(Tang Palace, 2nd May, 2016)
Respected Prof. Ding Yuan, Dean of CEIBS and Vice President,
Respected Prof. Mathew Tsamenyi, Managing Director of CEIBS,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honor to attend the China-Africa seminar of CEIBS on the topic of "the Belt and Road". This seminar has been prepared for quite some time. Last July, Prof. Mathew Tsamenyi visited me, initiated this seminar and invited me to talk about "the Belt and Road". The topic could not be a better one for me as I have been expecting an occasion to share my views with other people.
When referring to "the Belt and Road", I think the first thought popping up in many African friends' mind should be "Is it relevant to me?"--I will answer this question later.
Two weeks ago, H.E. Mr. Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and one of China's top leaders, paid an official visit to Ghana. During his stay here, he gave a profound interpretation of "the Belt and Road" to both Ghanaian officials and Chinese people. He said the Belt and Road Initiative is not an idea to expand the sphere of influence, but an idea to nurture the win-win cooperation and common development. Today's world is very different from the one of the 19th century and the 20th century. The only way to build harmonious coexistence and common development among countries is to promote a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation. This is the quintessence of "the Belt and Road". This path is consistent with economic laws, and a way to promote the harmonious development of the world. It is the strategic choice of China for further development.
So it is very interesting to observe that a top Chinese leader spent much time in expounding "the Belt and Road" when he set foot upon a West African country, which is far, far away from China. Shall we say it reflects that there is no geographical limit for China to expand and deepen its opening up, there is no space confinement for the each continent to pursue its regional integration, and there is no artificial restriction for all countries in the world to seek balanced development? And China is willing to pour its very positive energy behind all these exciting happenings.
Next, I would like to touch upon some specific aspects of "the Belt and Road" to spur more valuable opinions from our dear audience.
First, "the Belt and Road" has both rich historical contents and contemporary characteristics.
When H.E. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan and Indonesia in September and October 2013,he raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This evolves into "the Belt and Road", a perfect summary, induction and innovation of the spirit of ancient Silk Road. "The Belt and Road" in geographical term runs through the continents of Asia, Europe and part of Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and the developed European economic circle at the other, and encompassing countries with huge potentials for economic development. It involves 65 countries and regions with a population of 4.4 billion, accounting for 63% of the world, and $21-plus trillion GDP, accounting for 29% of the world.
More than 2,100 years ago, during China's Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), imperial envoy Zhang Qian was sent to the ancient country of "Darouzhi" in Central Asia twice, to build up a bridge for friendly communication between Eastern and Western civilization through a decade of extremely hard working. The ancient Silk Road peaked in the Sui and Tang Dynasties and the Marine Silk Route was booming in the early Ming Dynasty. The two trade routes brought not only Chinese silk, tea, porcelains and other kinds of goods to the countries along the routes, but also unprecedented prosperity. By its enchanting civilization and overwhelming kindness, Chinese won the love and praise from peoples of all those countries. "When the rings of camel bells were echoed along the ancient Silk Road, the Hus families were awaiting the arrival of goods from the Tang Empire". From this ancient Chinese poetry, we could still feel the magnificence of the ancient Silk Road.
Today, "the Belt and Road" not only carries forward all the historical heritage of the ancient Silk Road, but also goes far beyond in the space and form of cooperation. "The Belt and Road" is considered as the important strategic layout of China's opening to the outside world in the new situation. President Xi Jinping points out that the construction of "the Belt and Road" should start with work in individual areas, link them up over time to cover the whole region and further reach the goals of policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. "The Belt and Road" should be jointly built through consultation of all stakeholders to meet the interests of all, and abide by the following principles of opening for cooperation, harmony and inclusiveness, market-oriented operation, and mutual benefit. It should keep up with the trend of the times, basing in Asia, and benefiting the whole world.
Second, "the Belt and Road" has a grand vision and great significance for China's development.
As a national strategy proposed by the Chinese leadership, "the Belt and Road" has profound significance for China's modernization construction and making China stand as one of the strongest countries in the world. Last year the National Development and Reform Commission of China listed "the Belt and Road" together with the "Coordinated Development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Strategy" and "Yangtze River Economic Zone Strategy" as the priority tasks to implement to realize the optimization of China's economic development layout. As we know, over the years China's economic growth has relied on troika, i.e. investment, consumption and export. However, along with US dollar's appreciation and international commodities price declining, the world economic growth has slowed down in recent years, leading to decreased global demands and affecting China's external demand as well. Meanwhile, China's domestic excess production capacity limits the effect of China's traditional economic measures, such as investment. The two of troika therefore confront a stall crisis. In this context, "the Belt and Road" emerges as a measure that plays an important role in stabilizing the world economic fundamentals, pulling high the external demand and promoting the export of China's technology and equipment. It starts from the development of China's inner land, injects more resources and capital to the Western Development Strategy while at the same time restructuring the economy of coastal areas. This will address the marginalization of the western part of China in the opening up layout, and form a more coordinated, global oriented layout of land and sea, east and west. It will also help Asian countries accelerate the industrialization process by using China's industrial capacity advantages, improving Asian countries' infrastructure and promote the flowing of international production factors.
"The Belt and Road" is China's grand strategy in the 21st century to further expand and deepen opening to the outside world, build a new pattern of opening up and development, and fulfill the concept of win-win cooperation. Its fundamental goal is to realize the sustainable development of China and create a peaceful international environment for domestic development. Some experts view "the Belt and Road" as the "third round opening to the outside world" after China set up special economic zones in 1980s and joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. But indeed, it is the opening up of a higher level, larger scale and better quality. "The Belt and Road" links the Asia-Pacific region as an engine of the world economy with the European Union, the world's largest economy entity. It will form three economic radiation zones in East Asia, West Asia and South Asia respectively and no doubt bring new space and opportunities to the development of Eurasia. By making full play of its infrastructure construction capacity and intellectual and financial advantages, China will help break the development bottlenecks, help address the diversified demands and unbalanced development of the countries along the route so as to register new achievements together and realize the overall rejuvenation of Asia.
"The Belt and Road" is the inevitable way to realize the great Chinese Dream, which demonstrates China's broad vision of reaching out to world and embracing the world. The Chinese central government has set up a special leading group to oversee the implementation of "the Belt and Road", and has written it into the 13th Five Year Plan for National Development. The related Ministries, Provinces and Municipalities have shown strong passion to seize the opportunity and implement this great strategy. In comparison with US New Silk Road Plan, Japan's Europe-Asia New Silk Road Plan and so on, China's initiative is more comprehensive and inclusive, placing more emphasis on win-win cooperation and common development. This marks China's significant change from being involved in globalization in a passive way to actively shaping the globalization and reflects China's confidence in its political institution and development path.
Third, "the Belt and Road" is designed for the benefit of the world, which is a road towards peace and prosperity by driving world economic growth.
"The Belt and Road" has a grand layout, basing in Asia and radiating toward world. The Silk Road Economic Belt is mainly comprised of three economic corridors: the northern route, i.e. the Eurasia Land Bridge; the middle route, i.e. the oil and gas pipelines; and the southern route, i.e. transnational roads. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China's coastal ports to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and to the South Pacific in the other. "The Belt and Road" greatly shortens the transportation and turnaround time of the cargo between Europe and Asia, speed up the flow of personnel, materials and capital. Regional connectivity will improve the infrastructure conditions, create employment opportunities, and bring much-needed funds, technology and development experience to the countries along the route.
"The Belt and Road" is a road towards peace and friendship by enhancing mutual understanding and trust, and strengthening all-round exchanges. "The Belt and Road" meets the common demand of the countries along the route, opens a new window of opportunity in complementary advantages and open development, and provides a new platform for international cooperation. President Xi JInping said, the Belt and Road Initiative will not be a solo for China but a real chorus comprising all countries along the route. The Chinese government advocates the concept of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. It promotes practical cooperation in all fields, and works to build a community of shared interests, destiny and responsibility featuring mutual political trust, economic integration and cultural inclusiveness.
"The Belt and Road" leads the financial innovation and provides more public goods for global countries. During talks with H.E. Indonesian President Susilo in October 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed to establish an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to promote inter-connectivity and economic integration in the region. In November 2014, President Xi announced that China will contribute $40 billion to the newly established Silk Road Fund. In June 2015, representatives from 57 Prospective Founding Members (PFMs) of AIIB gathered in Beijing and signed the Bank's Articles of Agreement at the Great Hall of the People. At the end of the year, AIIB was formally established. I do think this kind of speed is unheard of. China welcomes others countries to take free ride on China's express train of development. The founding of AIIB and Silk Road Fund will fill the huge gap in the field of infrastructure investment of Asian developing countries, which is a positive effort made by China to undertake more international responsibility and improve the existing international economic and financial system by providing more public goods for the world.
Fourth, "the Belt and Road" drives the new economic growth of African countries, and creates development opportunity for China-Ghana relations.
"The Belt and Road" has a great impact on African continent and brings opportunities which may come only once in a blue moon. When interviewed by the West African Business Weekly last year, I pointed out that from the perspective of geographical coverage, the Belt and Road Initiative and China's African policy are overlapped and connected in the Northern and Eastern parts of African continent. With the advancement of inter-connectivity of African continent, Africa will achieve full connection with the countries along the route to share China's development dividends.
The fundamental purpose of the Belt and Road Initiative and Ten Major China-Africa Cooperation Plans adopted at the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) last December, is to cultivate a new growth point of the world economy, promote regional cooperation and connectivity, move up the regional countries in the global supply chain, industry chain and value chain, enhance communication among the people and mutual learning among civilizations. The openness and inclusiveness is the common feature. "Chinese Dream", "Asian Dream", "African Dream" and "World Dream" could enhance each other's beauty by deepening economic integration between China's economy and world economy on a wider range and at a higher level, which will promote the common prosperity and progress of China and other countries in the world. And this is my answer to the question raised at the beginning of my speech.
As an important pole of global growth, Africa is a hot land for the growth and development of Chinese enterprises. When Chairman Yu of CPPCC met with representatives of Chinese enterprises in Accra, he pointed out that to go overseas is an inevitable choice of China's development strategy while Africa is the place with the greatest potential. With a population of over 1 billion, an area around 3 times as big as China, an agricultural acreage at least 5 times the size of China, abundant resources especially leading amount of mineral resources, Africa has a great potential and bright prospect in industrial market. We should say that Africa's development is also a great opportunity for China to improve its strength, export its equipment and excess capacity, as well as an opportunity for Chinese contract engineering enterprises to transform and upgrade its mode of business. It also provides room for the structural adjustment of China's domestic productions, and to certain extend it will provide external pressure for Chinese enterprises to improve their capacity-building. In Africa's competitive market, only the fittest survive.
President Xi said in his speech at the Johannesburg Summit of FOCAC that Africa faces three development bottlenecks, namely poor infrastructure, lack of talents and shortage of capital. We sincerely hope for Africa's development. The development of Africa constitutes a necessary support for the development of China. We should not forget this is the age of globalization and inter-dependence among countries are deepening. The infrastructure construction and regional connectivity, advocated by "the Belt and Road", will bring growth and stability to the world economy and help accelerate the returning of international commodity prices to a reasonable level so as to improve the external economic environment of African countries.
China-Ghana cooperation is exemplary for China-Africa cooperation. China-Ghana relations are stepping into a golden era of rapid development. The main purpose of Chairman Yu's visit to Ghana is to implement the achievements of the Johannesburg Summit of the FOCAC and the consensus reached by two heads of state. This high-level visit has promoted political mutual trust, enhanced traditional friendship between China and Ghana, and provided an important opportunity for the transformation and upgrading of China-Ghana economic and trade cooperation as well. At present, Ghana is trying to transform its economy and longing for accelerating its industrialization process, while China is conducting the international cooperation of production capacity and equipment manufacturing. I am delighted to say that Ghana has been listed as one of the key African countries to carry out production capacity cooperation with China. This exactly fits Ghana's demand and provides Ghana a new opportunity to realize its industrialization dream.
In 2015, China-Ghana trade volume hit a historic high of $6.6 billion, increasing by 18.2% over the previous year. The projects such as Africa World Airlines (AWA) invested by Hainan Airlines, China-Africa Development Fund and the Ghanaian partner, National Communication Networks constructed by Huawei and ZTE, Western Corridor Gas Infrastructure Development Project built by SINOPEC, are all the key projects in improving the regional inter-connectivity. The cooperation in power generation, transmission and distribution between Chinese and Ghanaian enterprises is continuously expanding. The integration of Chinese technology, advanced equipment and expertise with Ghanaian private sector is becoming closer and closer. The Ghanaian enterprises such as Africa Slipway, Prefos, Danadams, Kantaka, Jospong, are the pioneers in the industrial capacity cooperation between China and Ghana. During his visit to Ghana, Chairman Yu visited the Jospong Vehicle Assembly Plant and attended the inauguration of Sunon Asogli Power Plant Phase II Project, and sang high praise of the cooperation level in industrial capacity cooperation between our two countries.
A Chinese sage once said, "A wise man could always catch the favorable circumstances and take action at the right time." I hope Chinese enterprises can take full advantages of the achievements of the Johannesburg Summit of FOCAC and the successful visit of Chairman Yu of CPPCC,increase investment in energy, manufacturing, housing and agro product processing sectors and carry out cooperation with Ghanaian and African partners in infrastructure constructions through diversified modes.
For the next stage, China will intensify its dialogue and communication with Ghana to set up the joint working mechanism and establish the government framework for cooperation, fashioning out more facilities for trade and investment. We will push for the early signing of MOU on cooperation of production capacity and civil aviation. √We will identify more projects that will align the national development strategy and the converging interests of the two sides and formulate the time table and road map so as to bring early harvest to peoples of our two countries. I think this is exactly other Chinese Ambassadors are doing in their host countries to move forward "the Belt and Road".
I cannot conclude my speech without expressing my gratefulness to CEIBS to set up this platform and make careful arrangements. By doing so CEIBS has made very important contribution to promoting "the Belt and Road" and including China-Africa cooperation into this grand strategy.
I believe this is only a starting point and I look forward to more discussion and communication in the future.