieving economic independence and national rejuvenation. But Western countries have dominated the formulation of the rules of international governance through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The result is that it has been difficult for many developing countries to obtain sufficient developmental support.

By launching the Belt and Road Initiative, and establishing the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund, China hopes to spur development in the participating countries in a way that allows them to enjoy equal say and a sense of self-determination by decentralizing global governance and breaking the world's monopoly on power.

A general view of Colombo Port City construction site, which is backed by Chinese investment, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on August 23, 2018. [Photo: VCG]

A general view of Colombo Port City construction site, which is backed by Chinese investment, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on August 23, 2018. [Photo: VCG]

Over the past five years, the Belt and Road Initiative has proved itself through practice to be a wide and open community of nations. President Xi has repeatedly stressed, it is not a closed member's club, or a "Chinese club". It has achieved policy integrations with the Eurasian Economic Union proposed by Russia, the "Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity", Britain's "Northern Powerhouse" proposal to boost economic growth in the north of England, Saudi Arabia's "Vision 2030", and the European Union "Infrastructure Investment Plan". The major international cooperation projects such as the Port of Piraeus in Greece, the China-Myanmar Oil and Gas Pipeline, and the China-Belarus Industrial Park not only bring tangible benefits to China and the countries directly involved, but also to the countries and people further afield along the Belt and Road. 

As President Xi Jinping has made clear, the Belt and Road started in China, but its opportunities and achievements belong to the world. In his recent speech, Xi Jinping particularly emphasized that it is necessary to make sure that the Belt and Road Initiative will go deeper and more solid, and pay attention to the implementation of livelihood projects that offer timely help, meet urgent needs and benefit local people. The purpose is to maximize the benefits of countries along the route. This is obviously a complete abandonment of zero-sum game thinking.

In the past five years, the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative promoted global economic cooperation. But more than that, it has seen the start of the process of improvement of the global governance system. As long as the Belt and Road Initiative continues to deliver high-quality projects with tangible value, and that all of the participants continue to work together in the spirit of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, it will continue to inject vitality into the project of improving the global governance system.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.