HO Chi-ping, Patrick


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We live in an increasingly thriving world. Standards of living have been improving almost everywhere.  Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, becoming members of societies that are increasingly diverse and inclusive. Human ingenuity, technological advancement, and open markets have given us a world of increasing abundance.

We have made remarkable gains over the course of the last century, and economic measurements evidence this progress. Our increasing prosperity shows us that there are, in fact, enough resources to go around for all of us, including our children.

Looking around the world today, however, we must also acknowledge serious challenges.


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Despite the impressive economic growth of recent decades, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty, in conditions that are a far cry from those of the most developed countries. As many as 2.8 billion people lack access to modern energy services. 800 million people remain chronically undernourished. Hundreds of millions still have no access to regular supplies of clean water, while billions live without basic sanitation facilities.

On the other side of the globe, one third of the food produced globally for human consumption – 1.3 billion tons per year – is wasted. Developed countries produce dozens and even hundreds of times the emissions per capita and consumption footprints of developing countries. The United States, for example, consumes up to 25% of the world’s energy, even though it comprises less than 5% of the world’s population. In 2013, the top 85 multi-billionaires had amassed wealth equivalent to that of the poorest half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people.


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The top ten percent of earners in most advanced economies have fared exceedingly well, while the bottom ten percent have continued to fall further behind.

These trends repeat themselves not just globally, but also within nations and within cities. Even where there is healthy GDP growth, wealth accumulates primarily at the top. In the United States, despite a doubling of GDP over 30 years, income for low-skilled workers has stagnated.


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The pie has grown bigger, but it is increasingly portioned unfairly: across the globe, across generations, and within nations. This unfair distribution of abundant resources has real and significant consequences. Those who have been left behind, finding no recourse to address systematic unfairness within society, resort to extreme measures to make their voice heard. Ultimately, everyone is harmed by inequality.

What is the origin of these challenges, and how can they be addressed?

These interconnected challenges can be traced back to a broken system of economic development. Since the last millennium, the world’s international order has largely been dictated by the disposition of natural resources. Many of the challenges we face today still stem from a zero-sum game of capturing resources for the security and interest of individual countries.


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Countries appraising their national security will naturally seek to secure strategic commodities for their internal development, and this concern is only heightened when growth exceeds the local supply of available resources. When confronted with this situation, countries have traditionally expanded their territories overseas, looking for new markets and increased access to resources. And colonialism is born.

For most of human history, this involved violence, slaves, colonies, and war – with some countries soliciting alliances and annexing territories in the name of religion, civilization, and progress, and others blatantly plunder in search of spoil. Empires and imperialism reigned.


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Things changed after the two World Wars, when imperialism and colonialism gave ways to democracy and human rights, the answer emerged as “globalization”. This new strategy for economic development came to center stage as the default for nations seeking a place at the table of influence.

Globalization deploys capital and investments, trade and goods, people and services, and information across national barriers, as well as the reorganization of these entities, to maximize profits. It has proven to be a very effective scheme for amassing great fortune, and it has accelerated growth in the global economy. And its success is driven by greed, and an insatiable appetite for wealth and growth at the expense of everything else.


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Free trade has, however, also come with its share of disadvantages. Most notably, it has disproportionately benefited the capitalist class, while leaving lower-skilled workers struggling to make ends meet. This inequality has not only become a source of social strife and resentment but also a real obstacle to continued economic growth.

In the developed world, workers now rail against free trade, vilifying offshore workers and foreign investors rather than failing or absent redistribution policies at home.


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In the developing world, a failure to share the fruits of progress has resulted in even greater hopelessness and despair. The absence of a future to look forward to, coupled with economic and political uncertainty, has given birth to violent extremism. Today’s youth, in particular, are resorting to desperate measures and joining extremist groups.

In either case, the end result is conflict, discord, and instability, within and among nations – all of which tragically have undercut and undermined the drivers of human progress.


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Today, globalization is a system in crisis.

The combination of economic downturn, disintegrating social cohesion due to inequality, and environmental woes, have all together led to increasing recognition, around the world, that globalization is a broken system – no longer able to effectively and sustainably advance human progress. An exclusive focus on profits and economic efficiency has failed to translate into an actual well-being of individuals and society. Too many have been left behind.

Our world is now desperately searching for a new model of growth that can replace globalization – one that is inclusive, far-sighted, holistic, and ready to address the challenges of the 21st century. We yearn for a new system that will, in one go, address global and local inequality, and which will bring people together, creating a common identity through a shared narrative of progress.

 China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative (BRI) is an answer to this need.


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If we aspire to live on this planet happily and peacefully, we must shift towards a more sustainable and inclusive model of development. And those of us on Earth today must share and utilize resources responsibly and sparingly, so that we can grow and develop together. This is the only way that we can achieve long-lasting, peaceful development.

In today’s world, it is not possible for one country alone, or one section of society alone, to have and hold all wealth and enjoy the fruits of prosperity. This only leads to resentment from neighbors, who rightfully seek their own path to fulfillment. Inequality leads only to insecurity and instability, ultimately harming both those who have too much, and those who have too little.


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What we need today, instead, is a strategy for development anchored in a principle of inclusiveness and sharing. By sharing growth, and securing one another’s growth, we can ensure development that is long lasting and sustainable.

Ever since the “reform and opening up” initiated in 1978, China has pursued rapid development by embracing the open market economy. The country’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 ushered in a spell of rocketing development. By 2015, China’s GDP had multiplied seven-fold since 2000, and 184-fold since 1978. It is now the second largest economic aggregate in the world, after the United States.


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But economic prosperity in China, too, came with a heavy toll on the environment and on income equality. With rising wages and escalating land premiums, and renewed public concern for social justice, inequality, and the environment, China has now reached a bottleneck in economic development, just like other maturing economies.

Facing these costs and challenges, China has realized that the current approach to economic growth, with its exclusive focus on profits and returns, is unsustainable. The country understands that only a new mode of growth and development will be able to address fundamental issues such as its inequality, lack of natural resources, and excess manufacturing capacities in one go.


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History is full of stories of nations that have opted for colonization or war as answers to faltering growth. China will do neither. It has chosen a third pathway, a road of peaceful co-development driven by a strategy of sharing with its neighbors, and founded on the principles of goodwill, sharing, inclusiveness, and people-to-people exchange.

Unlike traditional models of economic development, the BRI is about connecting countries and peoples, accommodating differences, embracing diversity, realizing potential, and enabling various goals and prospects.

This is a radical change from business-as-usual under the model of globalization. Under the BRI, if China has excess capacity and a surplus of funds, it will not leverage them to gain further economic advantages against neighbors. Instead, the country’s surpluses will be shared. By helping neighbors grow, and making them into friends that are just as developed as herself, China recognizes that it too will in turn become more stable, more secure, and more prosperous.


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The initiative is guided by a desire to build communities and bring people in, to see others prosper and succeed – just as China has in recent decades. Most of all, it recognizes the potential of everyday people to drive economic growth and serve as a glue for better relations.

This model, which promotes common experience, will ultimately lead to relationships that are meaningful and long lasting, based on a sense of community rather than competition. In so doing, the BRI addresses not only economic challenges, but also cultural and social ones – promoting values of sharing and solidarity with all people. The BRI strengthens the foundations for peace.

The process is kick-started by government organizations only at the beginning. The true materialization of the BRI’s grand vision, however, revolves around people.


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The first Silk Roads were founded on the interactions of ordinary people across Eurasia, who connected the East and West through dialogue, exchange, and trade. The BRI, too, will rely on people-to-people networks with neighboring countries, which will be mobilized to forge steadfast bonding and enhance trade.

Business, academic, and social institutions, including cultural and youth organizations, will be key elements of the BRI. Tourism, too, will be promoted to enhance the sharing of heritage, traditions, and lifestyles, so as to fortify a common experience among peoples.


BRI is a Grand Vision

Finally, unlike other regional cooperation projects which have a fixed policy agenda and set mechanism, the BRI is but a grand vision, providing infinite room for creative solutions and possibilities in implementation.


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The BRI is ambitious and farsighted, but at the same time also flexible, accommodating and adaptable to new conditions and challenges. It provides an overarching theme and umbrella under which any form of cooperation can be made possible. Governments, businesses, think-tanks, and people can contribute continuously to the initiative, adding to its interpretation, enriching its content, and exploring alternative facets to further cooperation and share benefits.

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

The BRI is visionary strategy for sustainable growth and development that is inclusive of all mankind. It is not just for China, but a model for all countries and all peoples. Motivated by goodwill, China is inviting peoples and countries along the BRI to build a community of shared interest and common destiny – a community where no one is left behind, and where no one has to take second place.


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Ultimately, the BRI is about building roads and bridges, connecting peoples and communities, linking faiths and cultures, joining lifestyles and vocations, and communicating aspirations and imaginations, in one glorious celebration of diversity of values and accommodation with harmony.

Finally, the BRI is a global challenge, calling for global participation. Through this Initiative, China is sending out a most sincere message, loud and clear, of collaboration and partnership to all our friends and foes from near and afar, to work together to find solutions for sustainable growth for all of humanity. In sharing, we become better partners in advancing our respective goals and achieving our common dream.


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China invites the world to be part of this vision and commitment. We want you to be our partner.

“I hope someday, you will join us, and the world will be as one.”


(This paper is taken from the opening address delivered by the author at the Tenth “Sino-US Dialogue” held at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, USA, organized by The China Energy Fund Committee on 2016-11-17 )

Edited by Fang Fang

Proofread by Wang Yan