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Think Tanks Need to Play a Leading Role in Advancing the Belt and Road Initiative


By Li Wei, DRC


The convention of the Belt and Road Forum marked a new stage in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative. In this stage, think tanks will play an even more important role. In June 2016, President Xi Jinping pointed out in his opening speech made at the Silk Road Forum held in Warsaw that think tanks need to play a leading role in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative and such a role needs to be enforced and shored up by the government. Think tanks need to focus their research on the building plans and roadmaps for advancing the Belt and Road Initiative. They need to serve as advisers and assistants for the government in planning alignment, policy coordination and mechanism design and play as the bridge and links in concept publicity, policy interpretation and public opinion communication.

The Silk Road Think Tank Network (SiLKS) includes think tanks, international organizations and transnational corporations from over 30 countries and regions and from different industries and sectors. We need to bring into play our professional advantages and mobilize the enthusiasm of researching staff. We need to grasp the favorable opportunity to make cooperation towards the realization of our common goal. By so doing could we play a leading role and provide policy consultations to the government. In this regard I look forward to sharing your views and suggestions.

I would like to take this opportunity to make some suggestions for your reference on the work of SiLKS.

First, we need to adhere to the principle of joint consultation and co-construction with shared benefits and win-win results. This principle is one for us to advance the Belt and Road Initiative and also one the SiLKS needs to follow. Due to the common efforts made by friends present here, we have launched and participated in the construction of this Initiative and have achieved a series of remarkable progress. It is hoped that the SiLKS will continue to follow this principle in its future work and activity so that every member country and partner can effectively participate in the construction, display their respective advantages, make their due contributions, and gain a practical sense of accomplishment. Specifically, we need to give full scope to the following two mechanisms.

1. We need to make full use of the electronic work platform of eSiLKS. During the previous two annual conferences of SiLKS, many SiLKS members suggested establishing an electronic information platform. Through the efforts of the Secretariat and the support by the Development Center of the OECD and China Energy Fund Committee, eSiLKS has been formally launched and will become the most convenient and effective way for SiLKS members to exchange information and make coordinations. Instead of meeting each other once a year, we could talk to each other every day on eSilks. I hope we could make frequent exchanges and put forward our suggestions on this platform, and share our research findings.

2. We need to give free rein to the Directing Committee. This Committee is responsible for providing options on the development strategies, cooperation mechanisms and outcome reports for SiLKS, reviewing the approval for the admittance of new members and partners, and enhancing the international influence of SiLKS. I hope we will fulfill our duties to support the development of SiLKS in various forms.

Second, we need to intensify mutual learning and mutual enrichment so as to promote common development. The SiLKS spirit and bond rest with peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual enrichment, mutual benefits and win-win results, and the fundamental goal of the Belt and Road Initiative lies in promoting joint development. By drawing on development experience from each other, we can explore the development path suitable to respective countries, which is the only way to realize development. Members of SiLKS are countries and regions experiencing different development stages and levels, and partners of SiLKS are mostly international organizations and enterprises committed to the development cause with a strong sense of social responsibility and they have rendered a strong support to the Belt and Road Initiative. It can be said that SiLKS is a platform for us to make exchanges, cooperation and draw on respective strengths. At the UN Development Summit held in September 2015, President Xi Jinping noted that China will establish an International Development Knowledge Center for making researches and exchanges on the development theory and practice suitable to respective countries. The Development Research Center of the State Council is honored to undertake the preparation work for the establishment of this Center. Through over a year’s efforts, we have finished the preparation work, and I am glad to be assigned director of this center, which will soon perform its duties. The International Development Knowledge Center is entrusted by the Chinese government with the duties to coordinate domestic and foreign resources for development research, conduct development practice and theoretical studies in light of respective national conditions, and cooperate with other member countries to share relevant research findings set by UN 2030 Development Goals and make studies on related development issues. The International Development Knowledge Center will closely cooperate with the SiLKS Secretariat to facilitate common development.

Third, we need to focus on key sectors and deepen cooperative research. Currently, SiLKS boasts 47 members and partners and will soon usher in another seven members, with more new members and partners to join us in the future. The representation of SiLKS will become more and more strong and its work will cover wider fields. In order to formulate effective cooperation, we need to specify the key sectors and identify the major problems and enhance cooperation centering on key topics so as to produce a batch of targeted research outcomes. I hope we can highlight relevant problems to make thorough discussions, and make applicable suggestions for promoting the Belt and Road Initiative. It can be expected that in the next one to two years, we can deepen cooperative research and hopefully accomplish a batch of representative, practical and influential outcomes, so that we could make greater contributions to the Belt and Road Initiative through joint consultations and co-construction.