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Mutual Connectivity of Infrastructure Basis for Connectivity Trinity


Silk Roads: Inspirations and Opportunities

12/12/2014,Istanbul, Turkey

Mutual Connectivity of Infrastructure Basis for Connectivity Trinity

Ou Xiaoli

Deputy Director-general, Department of Western Development,

National Development and Reform Commission of China


Honorable Mr. Jeremić,

Honorable Minister Li Wei,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Arranged by the meeting, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about the mutual connectivity in the Belt and Road initiative. I am glad to share my following views.

Created by our ancestors who lived in Eurasian Continent, the ancient Silk Road actually serves as a model for mutual connectivity. In a certain way, it is also a pilot project for globalization at an early stage. The mutual connectivity brought by the ancient Silk Road promotes the economic and cultural exchanges and development in the countries along the road, facilitates dialogue and communication between different civilizations, and has written a splendid chapter in human history.

The current Belt and Road initiative proposed by China is actually a modern version of mutual connectivity. Essentially, borrowing the historical and cultural symbol of the ancient Silk Road, the initiative is injected with new theme of the current era. That is the idea of peaceful development and win-win cooperation. It also calls on each country along the road to vigorously strengthen economic and cultural communication, develop economic partnership, and jointly build a community of common interests, destiny and responsibility characterized by political mutual trust, economic integration and cultural inclusiveness. Therefore, the Belt and Road initiative is an upgraded version of the ancient Silk Road with the ancient one as a reference and rejuvenating the ancient one as our own duties.

As the Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out at the APEC meeting, mutual connectivity neither only means building roads and bridges, nor only means one-dimensional or a single-lined connection. Instead, it represents a broad idea of the connectivity trinity of infrastructure, regulations and personnel exchanges. It is characterized by comprehensive, three-dimensional and internet-based connection in such five areas as policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, undisrupted trade flow, financing availability and people-to-people exchanges. Such a connectivity trinity can shorten the geographic, physical, and institutional distances between different countries along the road, deepen and broaden trade and investment cooperation, advance economic integration of different countries, and promote regional economic development. Therefore, facilitating mutual connectivity means strengthening not only the hardware construction based on infrastructure, but also the software construction based on connectivity in rules and regulations. In addition, it also means cross-border travel and personnel exchanges.

In the connectivity trinity, infrastructure connectivity is the basis. It is also the weak link that deters further cooperation between the countries along the Silk Road. At present, the construction of infrastructure connectivity is underdeveloped. Take transportation infrastructure as an example. Some sections of many major roads are missing. Many roads are functioning but not unobstructed because of poor grade, bad and unsafe conditions. Many countries have different technical standards for their own railways. Transportation across countries requires many steps resulting in long travel time and low efficiency. For some key construction projects, because of complex conditions, tremendous demand for funding, low expected profits, it is difficult to obtain finance. At the same time, due to different needs of different countries, projects progress slowly. Furthermore, infrastructure for telecommunications is rather poor with limited access to internet information and low security level. Thus, to promote the construction of the Belt and Road, it is necessary to give priority to developing infrastructure connectivity. Based on respecting the sovereignty and considering security concerns of relevant countries, we should gradually develop the infrastructure network connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa as well as sub-regions in Asia by improving infrastructure planning and unifying technical standards of all relevant countries. We should also emphasize low-carbon construction and operation of infrastructure with full consideration of the impacts of climate change.

Countries along the road should make mutual connectivity of transportation infrastructure the emphasis in building infrastructure connectivity. Emphasis should be put on key roads, key points and project of great importance. Priority should be given to completing those missing sections, unblocking the bottlenecks and improving accessibility. We should develop a uniform through-transit coordination mechanism, facilitate customs clearance, transshipment and multimodal transport, and formulate unified transport rules so as to increase the convenience in international transportation. We should also promote the construction of port infrastructure, maintain smooth flow of land-water shipments, boost cooperative port construction, add more maritime routes and shifts, and strengthen informationalized cooperation in maritime logistics. We should also improve infrastructure for air services by upgrading the platform and mechanism for overall cooperation for civil aviation.

Mutual connectivity of energy infrastructure constitutes another key area for developing mutual connectivity for the Belt and Road initiative. To build mutual connectivity of energy infrastructure, we should jointly ensure the security of the transmission system like oil pipelines and gas pipelines. We should also promote the construction of cross-border channels for power transmission and actively cooperate in upgrading regional power grid system.

Mutual connectivity of information network deserves more emphasis in the information era. We should improve mutual connectivity of international telecommunications and create an information Silk Road by facilitating the construction of such telecommunications network as cross-border optical cables. We should also expand information exchanges and cooperation by pushing forward the construction of bilateral cross-border optical cables, planning inter-continental projects for submarine optical cables and improving satellite information transmission.

Mutual connectivity, if well developed, and infrastructure construction, if adequately funded, not only create new opportunities for economic development and tap the economic potentials in all countries in the region, but also lay a solid foundation for further development in these countries. Having developed rapidly for many years, China has laid a solid foundation in materials, technology and finances. It has also accumulated rich experience, which provides favorable conditions for China to strengthen mutual connectivity with other countries along the road. China is willing to work with them to steadily advance model projects and to jointly locate projects for mutual connectivity which satisfy mutual or multilateral interests. We should make the fruitful achievements of the Belt and Road initiative available for local people by starting and implementing those well-prepared projects approved by both sides as soon as possible.

Proposed by China, the Belt and Road initiative, yet, is the common cause for all countries along the route, which calls for all to devote concerted efforts. Talking about joining hands in the endeavor, I think it is an analogy to collective dancing versus communicative dancing. On one hand, we need to give full play to the role of multilateral cooperation mechanism and make full use of the existing cooperation mechanism framework. Fully considering the interests and needs of each member, we should attract more nations and regions to participate in the building of the Belt and Road via multilateral consultation and equal negotiation, and promote an early start of more connectivity projects in the countries along the road. On the other hand, we should improve intergovernmental communication mechanism to enhance bilateral cooperation. For those countries with strong willingness to cooperate, both parties are encouraged to jointly plan the cooperation for the initiative and facilitate the signing of cooperation memorandum and agreements. Parties in cooperation should conduct research on the implementation plan of the initiative and guide the construction of some projects based on bilateral cooperation.

The Belt and Road initiative leads to the building of a road of mutual respect and trust, cooperation for win-win results and mutual learning of civilizations. As long as nations work together with shared ideas, concerted efforts and common goals, we can write a new chapter in building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, and people in the countries along the road will enjoy the benefits brought by joint efforts in building the Belt and Road.