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The One Belt One Road Initiative Will Change the International Landscape

{Editor’s Note: Huanqiu published an article with effusive praise of China’s One Belt One Road initiative, claiming that it will dramatically change the Western-dominated international landscape.

The author, Zhang Weiwei (张维为), once an interpreter for Deng Xiaoping, is the Dean of the China Research Institute, Fudan University, Shanghai. In his view, China’s “four super” characteristics – its super large population, its super vast territory, its super long history, and its super rich culture – will “bring the world an unprecedented change that has not been seen in the past one thousand years.”

The article has made some arguments, which, from the West’s point of view, may be over-glorifying or may not be factual, but it shows that China takes the One Belt One Road initiative very seriously.

The following is an excerpt from the article.} {1}

The rise of China is the rise of a civilized country that has “four super” characteristics. It has a super large population, a super vast territory, a super long history, and a super rich culture. These “four supers” have something in common – they are both “traditional” and “modern.”

In the book that I published seven years ago, China’s Shock: The Rise of a Civilized Country, I made this statement: “Then the world may be witnessing and will continue to witness ‘the great change of the millennium’ that China’s rise is bringing to the West and to the whole world.” This scene is unfolding before the people. Through the Chinese “One Belt One Road” initiative it is increasingly clear.

If the “European Coal and Steel Community” that France and Germany established in 1951 after World War II brought coal and steel production together to end the continuous history of wars between the major European countries, thus profoundly changing the whole of Europe’s political, economic, and social situation, then the “One Belt One Road” initiative that China launched is, through the interconnection between countries, changing the whole world’s economic pattern. This is particularly so in terms of policies, infrastructures, trade, capital flow, and people. It will have a much more far-reaching political, economic, and social impact than the “European Coal and Steel Community.”

To a certain extent, the “One Belt One Road” initiative is reshaping the world. It is largely  the “four super” characteristics of civilized China that are determining it. China’s large population means that China’s rise has effects on a super large scale, which provides a strong material foundation for the “One Belt One Road” initiative. China’s population is about 100 times the size of a medium European country’s population.  Every year China trains more engineers than the U.S., Japan, and Germany combined.

Based on purchasing power parity (PPP), China has already become the largest economy in the world. Its contribution to world economic growth is twice that of the United States. China has also formed the world’s largest middle class. China is the largest trading partner for nearly 130 countries and regions. China has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves and is rapidly becoming the world’s largest consumer market and the largest investor overseas. All of this provides the most important material foundation for China to reshape globalization through “One Belt One Road.”

China’s super vast territory provides it with the advantages and influence of a geographical civilization with which few countries can compete. So far, the global industrial chain is almost always configured along coastlines, culminating in the general decline of landlocked countries and regions. Now, with “One Belt One Road” to promote interconnections and trade, China’s inland area and many landlocked countries instantly are jumping from the backyard to the frontline of economic activity.

In this sense, “One Belt One Road” is changing the pattern of the past five hundred years where marine civilization led the mainland civilization. It has started a process that re-balances marine and land civilization. “One Belt One Road” may bring a lot of development opportunities and long-term growth to many countries and regions. In a broader sense, “One Belt One Road” may promote the construction of a new geopolitics beyond the traditional geopolitical and geo-economic logic, which is that economic growth no longer stops at the border, but rather thrives in win-win cooperation.

China’s super long history and traditions mean that, in its long historical process, China itself is the product of “one hundred countries”. It has very rich historical and traditional resources to create a new type of globalization. For example,  Western history contains thousands of years of religious war and conflicts, but there are  few religious wars in Chinese history. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism formed an inclusive relationship. Chinese religions have a great tradition of non-politicization, which provides a valuable traditional foundation to handle today’s global governance, relationships between different civilizations, and religious extremism. There were almost no trade wars in Chinese history, which means that China embraces economic globalization based on its historical genes. There were almost no racial wars in Chinese history, which means that the Chinese people are more respectful of other peoples and other countries.

All this means that China can provide public goods for the world from a more neutral position (with no political, territorial, racial, or religious agenda behind them) and is more able to uphold justice in international affairs. China’s relationship with Africa is a very good example. In the past, the flights between African countries were mostly for transit to the European countries. This African aviation order was the result of the legacy of the self-centered European colonial system. China (is different. It) is helping African countries build an intra-African modern transportation network, including a highway system, high-speed train systems, and a regional aviation network. The rumors that Western media spread, that China is engaged in colonialism in Africa are therefore self-defeating.

China’s super rich cultural heritage, including many Chinese ideas based on the intertwining of traditional Chinese culture and the China model, such as populism, harmony with differences, and win-win cooperation, has become the core concept that leads the “One Belt One Road” initiative. The people-oriented populism means that “One Belt One Road” attaches great importance to improving people’s livelihoods. Politics must lead to the improvement of all aspects of people’s livelihoods. The term “To get rich, one must first build a road” which the “One Belt One Road” initiative advocates is from the principle and practice of Chinese populism. Harmony with differences means that, in the process of building “One Belt One Road,” one must respect different civilizations, cultural traditions, and institutional systems. Every country has its own strengths and weaknesses. To learn from each other is the right way. In this sense, “One Belt One Road” promotes civilized dialogues, people to people contacts, and communications and connections instead of the replacement of different development plans. So “One Belt One Road” represents the future direction of international cooperation.

In short, the “One Belt One Road” initiative is changing the world. It is creating and leading a new type of globalization. It is truly bringing well-being to the Chinese people and the people of the world. In this sense, the rising China is making an increasing contribution to mankind.


{1} DW News, “The One Belt One Road Initiative: An Unprecedented Change to the World in the Past One Thousand Years,” May 15, 2017.