“One Road and One Belt” and New Thinking With Regard to Concepts and Practice

EIR | 作者: Shi Ze | 时间: 2014-11-25 | 责编: Li Minjie
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Shi Ze


    “One Belt and One Road” represents for China and the outside world a magnificent concept for enhancing cooperation. Perceiving future development plans, the question of bringing together domestic interests and internal development with the interests and development of our neighboring countries in a system of world-wide development and mutual progress, raises urgent questions with regard to our concept and practice of innovative development.


    President Xi Jinping’s proposal of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road, under the rubric “One Belt and One Road”, which is intended to deepen and expand the cooperation between our nation and that of our neighbors, possesses great strategic importance. But how are we to push forward and jointly sponsor this “One Belt and One Road”? In developing the concept and practice of innovation, we must seriously consider and resolve some important issues. For this I would like to focus on four main points.


First, the concept of innovation


       Regarding the concept of innovation, there are three stages. Firstly, China in the course of its ``reform and opening up’’, initially adopted a ``bringing in’’ strategy. At the inception of this process, we primarily implemented the policy of ``hitching a ride,’’ drawing support from international funding to push forward our development, achieving the obvious results.  We then followed up with a ``going out’’ strategy. Better utilizing the markets and funding from abroad, China expanded the scope of the ``reform and opening up’’ increasing the scale and the momentum of economic development. At this point, the central government proposed the ‘’One Belt and One Road’’ strategic concept, which lawfully follows the strategic logic of the ``bringing in’’ strategy and the ``going out’’ strategy, and expands it. From the point of view of ``reform and opening up,’’ the policy seeks to develop the economy utilizing both domestic and  foreign markets and natural resources, indicating a new stage of China’s development and its opening up to the outside world. Consequently, the “One Belt and One Road” policy possesses a much broader and richer significance.

    Secondly, in connection with China’s own economic development, the way in which we adapt to the needs of our own reform and development while at the same time interacting in a process with the countries on our periphery and along the belt gives them a share in the benefits of our own development, and then proceeding in promoting collaboration between China and the other countries of the world in order to achieve our common development. The focus on this concept of cooperation reflects China’s new concept of a justice. Since we are dependent on natural resources from abroad, we are pushing an initiative in which we would use our own development dividends to allow our partners to share in our gains for our common development. This is a very important shift in China’s policy. Furthermore, our call for justice, in addition to promoting mutual development and a mutual win-win concept, also includes the notion of a balanced development. Development cooperation is a process of balanced development. It is not merely a question of one-sided rapid development, but also of raising the quality of development, but, at the same time, if the other party’s development is slow, quality will suffer, and this would not result in a synchronized development. China’s aim is mutual development, balanced development, and synchronized development, with our notion of justice enriching it with a new content.

       Thirdly, sponsoring “One Belt and One Road” lays stress on the concept of the ``three no’s,’’ that is, no interference in the internal affairs of others, no seeking for `spheres of influence,’ and no striving for hegemony.  This is a reflection of the different historical development of China’s ``rise’’ compared to that of other great nations, reflecting the clear focus of a developing nation seeking its new role in the world. In promoting regional collaboration,  we insist on the ``three no’s’’, we are not ourselves seeking a sphere of influence or pursuing selfish interests, but rather seeking mutual benefit and mutual progress for the international community and , in particular, for the countries along the ``belt’’.

    This also reflects China’s judgment with regard to the regional terrain. After the Cold War, the situation in Eurasia as a whole was roughly in equilibrium.  There were checks and balances between the major powers. It was not a situation in which one single great power arose. The relative strengths of the countries among themselves did not allow for one power to take precedence. Neither the U.S., Russia nor China could become a dominant power. Promoting the "One Belt and One Road” is also aimed at maintaining this equilibrium, rather than disrupting it. Equilibrium is conducive to the region’s stability. No country in the region is able to disrupt the equilibrium, as disrupting the equilibrium does not comply with the status quo of the region’s current situation nor with its development and configuration of forces. None of the major powers should distance itself from cooperation with the others. Only with mutual development and cooperation can we carry out the construction of ``one belt and one road.’’


Second, a New Model of Development


       What model of cooperation we choose in developing “One Road and One Belt” is now of the utmost urgency. In all types of conferences, we generally discuss primarily the primary concepts and their implications.  But seldom is mentioned the notion of the model of cooperation. With regard to ``one belt, one road,’’ however, the model of cooperation is crucial in determining the very possibility of implementing and realizing the project.  This model of cooperation as the most important element of regional cooperation generally must be taken very seriously. The level of economic development in the countries of Eurasia is unequal. Some of the differences between countries are obvious. In addition to the economy, social development is also backward. The initial level of integration is very low, and some countries lag far behind the region as a whole. Moreover, the cultural level in the Eurasian region is varies greatly in different countries, each having their own characteristics of development. What type of development model should we therefore choose in such a region to promote its development? The EU model of cooperation? The ASEAN model of cooperation? The US-China model of cooperation?  Can these be adapted to this type of region? Are they suitable for this type of ungainly belt-like zone? The conditions of the above-mention models of cooperation deal with a well-intertwined and homogeneous region, while the “One Belt and One Road” cooperation has to be zonal, with many different branches. We’re looking at a type of cooperative vision which has little precedents in world history. In this sense it should be clear that the question of a new creative model of cooperation is an urgent necessity. We all must begin to reflect on this.

       Thus, we can draw some lessons from earlier models of cooperation, but we cannot copy them indiscriminately because of the actual circumstances of the countries lying along the ``belt.’’ Their degree of economic development, their social conditions, their level of culture, require us to seek a new model. To seek a model for the construction of `one road and one belt’’ we have to think creatively. We cannot follow the path of our predecessors, and some people who have the habit of using Western development models and modes of thinking, are trying to utilize these on the “One Belt and One Road” project. I believe this is wasted effort, because these models just don’t correspond to that reality.


Three - A Cooperative Model of Innovation


       Building the “One Road and One Belt” will be a long process of development. If we carry out and continually deepen regional economic cooperation, we will advance the realization of our strategic goals. But considering the innovative character of the cooperation, I think we must include a number of new elements which I will list here.

       Firstly, we should exert all our efforts to put into operation the present existing energy resources, the transportation grids, electricity systems, communications networks, etc. We should build the infrastructure and a communications system, and begin to shape the development of core cities and high-tech zones, and, in this way, bring to the region’s economies social development as well. This is the foundation of development.  Next, we must strengthen policy coordination, creating among the countries of the belt some coordination in the various development strategies, but without seeking the goal of total integration.

       Again, we should encourage each country’s innovative development, placing particular emphasis on the level of scientific achievements reached presently on a global scale, integrating the development levels of each of the nations in the region, vigorously expanding cooperation with the countries not possessing natural resources, promoting and shaping a new standard of regional economic cooperation.

       Finally, we should not make excessive demands, nor stubbornly pursue economic cooperation only on a multilateral basis, but should rather carry out high-quality bilateral cooperation projects, setting an example and spurring on other countries to join in, bringing into play the activity of city associations and trade organizations, and ultimately shaping a multilateral and networked system of cooperation.

       In addition, China should encourage and positively promote non-Chinese participation.  The construction of “One Road and One Belt”  is a beneficial undertaking for China, but it is, at the same time, an initiative that promotes and advances economic cooperation  in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Southwest Asia, and other regional areas in between, shaping an Inclusive and open framework of cooperation.


Four, A System of Innovation


       The achievement of constructing “One Belt and One Road” is a long-term vision of development on a vast scale, which not only involves different region and departments in China, but also involves the relationships and future prospects for China and for its neighboring countries along the belt.  It not only concerns the domestic interests and prerogatives of each region and department, but also touches upon the interests and the prerogatives of every nation. Moreover, in the wake of our country’s economic and social development, we now have state-owned enterprises working abroad, as well as local enterprises and private enterprises, which have already formed a pattern of multi-faceted.  The previous structure of managing and operating will be faced with a new reality. Our ability to adapt to the needs of “One Road and One Belt” will compel us to adjust and reform our system for operating. Only by making such adjustments and reforms, will we be able to bring together the benefits for ourselves and for the surrounding nations, and to promote domestic and international coordination and the harmonization of development. Within our current system of operating, departments are being divided, functional boundaries marked out, domestic and foreign operations separated, and we are lacking an overall plan of coordination. Adapting this system to further the needs of ``one road, one belt,’’ and eliminating the obstacles to it, will require some real soul-searching and creative thinking from everyone. 

       Historical experience shows that organizational restrictions are devastating and acute, and often it is difficult to overcome barriers.  The development and construction of the ``one belt, one road’’ will compel us to introduce structural reforms, in order to adapt the system to the needs of its development. We can observe how other nations have carried out their international strategy. For instance, the United States, in conducting its own ``New Silk Road Plan’’ looked at South Asia and Central Asia as an entity with regard to their own development needs and combined the original Department of Central Asian Affairs and the Department of South Asia Affairs into a single Department of South and Central Asia Affairs, using a branching type of cooperation. Russia, in order to promote the development of the Far East and regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region created the Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East. This reformed mechanism focused entirely on the Far East is aimed at resolving in a planned and coordinate manner this crucial issue. In this way, the discussion of building a “One Road and One Belt” system of reform and innovation has already become a matter of practical deliberation.


Shi Ze, Director for International Energy Strategy Studies, and China Institute of International Studies Senior Fellow


(Source: EIR, October 31, 2014)