China’s New Initiatives: The Belt and Road, AIIB and other Emerging Ideas
2015/12/08

CaiPenghong, Shanghai Institutes for Internationals Studies

Introduction

First of all, I’d like to thank Ambassador Xu Bu for the invitation so that I have the opportunity to exchange views with distinguished scholars and officials from ASEAN and China.

It is an honor for me to be invited to deliver to this Second Session From Neighbor to Partner, I am pleased I can talk about the topic but to save the time I would limit my presentation to the following four points of argument.

Point One, China’s initiatives enhancing China’s relations with ASEAN come at a time when far-reaching developments are taking place in the Southeast Asian region as well as in China.

Sincethe 18th Party National Congress of (CPC) concludedinNovember2012, China’s diplomacy has undergone significant changes while adopting many legacies of the previous Administrations in Beijing. China is a second largest economy and China’s rapid growth gains the supports from neighboring countries. China should make contributions to Asian developing countries and let those countries share what China has achieved. With that thinking, President Xi Jinping put forward good-neighborly diplomacy that promotes affinity based on amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness. China’s neighboring countries particularly the Southeast Asian countries have been placed on the first priority at the list of China’s foreign policy agendas.

Point Two, the initiative “the Belt and road” and AIIB meet current development needs of China and southeast Asian countries.

 Chinese president Xi Jinping put forward the significant initiatives “Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road” (the Belt and Road) in 2013. It clearly meets the development needs of China and other countries along the routes including the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. Although we see recent situation seemingly complex, the general demand and needs of the countries along the routes are still pursuing the economic development and economic cooperation, ASEAN is ongoing to build a first subregional community in Asia Pacific. The Belt and Road builds on the existing basis of cooperation to help countries align their development strategies and form complementarity. China also initiates the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to support the Belt and Road. Meanwhile the action is to promote a system of regional financial cooperation, explore a platform for exchanges and cooperation among Asian financial institutions, and advance complementary and coordinate development between the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and such multilateral financial institutions as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. The momentum to carry out the initiatives is stronger than expectation. China also issues an important document on the guideline of the Belt and Road, and the agreement of AIIB already signed. More than fifty countries signed and we expect AIIB to be established at the end of this year. Currently, more than 60 countries along the routes and international organizations have their interest in taking part in the development of the Belt and the Road. In Southeast Asia, we make an emphasis on the 21th century Maritime silk road. China builds USD40b fund (Maritime Silk Road Fund) to support the initiative. Some SE Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and others are among the first countries to support the China’s initiative of 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Vietnam and China agree to connect maritime silk road with two corridors and one circle building programs.

Point three, the features of these initiatives are open, transparent, inclusive.

The approach of implementing the Belt and Road is to follow the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. The programs of development will be open and inclusive, not exclusive. The initiative of the Belt and Road is not to replace existing mechanisms. But the initiatives are to build on the existing basis to help countries align their development strategies and form complementarity. Currently, more than 60 countries along the routes and international organizations have shown interest in taking part in the development of the Belt and the Road. The "Belt and Road" and the AIIB are both open initiatives. Any countries along the routes and in Asia, particularly in SE Asia and around the world, are all welcome to take an active part in these endeavors.

Point four,I would like to touch on the further cooperation between China and ASEAN countries through my policy suggestions.

Number One is to fully implement the results by President Xi Jinping’s state visits to Southeast Asia in 2013,2015 and ASEAN countries’ leaders’ visits to China recent years. These visits are of historic significance for further enhancing the bilateral partnership. With this newly historic situation, the maritime silk road initiative based on the traditional silk road spirit will be a new framework for two sides to conduct operational cooperation of the belt and road and aiib. South china sea issue is not all but only one issue we need to take care. That is not a test case of China-ASEAN relationship. The issue can be addressed through country to country or bilateral way not through ASEAN.

The second, the 21th century maritime silk road is very closely relative to South to South cooperation. The common norm is persistent with principles of equality, mutual help and long-lasting friendship. This time is a good opportunity for both sides to work diligently on how to further advancing and upgrade China ASEAN FTA and China with individual country in SE Asia to upgrade their cooperation. For instance, China and Singapore both countries are working diligently on upgrating the cooperation to promote third G-G project. This project should be a benchmark of this region because it is a mutual beneficial one for asean countries and China and will give strong impetus to SE Asian long-term development.

The third, people-to-people exchange must be strengthened. With some of those projects discussed, it is also important to advance communication and cooperation in fields like tourism, human resources training, Chinese language teaching, oversea students and cultural industry exchange. Now, more than 1,000 commercial flights go and come every week between the two sides, and there are 15 million people traveled between China and ASEAN countries, this could not be imagined 20 years ago.

Finally, I would like to say China and ASEAN countries are close neighbors. Historically and geographically, we have been living so closely and stably, and countries share the region with affinity. To develop well and for the wellbeing of our future generations , China and ASEAN countries could not do without each other.

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