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Europeans shape opinions on Belt and Road Initiative: Former German ambassador to China

By Fu Jing in Berlin | | Updated: 2017-07-03 19:04
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Europeans are forming a "joint attitude" towards China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, which is expected to stabilize the vast land between China and Europe, said Michael Schaefer, former German ambassador to China.

Michael Schaefer, former German ambassador to China 

Ahead of President Xi Jinping's upcoming state visit to Germany and the G20 summit, Schaefer said Xi should use bilateral meetings or even the G20 platform to further explain the significance of this initiative, which not only benefits China but the rest of the world.

"From the reluctance at the very beginning, the Europeans have started to shape their joint attitudes towards the Belt and Road Initiative," Schaefer, who worked as German ambassador to China from 2007 to 2013, said during an exclusive interview with China Daily in Berlin.

"I am very vocal in supporting the initiative and Europe needs more active response."

Being chairman of the BMW Foundation in Berlin, Schaefer said he is not sure whether the initiative will be on the G20 agenda but he said at least, President Xi can table the topics when he meets with leaders on bilateral levels.

He said China could do more to gain trust and interest through explaining the vision of this grand initiative, in his opinion, which would bring stability for potentially fragile regions.

Schaefer said now the European Union, including Germany, has also developed their understanding of this project since it was proposed by President Xi in 2013.

"I believe this is an intelligent approach to create dynamics in the potentially fragile areas," said Schaefer.

He said this initiative will go far beyond symbolic and historic linkage of China to the Eurasian continent and an infrastructural project. Instead, Schaefer said this project makes a lot of sense when talking about linking both markets and people.

"I think it is in the common interests for EU, Central Asia and China to participate in this initiative and contribute to stabilizing the countries still in relatively fragile situation," said Schaefer.

"In this sense, this is a project which will be stabilizing huge areas between China and Europe."

He said that such stability through development and cooperation will be crucial for Europe's eastern neighborhood, China's immediate neighbors, and even for poor regions of Northwest China.

Schaefer also said that the maritime section of the Belt and Road Initiative is very important as the world needs safe maritime passage linking Africa, as China and Europe can help Africa develop their visions of development.

He added that fragility is bad for foreign businesses and the development for the people in the regions.

He urged all countries participating in this initiative to look at it from a long term perspective.

Schaefer said: "We need to understand this is not a project that will be done within one year, five years, but we need to contribute in the coming thirty or fifty years."

Schaefer accompanied Xi to Germany in 2009 and he found that Xi is "very serious and impressive man with huge interests in history".

"We discussed a lot of things then," said Schaefer.

Schaefer also said during his seven-year stint as ambassador in Beijing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited China six times.

Schaefer said China is a unique country and its reform and opening up has been extremely successful in bringing many people out of poverty in such a short time. China's middle class has also grown to 400 million.

He said now President Xi Jinping is bringing China into the center of the international community, which it deserves in terms of history, population and economic clout.

Schaefer said Xi understands that things can only be achieved through cooperation in the 21st Century, instead of using a hegemony approach as some countries in the past.

"I think Xi has done two impressive things since being China's top leader," said Schaefer. "One is fighting corruption and the other is coming up with the Belt and Road Initiative to forge global cooperation and connectivity."

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