HO Chi-Ping, Patrick (何志平)

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Exactly 10 years ago, in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward his strategic vision known shortly as the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI). It is a new model of connectivity among peoples.

However, connectivity is “not merely about building roads and bridges, high speed railroads, oil and gas pipelines, electric power lines, fiber optics; or making linear connection of different places on surface. More importantly, it should be a three-dimensional combination of infrastructure, institutions and people-to-people exchanges and a five-way multi-faceted progress in policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, trade link, capital flow, and understanding among peoples”, and may be even more! And should be so!


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What are the characteristics of this Belt and Road initiative? Looking back in history, we can learn from the ancient silk roads that there were three.


People-to-people – The Heart of the New Silk Roads

Perhaps “people” is the most central element. Why is this new initiative for regional cooperation named as the “Belt” and “Road” instead of the “Group” and “Plan”? like the G7 and the Marshall Plan?

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The answer is “people”. The new initiative is not just a government-to-government (G2G) platform, but people-to-people (P2P) exchanges. True, the process is underpinned by government bodies. But the materialization of this grand vision revolves around people. And it was the many ordinary people across the continent that actually connected the East and the West by interactions, exchanges and trade. Diasporas in the neighboring countries could all be mobilized to forge steadfast bonding with the people of all countries


Good Will – The Spirit of the New Silk Roads

The second characteristic of this new model of connectivity is “good will”.

This initiative is open to all countries and peoples interested in being connected for mutual development, regardless of their forms of government, cultural and religious backgrounds, or geographic location.

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“Common development” was once the super glue which bonded different countries along the ancient Silk Roads together, and “equal footage” is what made this “win-win” situation possible. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, black, white, yellow peoples were benefited equally from trades and exchanges along the Silk Roads.

Western media often refer to the recent rise of China as threats. Indeed, in the last 5,000 years, the Chinese has recorded at least four periods of prosperity, four peaceful rises without colonies or threats.

Whereas Julius Caesar said “I came, I saw, I conquered”, the Chinese said “I came, I saw, I made friends, and I went home”.  Not one battle was fought, not one colony seized, and nobody was enslaved.

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So the new initiative should not be construed as China’s ambition to become a regional hegemon, but China’s “reaching out” offering friendship and peace. More accurately, it is also about China’s “bringing in”. Motivated by good will, China is inviting peoples and countries along the Silk Roads to build a community of shared interest and common destiny, a community in which no one is left behind, and no one has to take second place.

We all have different pasts, but we also have a common future to face.


Unlimited Potential – The Vision of the New Silk Roads

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Yes, the overall vision of the “Belt and Road” initiative is expected to bring about shared economic, cultural and social prosperity. But unlike other regional cooperation projects which have a fixed policy agenda and set mechanism, the “Belt and Road Initiative” is but a grand vision, providing ample and infinite room for creative solutions and possibilities. It is more ambitious and farsighted, and at the same time more flexible, accommodating and adaptable to new conditions and challenges, than the ancient Silk Roads. It provides an overarching theme and umbrella under which all sorts of cooperation can be made possible.

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Simply put, the “Belt and Road Initiative” is neither about seeking for spheres of influence nor striving for hegemony. It is about connecting countries and peoples, accommodating differences, embracing diversities, realizing potentials, and enabling various goals and prospects.

However, mutual understanding is the most difficult task in international cooperation. In fact, it might take hundreds of years for the West to understand what constitutes “China” and “Chinese-ness”.


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For more than 100 years, after being brought to its knees at gun point by the West, China has awakened, realizing that it had to catch up with the Western world. When Deng Xiaoping came into power, with rapid economic advancement, China moved towards a moderately well-off society.


A New Silk Road

Looking back in recent history, Chinese has also knocked on the door of the West at least twice: In the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago, the first Silk Road on land by Zhang Qian offering trades and peace; and in the 15th Century, the second Silk Road at sea championed by Zheng He bringing trades and peace.


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The 21st Century will see us embarking on the third Silk Road. The grand vision of the “Belt and Road”, is the third “Knock” on the door of the West. Indeed, it is a loud bang on our neighbors’ doors.

The two previous Silk Roads traded tea, silk, spices, exotic fruits, jewelry and gold. This 21st Century Silk Road trades for, apart from creative ideas, views and perspectives, traditions and legacies; it trades values. It exchanges kindness. It offers peace.

This modern Silk Road travels neither by sea nor on land, nor goes from one place to another, but travels through the inner workings of the human minds driven by a desire to captivate the advantages of peaceful competition in this globalized world.


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This Silk Road teaches us to learn with mutual respect that despite our different backgrounds and upbringings, there are some fundamental values we all hold dear, some basic principles we all respect and certain core understanding we all embrace.

This Silk Road sees citizens of different cities and countries sharing common aspirations and inviting one another into their dreams that life is celebrated through peaceful pursuits, and our people are enchanted by friendship, enlightened by cultural differences and enriched by social diversity.


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Finally, the “Belt and Road Initiative” is all about building dreams and realizing them. This dream, is not only the dream of 1.4 billion Chinese over 5,000 years, it is also a world dream. The Belt and Road Initiative is a bridge connecting A China Dream with A World Dream.  It is a dream of peace under heaven, and the world as one. This dream belongs to all of us. It belongs to you, and to me.

Edited by Fang Fang

Proofread by  Wang Yan