Editor's Note: The article is a keynote speech by Dr. Danilo Türk, former President of Slovenia at BRI Development in the Post-epidemic Era & "Belt and Road Encyclopedia" Online Book Launch on 17 June 2020.
President Liu Wei of the Renmin University of China, Dr. Wang Wen, Executive Dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and privilege to address this important gathering, devoted to the Belt and Road Initiative in the post epidemic era and the launch of the Belt and Road Encyclopedia.
There are many reasons to consider this event timely and important. As the Covid-19 pandemic is spreading around the world, the policy makers are starting to think about the world after the pandemic. Their opinions differ. Some of them believe that the Covid-19 and the resulting recession will necessarily lead to economic contraction, to the “ending of the globalisation as we know it” and to a surge of self-reliance and protectionism. However, some others are emphasizing the need to strengthen the international cooperation in the fields of health protection, economics and finance and about the post Covid-19 recovery.
And all of them are looking towards China. The role of China in the search for vaccines, in the debt alleviation and in the economic recovery more generally is expected to be of critical importance. The Belt and Road Initiative in general and, more specifically, the Health Silk Road are necessarily gaining an increasing attention. Therefore, the publication of the Belt and Road Encyclopedia could not be more timely.
In addition, I have a more personal reason to welcome the publication of the Belt and Road Encyclopedia.
A few weeks ago I published a book with the title “A World Transformed: Reflections on the International System, China and Global Development”.
In the book I argue that the Belt and Road Initiative represents an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen global connectivity in the 21st Century, to foster development in all parts of the world and to create new forms of international cooperation, including multilateral cooperation, so needed in our era.
My book, published by the Peter Lang Publishers in New York at the end of May is now available in English. I hope that the translation in the Chinese language, which will be published by the Foreign Languages Press will be published in the coming summer, i.e. in a few weeks.
So, what are the advantages of the Belt and Road Initiative for the world? In my book I argue that the Initiative brings welcome dynamism in the international development with a growing connectivity at its core.
Connectivity in our era has many applications. Some of them are traditional and immediately recognisable: Building of new ports and railways as well as upgrading the existing ones. Other applications relate to modern, internet based technologies. The 5 G technology has the capacity of transforming the ways we manage our transport and communications, the ways in which we administer cities in an era of rapid urbanisation and many other processes needed for effective management of sophisticated economies.
In addition there are also political and cultural advantages that can be derived from effective implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative.
In Europe, we have experienced an interesting development in the past five years or so. The now regular, annual meetings in the format of 17 plus one has brought together a number of countries, members of the European Union and a number of others who are not yet – or maybe will not decide to be the members of the EU. Yet they all are interested in projects with China under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Importantly, this cooperation helps overcoming the frontiers in Europe and distinctions between EU and non – EU members. In the future this cooperation should help developing important infrastructure in Europe and strengthen the ties between Europe and China.
In Central Asia, the region where President Xi declared the Belt and Road Initiative several years ago, the potential is even more diverse. It includes new types of cooperation in railways infrastructure, energy transportation and management, in manufacturing, in financial cooperation and even in transboundary cooperation in water management.
The list of potential forms and content of the future Belt and Road Cooperation is growing and is becoming more diverse when we speak about these and other regions of the world – South and South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The range is really so wide that the publication of the Encyclopedia, celebrated today, already became a necessity. The common denominator of connectivity, the core of the Belt and Road Initiative has been given so many applications that an encylopedic approach has become a necessity.
It is understood that the Belt and Road Initiative is a long term vision and a set of diverse projects that will require wise guidance and sophisticated management. The first years of experience have already identified certain basic requirements that will have to be observed today and in the future.
The BRI projects have to be demand driven. This can be expressed either through the market mechanisms or, in the cases of basic infrastructure, through a combination of public policy and market analysis. This is necessary for the projects to be economically viable. In the time of deep crisis such as the one resulting from Covid-19 this may have an effect on financing. In some cases, debt alleviation and debt restructuring may become necessary as temporary measures.
Another consideration relates to environmental and social sustainability. It is therefore important that BRI projects are adequately coordinated with the host governments and local actors, so as to avoid misperceptions. Effective coordination is essential in situations where problem solving becomes a necessary part of project management. This includes a good understanding of legal and cultural conditions in which the projects are implemented.
Indeed, there are many practical aspects of the Belt and Road Initiative that called for the publication of the Encyclopedia we are celebrating today. But there are more symbolic reasons too. The Great Silk Road that flourished centuries ago is one of the most impressive stories of the entire human history. It has given rise to many achievements in trade, culture, science –as well as in geopolitics.
The enunciation of the New Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative has already given rise to many books and treatises discussing the parallels between the glorious past and the promising future. There are also doubts and misgivings. Nevertheless, the expectations as well as the already visible advantages greatly outweigh the remaining concerns.
And most important: the future success demands that the best experiences of the past are understood and taken advantage of and that difficulties of the present are not feared, but confronted with vision and determination.
I wish the Belt and Road Encyclopedia many readers and the great project it promotes a complete success.
I thank you for your attention.
This is part 3 of The Pacific Dialogue, between veteran Chinese diplomat Ambassador He Yafei and long-time American scholar on China Professor David Lampton. The dialogue took place on June 25, 2020, and was moderated by China-US Focus Editor-at-Large James Chau. The conversation focuses on the June 17 talks in Honolulu, Hawaii, between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, the first high-ranking meeting between the two powers in months. He Yafei sees the talks as the beginning of renewed positive momentum, while Professor David Lampton calls for more dialogue across the board between government agencies, businesses and ordinary people.