World / Asia-Pacific

Asia Cooperation Dialogue extends Silk Road

By Liu Jianchao (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-29 07:07

Editor's Note: The following is adapted from a speech by Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao at the opening ceremony of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue Forum on Silk Road Cooperation in Lanzhou, Gansu province on May 28.

The Asia Cooperation Dialogue is an important mechanism for inter-governmental dialogue and cooperation in Asia. With such dialogue mechanisms as the summit and the ministerial meeting established, its membership has increased from 18 to 33. Cooperation within the ACD has now been expanded into 20 areas, including energy, economy, trade, culture, and connectivity, and the Provisional Secretariat is up and running in Kuwait. The ACD has already become an important platform for forging Asian consensus, promoting the Asian spirit and advancing Asian cooperation.

The world is undergoing complex and profound changes, and the global economic gravity is shifting eastward. Asia has become a major engine of the world economy, contributing more than 50 percent to its growth. However, unlike the rise of other regions and countries in history, Asia's rejuvenation and development is not about the rise of a single country but the collective development of a number of countries, the emerging economies in particular.

Asia's development is rooted in its traditional cultures and builds on Asian people's tradition of achieving strength through unity. Over 2,000 years ago, our ancestors overcame many hardships and difficulties and traveled across mountains and rivers to open the world-renowned Silk Road, which facilitated not only trade and technological exchanges between countries, but also dialogue and integration between civilizations and cultures. The Silk Road was a road of peace, cooperation and friendship that promoted economic, cultural and social progress in the region. It was also a cultural bond that brought Asian countries together.

To carry forward the Silk Road spirit, President Xi Jinping has proposed building a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to advance Asia's economic integration and promote understanding and trust between Asian countries.

In recent years, regional cooperation in Asia has made big strides. But there is a wide development gap among countries in the region; the links between sub-regions are not close enough; and regional development and cooperation face numerous challenges. By linking Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia and other sub-regions, Xi's two initiatives can facilitate cooperation between the countries along the routes and improve the regional trade and investment environment, thus boosting Asia's sustainable development.

But first, we need to increase the understanding and trust to uphold harmony and stability of Asia. Without stability, development of the region will be impossible. Asia has generally maintained good stability, but there is still a trust deficit among countries and territorial disputes and leftover historical issues flare up from time to time. Increasing understanding and trust between countries is a necessary task. Full use needs to be made of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue and other regional platforms to consolidate and enhance the political foundation of pan-Asia cooperation and lay the groundwork for the "one Belt and one Road".

As was the case for the original Silk Road, commerce is a key feature of the two modern incarnations, which can capitalize on geographical proximity by building and improving the supply, industrial and value chains in Asia.

Promoting connectivity in Asia will also deepen the integration of interests in the region. This should not be limited to just transport and telecommunication links across the Eurasian continent, it should also include information sharing, policy coordination and technological exchanges, so as to achieve all-dimensional connectivity and greater integration of interests among countries in the region.

To ensure a sustainable energy supply in Asia, the possibility of building regional energy reserves should be explored, and energy trading mechanisms should be improved. Cooperation in clean energy should be promoted and efforts made to jointly advance green, sustainable development in order to build a green Belt and a green Road.

Moreover, there need to be more people-to-people and cultural exchanges to promote greater understanding between the peoples of Asia. Neighbors become closer when they visit each other often. Thus the Asia Cooperation Dialogue should be used to enhance exchanges at the local level and between think tanks, media organizations and young people.

Asian civilizations and cultures are imbued with traditional wisdom. The historical and cultural heritage of the Silk Road should be fully tapped to consolidate the cultural and social foundation for regional integration.

The two initiatives proposed by Xi are necessitated by China's own development needs. China has made great achievements through reform and opening-up, but its development is uneven, in particular between the eastern and western parts of the country. To tackle this challenge, we need to encourage the flow of resources and industrial relocation from east to west. But more importantly, we need to tap the potential of exchanges and cooperation with neighboring countries to align our development strategy with theirs so as to benefit and gain momentum from their common development.

But by promoting cooperation in connectivity, energy, environmental protection and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, the "one Belt and one Road" also reflect the spirit of the times and the needs of Asia.

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