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Time to join hands for a 'smart Belt and Road'

By David Gosset | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-11 09:26
Premier Li Keqiang (center), European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (left) and European Council President Donald Tusk participate in a joint news conference after the China-EU leaders’ meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

The China-European Union leaders' meeting has taken place amid an unprecedented level of mistrust that dangerously threatens Sino-Western relations.

In this context, the EU and China have to show the world - and the United States under the leadership of President Donald Trump- that the synergies between China and the West are not only a reality but also indispensable to world peace and prosperity.

As they seek to strengthen bilateral cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and global governance, both sides will demonstrate their commitment to multilateralism structured around the United Nations.

Following the success of President Xi Jinping's visit to Italy, Monaco and France, 2019 could be the year to initiate a strategic consensus among European and Chinese leaders around the notion of a "smart Belt and Road", or the vision of new Silk Roads, animated by the ideals of collaboration, inclusiveness, sustainability and innovation.

In a world of interdependence, the actors of the Eurasian region have to co-create value through collaboration. By doing so, they will stop the trends whose result would be the decoupling between the West and China, or the tragedy of a divided mankind.

A smart Belt and Road is not only collaborative but also inclusive. The time has come to set up an official mechanism in which China, the EU and also the African Union will discuss and structure their interactions.

Aiming at a smart Belt and Road also means that the protection of the environment becomes a strategic objective. If the new Silk Roads that are being built are not green, if they are not taking into account the imperative of fighting climate change, they are simply roads to nowhere.

This leads to the reflection of a fourth pillar of the vision of a smart Belt and Road - innovation. From 5G networks to artificial intelligence, and blockchain to new energy solutions, technologies have to serve smarter rural development, smarter national and international connectivity and smarter cities being constructed.

At the intersection of urbanization, business dynamics, technological advancement and geopolitics, the notion of a smart city has to be one of the major themes of the vision of a smart Belt and Road. That would include connecting smart cities from Asia to Africa, offering a powerful vector of progress.

While the necessity of reinventing multilateralism has become an imperative, one would hope to see the vision of a smart Belt and Road increasingly discussed and becoming an axis of international coordinated action.

In his concise masterpiece The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, the wise and erudite Italian economic historian Carlo M. Cipolla (1922-2000) defined stupidity as a behavior causing a double loss. At the opposite, it is the win-win approach that characterizes intelligent action.

The author is founder of the Europe-China Forum and the New Silk Road Initiative. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.



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