By Liu Xinsheng
More than two thousand years ago, the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked major civilisations of Asia and Europe, collectively called the Silk Road by later generations.
For thousands of years, the Silk Road Spirit, featuring peace, cooperation, openness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, has been passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilisation, and contributed to the prosperity and development of the countries along the routes.
In the 21st century, a new era calling for peace, development and cooperation, it is all the more important for us to carry on the Silk Road Spirit in the face of the weak recovery of the global economy, and complex regional and international situations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping made the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (hereinafter referred to as the Belt and Road) in 2013 when he visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia.
Accelerating the building of the Belt and Road can help promote the economic prosperity of the countries along the routes and regional economic cooperation, strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between different civilisations, and promote world peace and development. It is a great undertaking that will benefit people around the world. To promote the implementation of the Initiative, instill vigour and vitality into the ancient Silk Road, connect Asian, European and African countries more closely in the interest of all countries, the Chinese government has put forward the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.
The Belt and Road Initiative follows the universal principle of respecting sovereignty and non-interference in others’ internal affairs and encourages national, sub-regional and trans-regional initiatives.
Its key feature is broad consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Its aim is to improve the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas and bring into full play the wisdom, the motivation and resources of all the interested countries together and make a real and faster difference in the lives of ordinary people along the Belt and Road. The connectivity projects will help align and coordinate the development strategies of the countries along the routes, tap market potential in this region, promote investment and consumption, create demands and jobs, enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and mutual learning among the peoples.
Given its open, inclusive and win-win nature, the Initiative has been very well-received by the international community. Currently, more than 60 countries along the routes and international organisations have expressed a strong interest in taking part in the development of the Belt and the Road. Fifty-seven countries have confirmed their participation as founding members in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a planned major financing facility for the Belt and the Road Initiative. More than half of EU countries including Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Spain and Sweden have applied to become AIIB’s founding members. Greece, Egypt and Israel are also among the active supporters of the Initiative in the East Mediterranean. The Silk Road Fund was also established with an initial contribution of 36 billion euros from China to help support the Initiative.
More than two thousand years ago, the Chinese and Europeans contributed to and benefited from the ancient “Silk Road”. Today, given the rapid growth and vast potential of China’s relations with European countries, the success of the “Silk Road” will lend fresh impetus to bilateral, sub-regional and trans-regional exchanges and cooperation in Asia and Europe.
The Initiative will complement and reinforce rather than compete with European programmes and will certainly promote Chinese and international trade and investment in the countries and regions involved.
During President Xi’s latest visit to Pakistan just weeks ago, an investment package totaling 40 billion euros was announced for Pakistan covering development of port, highway, railway, pipeline, fibre optic cable line, nuclear power plants. This will substantially improve Pakistan’s infrastructure and boost its connectivity with the rest of the region and beyond.
This could also be viewed as a start of the early harvest of the Belt and Road Initiative. According to Asian Development Bank, the demand for infrastructure investment in Asia is over 700 billion euros and current regional and international financial institutions can only meet a fraction of that demand. The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative and development of new financial facilities will contribute to the national, regional and international efforts to develop the economy and improve people’s lives.
China and Cyprus have been tested and trusted friends and partners for decades. Our political, business and people-to-people ties are growing stronger and stronger. We have all the good reasons and conditions to translate our good relations into better economic opportunities for businesses and individuals alike. Since connectivity is the catchword for this new round of Asia-Europe cooperation, there is no reason why Cyprus with its unique geographical location, rich cultural heritage, talented people and a strong desire to champion East Mediterranean cooperation should just be an onlooker rather than an active player.
The Chinese and Cypriots share a lot in common, love for life, for family, for education, for good food and for good weather. Now we have the good weather for a good cause, why shouldn’t we share the prospect and prosperity that come our way?
Liu Xinsheng is the Chinese ambassador to Cyprus. Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road can be viewed at (http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/t1249618.shtml)