财新传媒
位置:博客 > 薛力 > The Belt and Road: Evaluations and Prospects

The Belt and Road: Evaluations and Prospects

This piece was published on CSCAP Regional Security Outlook 2018. 

 
 

The Belt and Road: Evaluations and Prospects

 

Xue Li    Cheng Zhangxi

When the idea of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road) first came out back in 2013, few researchers were aware that this is a top-level design of foreign relations determined by this new Chinese government, or aware ofthe many features it contains and its great impact to the world. Given that the Belt and Road is a continuous developing and improving course, this article briefly assesses the idea, the features and the challenges of the Belt and Road.

 

The Idea

To the domestic, the Belt and Road is one of the development strategies. To the outside world, it is an international cooperation initiative. On the whole, the Belt and Road is a strategic conception aimed at peacefully rejuvenating the country and creating a community of shared future for mankind.

 

The realisation of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is the goal of government work put forward by Xi Jinping at the initial stage of assuming the leadership of the party and the state. The building of the Belt and Road in this sense, will be complemented by other strategies to serve future development of China. As Xi Jinping proposed during the Symposium on Promoting the Construction of the Belt and Road held in 17 August 2016 that the construction of the Belt and Road, the coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei and the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt should be the three grand development strategies of China during the 13th Five-Year Plan period and further. In fact, in order to successfully implement the Belt and Road, the Central Government of China has set up a specific office, that is the Office of the Leading Group for the Belt and Road Initiative to carry out the tasks. Besides put together by a highly capable team, this group is headed by Zhang Gaoli, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and standing vice premier of the State Council.

 

Moreover, whilst many central ministries and departments have formulated plans for the implementation of the Belt and Road by their respective departments, when formulating plans for the development of the region, all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have also strived to link up with the Belt and Road in order to better integrate the policies and financial support of the Central Government. One other key fact need to be grasped here is that on the basis of China has no right to formulate a development strategy for other countries, nor can it force other countries to participate in the Belt and Road, hence only when other countries truly feel the benefits of participation will they be motivated to participate. This determines that the Belt and Road can only be a cooperative initiative or cooperation concept for other countries rather than a strategy.

 

The community of shared future for mankind is the proposition of this new Chinese government regarding the future world order and an improved solution to the existing world order, to which the building of the Belt and Road leads the way. By the reason of China is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the existing international system, and seeing such a system no longer can effectively upheld the peace in the world and promote economic growth (e.g. the world economic crisis broke out in 2008), being the second largest economy, as well the largest contributor to economic growth, China has the ability and confidence to put forward its own proposal of a world order that builds a community of shared future for mankind, allowing mankind to enjoy a better future together.

 

The Characteristics

Being the only foreign development strategy among the three grand development strategies and the major diplomatic decision made by this new Chinese government headed by Xi Jinping, the Belt and Road impact on China and the world will be as great as and may even surpass the Reform and Opening Up policy put forward by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. The implementation of the Belt and Road means "the second round of reform and opening up". In other words, the Belt and Road is the "new reform and opening up", and it has the following characteristics.

 

First of all, from "opening up oneself" to "opening up oneself and others". China's reform and opening up over the past 40 years mainly means openingup to developed countries and learning from their experience in various fields such as politics, military affairs, economy and culture. Whilst it has a centre on economic development, it advocates "development is the last word". In the building of the Belt and Road, on the one hand, China will continue to open itself to developed countries, especially in the service and advanced manufacturing sectors, in order to break the blockades on reforms set by various interest groups so as to achieve the goal of "promoting reform through opening up and promoting development” in Xi Jinping’s words. On the other hand, China will devote itself to "opening up others". That is, China will make use of its own capital and capacity advantages to develop the markets of developed countries, as well as make use of its advantages in manufacturing and infrastructure construction to promote the opening up of developing countries.

 

Second, the neighbouring developing countries will become the priority for China's diplomacy. Since 1978, the overall layout of China's diplomacy has always been "big countries are the key, neighbouring countries are the prime, developing countries are the foundation and multilateral cooperation is the stage". In fact, China has always taken great powers as the centre of its diplomacy, especially the United States. After the Belt and Road was put forward, the importance of “neighbouring diplomacy” has then obviously improved. To put it in another way, “neighbouring diplomacy” has now replaced “great power diplomacy”, and within which, developing countries became the centre. The main reasons for this change is that establishing sound relationships with neighbouring countries is a must for realising the Chinese dream. Strengthening the political and economic relations with the surrounding small and medium-sized developing countries is a need of China to demonstrate its responsibility as a great power. The economic relations with Japan and South Korea have already come to a very high degree, the room for further improvement is limited, and the military and political relations are impacted from time to time. The economic relations with many developing countries in the north, west and south have room for improvement and the political and military ties with some of these countries are very close. Central and western provinces need to opening up more to these countries in order to develop themselves.

 

Of course, this does not mean that China will no longer attach importance to other developing countries. China has long regarded itself as a spokesman for developing country, some developing countries that are not in the vicinity of China have always maintained good political relations with China, and this is one of the key factors in building the Belt and Road. Therefore, developing countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America are nonetheless important partners of China in promoting the Belt and Road.

 

Third, China strives to play a bigger part in global governance. Promotion of economic globalisation is certainly good for China, but it is also in the interest of the developed countries, especially in areas where developed countries have comparative advantages, such as service industries, advanced manufacturing and high-tech industries. China also advocates cultural diversity with the belief that there are no advantages and disadvantages in cultures and that cultural diversity is essential to a rich and colourful world. Politically China proposes the democratisation of international relations and is opposed to the interference in the internal affairs of other countries, especially the use of force to overthrow the government of other countries.

 

China welcomes the participation of any country building the Belt and Road. Instead, some countries refuse to participate for various reasons. China does not engage in closed small circles such as FTAAP, AIIB and CICA in promoting or building an international mechanism. This is in stark contrast to the United States led TPP and as such. As for the development of international mechanisms, China is committed to change the unreasonable elements of the existing international system through consultation, and taking on the responsibilities of major powers such as increasing its share of the IMF and UN membership fees and signing the Paris Declaration.

 

Finally, China will become more confident in its internal affairs and diplomacy. In regard to internal affairs, the successes so far have convinced the Chinese government that all countries are entitled to choose their own development path and political system. Socialism with Chinese characteristics is a development path and a political system suitable for China. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the key to this success. Diplomatically, the Chinese government will show more and more Chinese cultural characteristics at the global stage. The countries that has a root in Christian civilisation govern the world by dividing the world between "them" and "us", organising "us" within a boundary and "homogenising" as much as possible. Various regions and global orders dominated by Western countries attach great importance to the degree of institutionalisation, and making it the primary criteria to judge the success or failure. The Chinese culture, on the other hand, whilst emphasising on the importance of order, it recognises the universality of differences. In addition to following the principle of harmony with differences(和而不同), China values "voluntariness" and "comfort" in the governance of the world.

 

It is because of these fundamental differences, some of the Western countries always found oddness in the ways which China promotes the Belt and Road. For instance, China does not force any country or party to participate nor does it push for institutionalisation. There are different types of partnerships and in some of which cooperation is limited to certain areas or projects. Neighbouring countries are welcomed, but so do African and Latin American countries.

 

The Challenges

As of now, the implementation of the Belt and Road is in no doubt a must, but considering that it is also a long process, the Belt and Road faces many difficulties and challenges. The major ones are as follow: domestic and foreign doubts and misunderstandings. Few countries have put forward grand visions alike the Belt and Road. Given that the existing prejudice against China and some mistakes made by China itself, a number of countries have led to doubts and misunderstandings. For example, some countries suspect China is plotting Neo-colonialism through the Belt and Road, which entails exporting excess capacity, sabotaging the environment of other countries. Some other countries believe that China supports corruption along the Belt and Road and regard the Belt and Road as a “grant” rather than market-oriented economic cooperation.

 

Domestic concern is another major challenge. Many people in China question the Belt and Road, they think that China is still a developing country and it should concentrate on its own development rather than devoting a lot of money and technology to those high-risk countries along the Belt and Road. Further, the gap between the difficulty of implementation and China's capacity is also a major issue. Since the Belt and Road is mainly aimed at developing countries, and these countries normally have an unlimited demand for capital and technology as well as an unsatisfactory economic environment, the capital and technology that China can provide in contrast is rather limited. All in all, as this article concludes, "choosing a cooperative project with a cautious attitude" is definitely needed for China in the building of the Belt and Road.

 

Professor XUE Li is Director of Department of International Strategy at Institute of World Economics and Politics(IWEP), Chinese Academy of Social Sciences(CASS), CHENG Zhangxi is Post Doctor of IWEP,CASS

http://www.cscap.org/index.php?page=cscap-regional-security-outlook-2

 

推荐 0