Speech on the Belt and Road Initiative by Ambassador Qu Zhe
2015/04/13

Distinguished faculty and students,

Good afternoon!

It is my great pleasure to visit the Estonian School of Diplomacy. First of all, let me thank Director Ekke Nõmm for the kind invitation. The moment I stepped into the premises, seeing all these young promising diplomats, specialists and civil servants, I immediately felt your passion -- vigorously enough to learn everything and get prepared for your career. I have to admit that it is always to be good to stay with young folks like you as you make me feel young again. Today, I'd like to talk about the Belt and Road initiative.

Many of you may ask what the Belt and Road initiative is. Well, to begin with, I have to take you back to 2000 years ago and tell stories behind the initiative. More than two millennia ago, people of Eurasia explored and opened up several land routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked the major civilizations of Asia, Europe and Africa. The land passages started from central China, passing through countries in Central and Western Asia, and finished in Europe. These land routes are collectively called the Silk Road by later generations. Like the trade routes overland, the ancient maritime Silk Road, connecting the coastal area of China and Europe via South China Sea and Indian Ocean, also played an essential role in promoting trade and culture exchanges between the east and the west. It was an extension of the ancient Silk Road and the oldest maritime trade route in the world. The ancient Silk Road and the maritime Silk Road played a significant role in promoting trade and culture exchanges between the east and the west.

For thousands of years, the Silk Road Spirit – "peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit" – has been passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilization, and contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of the countries along the Silk Road. Symbolizing communication and cooperation between the East and the West, the Silk Road Spirit is a historic and cultural heritage shared by all countries around the world and ought to be carried forward.

The Belt and Road initiative is the inheritance and development of the ancient land and maritime Silk Road. In 2013, during his visit to Kazakhstan and Indonesia, Chinese president Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China's coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China's coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other. The Belt and Road initiative covers five areas-policy communication, road connectivity, unimpeded trade, money circulation and understanding between peoples. Connecting the Asian-Pacific economic circle in the east and the developed European economy circle in the west, the Belt and Road is thought to be the longest economic corridor with the greatest potential in the world.

Some of you may wonder why we put forward the initiative. Well, it is not difficult to get a clue from the development momentum of today's world. First of all, the Belt and Road initiative answers the call of our time. We are now in a globalized world. The economic integration is accelerating and regional cooperation is on the upswing, but global economy remains in a period of profound adjustment, with risks of low growth, low inflation and low demand interwoven with risks of high unemployment, high debt and high level of bubbles. The performance and policies of major economies continue to diverge, and uncertainties in the economic climate remain prominent. The Belt and Road initiative will promote free flow of economic factors, 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 initiative is a positive endeavor to seek new models of international cooperation and global governance.

Second, with more than thirty years of unprecedented development, China has made outstanding economic achievements – it is now the second largest economy and the largest trading nation in the world. Nevertheless, China's economy has entered a state of new normal, changing gear from high speed to medium-to-high speed growth. China has given greater priority to shifting from an extensive model that emphasized scale and speed to a more intensive one emphasizing quality and efficiency, and from being driven by investment in production factors to being driven by innovation. In order to be responsive to the new trend and shape the new normal in our favor, we have to make more solid efforts to boost economic development and deepen reform and opening-up. The Belt and Road initiative is conducive to building a new pattern of all-round opening-up and integrating China deeper into the world economic system.

Third, the Belt and Road initiative is in the fundamental interests of countries in Eurasia. If implemented, it will improve the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas. The connectivity projects will help align and coordinate the development programs of the countries along the Belt and Road, tap market potential in this region, promote investment and consumption, create demands and job opportunities, and enhance people-to-people exchanges.

In a word, jointly building the Belt and Road came to the forefront at a time when China is restructuring its economy and the world economic situation has met tremendous uncertainties. The initiative is the very concrete reflection of China's peaceful diplomacy that features in peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit. As China is getting better-off and becomes the powerhouse of global economy, it is willing to take more international responsibilities and share its dividend of growth with other countries.

The Belt and Road initiative is a tremendous undertaking. Some people may have doubts if the initiative can be successfully implemented. It is fair to say that the Belt and Road initiative is a systematic project, which needs all parties involved to coordinate and align their development programs so as to achieve common prosperity. The initiative is ambitious, but let me be clear: The Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive project, not exclusive. It covers, but is not limited to, the area of the ancient Silk Road. It is open to all countries, and international and regional organizations for engagement, so that the results of the concerted efforts will benefit wider areas. It advocates tolerance among civilizations, respects the paths and modes of development chosen by different countries, and supports dialogues among different civilizations so that all countries can coexist in peace for common prosperity. The Initiative follows market operation and will abide by market rules and international norms. It will also accommodate the interests and concerns of all parties involved, and seek a conjunction of interests and the "biggest common denominator".

As the Chinese president Xi Jinping once put it: "They will be a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo for China itself." China will follow the principle of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. We are ready to join other countries to substantiate and improve the content and mode of the Belt and Road cooperation, work out relevant timetables and roadmaps, and align national development programs and regional cooperation plans. China will work with countries along the Belt and Road to advance demonstration projects, jointly identify programs that accommodate bilateral and multilateral interests, and accelerate the launching of programs that are agreed upon by parties and ready for implementation, so as to ensure early harvest.

Since the inception of the initiative in 2013, the Chinese government has made significant efforts to implement it. In just a little over a year, Chinese leaders have met a number of leaders from other countries and reached wide consensus. We have already signed MOUs on the joint development of the Belt and Road with some countries. China has promoted quite a few key cooperation projects in the fields of infrastructure connectivity, industrial investment, resource development, economic and trade cooperation, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges where the conditions are right. Many international seminars and expositions have been organized. Substantive progress has been made in the establishment of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. The Silk Road fund and China-ASEAN maritime cooperation fund were created. They will provide strong investment and financial support to various projects under the initiative.

Last month, the Chinese government issued the "Vision and Action on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road", elaborating details on implementation of the Belt and Road initiative from eight aspects. It will serve as a White Paper and guideline for the implementation of the initiative. For more information on this paper, you may visit the website of the Embassy.

The initiative is a great plan. As the Chinese Ambassador to Estonia, I am always thinking about how Estonia can get a slice of the pie and how this initiative can put new impetus to our bilateral relations. China-Estonia relation is now at a new stage, and both sides have made encouraging progress in many areas. Bilateral trade has witnessed steady growth over the years and reached one billion benchmark a couple of years ago. Cooperation under the framework of China and Central and Eastern European countries also goes on very well. Both countries have strong will of further developing our relations.

Estonia, standing at the crossroad of north east Europe and having access to the EU and Nordic markets, enjoys a good geographical position. For many years, Estonian government has strived to upgrade its infrastructure. At the moment, Estonia is working closely with Latvia, Lithuania and the EU to carry out the Rail Baltic project, which will bring regional connectivity and integration to another level. This program echoes the Belt and Road initiative exactly. Last December, during his meeting with the Chinese Premier, Prime Minister Taavi Roivas showed great interest in participating in the Belt and Road initiative. In this sense, the development strategy of China and Estonia can align and accommodate one another through the joint construction of the Belt and Road.

I was told the study group here consists of young diplomats, specialist and civil servants from 11 different nationalities. Many of you are from countries where the Belt and Road may pass through in the future. I do hope my presentation on the Belt and Road will help you to better understand the initiative and China's foreign policy in a whole. It is also my best wish that you will make most of your time in ESD to get yourself prepared for the future.

Thank you very much!

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