On the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address to the Asian-African Summit in Bandung, Indonesia, China’s Ambassador to Cambodia Bu Jianguo detailed the impact on Asean nations of China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure project. This discussion with an Embassy staffer was provided Tuesday evening to the Khmer Times.
Q: In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the major initiative the Belt and Road which has become the focus attention of Asean and the world. Will you please explain the meaning of the Belt and Road to Cambodian readers?
Amb. Bu Jianguo: When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 2013, he raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, which have attracted close attention from all over the world. Hereinafter we referred to these as the Belt and Road. The initiative to jointly build the Belt and Road was proposed in view of the trend towards a multi-polar world, economic globalization, cultural diversity and greater IT application. It is aimed at promoting an orderly and free flow of economic factors, an highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets; encourage countries along the Belt and Road to achieve economic policy coordination and carry out broader and more in-depth regional cooperation of higher standards; and jointly create an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all.
The Silk Road has long been known for its overland and maritime routes since ancient times. The Belt and Road connect the East Asia economic circle at one end and the European economic circle at the other, which like two flying wings of Asia, complement each other and are equally important. The Belt and Road involves more than 60 countries, 4.4 billion of the population, the GDP of which is beyond $21 trillion, accounting for 63% and 29% of the world’s GDP, respectively, which is the largest and most extensive new economic zone coverage in the world. In promoting this initiative, China will follow the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. The programs of development will be open and inclusive, not exclusive. They will be a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo for China itself. Currently, more than 60 countries, including Cambodia, along the routes and other international organizations have shown interest in taking part in the development of the Belt and the Road. We welcome all countries along the routes and in Asia, as well as our friends and partners around the world, to take an active part in these endeavors.
Q: The Silk Road has a long history and a positive significance to the global world since ancient times. What are China’s goals to push on the building of the Belt and Road in the future?
Amb. Bu Jianguo: Countries along the Belt and Road have their own resources and advantages and their economies are mutually complementary. Therefore, there is great potential and space for cooperation. The major goals of our future cooperation are policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds.
On policy coordination, the key points are to build a multi-level intergovernmental macro policy exchange and communication mechanism, expand shared interests, enhance mutual political trust, and reach new cooperation consensus.
On facilities connectivity, the priority is to form an infrastructure network connecting all sub-regions in Asia and between Asia, Europe and Africa step by step through advancing the construction of sea, land, air, information and energy passageways.
On unimpeded trade, we should strive to improve investment and trade facilitation, and remove investment and trade barrier. We will discuss with countries and regions along the Belt and Road on opening free trade areas.
On financial integration, we should deepen financial cooperation. The key points are to jointly promote the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and to set up and put into operation the Silk Road Fund as early as possible.
On people-to-people bonds, the priorities are carrying forward the spirit of friendly cooperation of the Silk Road by promoting extensive cultural and academic exchanges, personnel exchanges and cooperation, media cooperation, youth and women exchanges and volunteer services, so as to win public support for deepening bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
The Belt and Road initiative can bring real benefits to countries in the region. Thanks to the concerted efforts of relevant parties, the vision and action paper of the initiative has been developed. Substantive progress has been made in the establishment of the AIIB. The Silk Road Fund has been launched and the construction of a number of infrastructure connectivity projects are moving forward. These early harvests have truly pointed to the broad prospects the Belt and Road initiative will bring.
Q: Thanks for your introduction. It seems that the Belt and Road are rich in content and with broad prospect. So, how is the Chinese government going to promote them?
Amb. Bu Jianguo: The Chinese government has been actively promoting the building of the Belt and Road, enhancing communication and consultation, advancing practical cooperation with countries along the Belt and Road, and introducing a series of policies and measures for early outcomes.
The first is high-level guidance and facilitation. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have visited over 20 countries, attended the Dialogue on Strengthening Connectivity Partnership and the sixth ministerial conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, and met with leaders of relevant countries to discuss bilateral relations and regional development issues. They have used these opportunities to explain the rich contents and positive implications of the Belt and Road initiative, and their efforts have helped bring about a broad consensus on the Belt and Road initiative.
The second is building cooperation framework. China has signed MOUs of cooperation on the joint development of the Belt and Road with some countries such as Kazakhstan, and we have signed agreements on regional cooperation and border cooperation and developed mid- and long-term plans for economic and trade cooperation with some neighboring countries. We are also developing outlines of regional cooperation plans in cooperation with some adjacent countries.
The third is promoting project cooperation. We have enhanced communication and consultation with countries along the Belt and Road and promoted a number of key cooperation projects in the fields of infrastructure connectivity, industrial investment, resource development, economic and trade cooperation, financial cooperation, cultural exchanges, ecological protection and maritime cooperation where the conditions are right.
The fourth is improving policies and measures. The Chinese government positively facilitates the establishment of the AIIB. China has proposed the Silk Road Fund, and the investment function of the China-Eurasia Economic Cooperation Fund will be reinforced. We will push forward cross-border clearing operations and payment institutions to conduct cross-border payment business. We will actively promote investment and trade facilitation, and accelerate the reform of integrated regional customs clearance.
The fifth is boosting the role of cooperation platforms. A number of international summits, forums, seminars and expos on the theme of the Belt and Road initiative have been held, which have played an important role in increasing mutual understanding, reaching consensus and deepening cooperation.
Q: How will the Belt and Road initiative impact on China-Asean relations?
Amb. Bu Jianguo: Friendly exchanges between China and Southeast Asia date back thousand of years. Trade, cultural and personnel exchanges between China and Southeast Asia were mostly carried by sea since ancient times. Asean countries are an important part of the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century. This year is the year of China-Asean Maritime Cooperation. During the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015, the launching ceremony of the China-Asean Maritime Cooperation year was successfully held, which drew the curtain for various activities for the whole year. China and Asean countries will carry out practical cooperation on marine economy, maritime connectivity, marine science research and environmental protection, safety and security, and cultural exchanges. We will open a China-Asean maritime cooperation center, set up a China-Asean maritime emergency rescue hotline, and open the China-Asean College of Marine Sciences. We hope that maritime cooperation will become yet another new highlight and a new engine for growing China-Asean relations and the all-dimensional maritime cooperation between China and Asean will become a model for the development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. I hope in the process of building the Maritime Silk Road, China and Asean countries will join hands in forging an even closer China-Asean community of common destiny.
As a Chinese saying goes, close neighbors are better than distant relatives. That explains China’s firm commitment to building friendship and partnership with its neighbors to foster an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood. Under the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, China is working actively to deepen win-win cooperation and connectivity with its neighbors to bring them even more benefit with its own development.
Q: In recent years, Cambodia has maintained rapid growth. In the process of promoting the Belt and Road, how can China better support the development of Cambodia?
Amb. Bu Jianguo: Cambodia is located in the Indo-China Peninsula, which is one of the important countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. We highly appreciate the support of the Cambodian government to the Belt and Road initiative and we can be important partners to promote the construction of the Belt and Road. China and Cambodia are two countries with mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual support, which are worthy of the name of good neighbors, good friends, good partners and good brothers. High-level exchanges between the two countries are frequent, which provides good guidance to the relations between the two countries. Bilateral economic cooperation between China and Cambodia is fruitful. China is now the largest investor in Cambodia. We have invested in various areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, hydropower, power transmission, tourism, aviation, telecommunications and Special Economic Zones. Bilateral culture exchanges are just unfolding. China is willing to provide more studying opportunities to young Cambodian students and personnel in various fields through different channels, to enrich talents for the development of Cambodia’s social and economic status.
The Road and Belt initiative provides new opportunities and opens up a new world for China and Cambodia to further deepen cooperation in all areas. We would like to build the Road and Belt as an opportunity to strengthen policy communication with the Cambodian side, and look forward to connecting the Road and Belt initiative and the third stage of the Cambodian Four Angle Strategy to form “the greatest common divisor” of cooperation. We welcome Cambodian officials, scholars and business people to participate in the Road and Belt initiative to discuss bilateral cooperation.
I believe that within the framework of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, China and Cambodia will join hands together and walk on a road of mutual respect, mutual trust, win-win cooperation and make a positive contribution to China-Cambodia friendship.