The “New Silk Road”: an original idea for cooperation between China and Central Asia
The Chinese Social Sciences Forum--3rd Central Asia Forum was held in Beijing on the 23rd and 24th of October, under the theme of “China and Central Asia: a new start and a new impetus”. Hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and organized by the Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies, CASS, the forum focused mainly on such topics as the Current Situation of Central Asia, relations between China and Central Asia and cooperation in Central Asian regions under a multilateral framework. Li Peilin, the Vice President of CASS, attended the opening ceremony and delivered a speech.
Li noted in his address that the central government has launched a series of measures since this March, one of which is to attach more importance to the relationship with neighboring countries as well as the multilateral arena. He noted that President Xi Jinping delivered a series of important speeches on relations between China and the Central Asian countries, further stressing the strategic position these countries occupy within China’s diplomatic policy, during his visit to four of the Central Asian states and when he attended the leaders’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this September.
Li Peilin stressed that this year, the “partnership” between China and three countries including Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan has been promoted to the level of a “strategic partnership”. He added that in fact the five countries of Central Asia have all become strategic partners of China at present, and the relations between China and the Central Asian countries have entered a new historic stage. Li pointed out that the relationship between China and Central Asia is both an example of how to model a relationship with neighboring countries and also a model for regional international cooperation. The “Shanghai Spirit” and its practice, which were jointly created by the two sides, have proved that “mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, cooperation, the respect of different civilizations and seeking common development” is the best way to enhance international cooperation, added Li.
Li also pointed out that in recent years, each country in Central Asia has steadily implemented its own middle and long-term development strategy, with a favorable development trend marked on the whole by political stability, high-speed economic growth and constant improvement of the people’s welfare. But meanwhile, Li added, many problems still exist in the Central Asian region, including non-traditional security threats, the uncertain prospects of Afghanistan and the lingering impact of the international financial crisis. Li expressed his hope that the experts and scholars present would actively discuss ways to resolve these issues in the forum, upgrading the friendly relations between China and Central Asia to a newer level and making contributions to the peaceful development of China and Central Asia.
The proposal of building a “Silk Road economic belt”, put forward by President Xi Jinping at the 13th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek on the 13th of September, has attracted much attention in the regional countries and triggered heated debate in academia.
As Li Yongquan, Director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies, CASS, explained during the forum: “the ‘Silk Road economic belt’ represents bold strategic thinking which is both fresh and feasible and can benefit all sides. It is an effective means of ‘achieving benefit and avoiding damage’ through regional cooperation with the global economic downturn and the process of globalization in the background. The “belt” also represents a vision of extensive cooperation which can go beyond the area covered by the SCO member countries”.
The specific suggestions given by President Xi Jinping for developing the “Silk Road economic belt”, which include “strengthening policy communication, improving road connectivity, promoting trade facilitation, enhancing monetary circulation and strengthening people-to-people exchanges” are recognized by scholars as innovative ideas which can deepen the friendly relations between China and Central Asian countries.
The proposal for a Silk Road economic belt brings with it another innovation, the concept of a “community of interests”. claimed Zhao Changqing, Deputy Director of the Euro-Asian Social Development Research Institute of the Development Research Center of the State Council. He opined that China and Central Asia are both faced with lots of similar pressures, challenges and threats in the fields of politics, economy and security, so they are fit to strengthen cooperation within the framework of a “community of interests”.
Li Jinfeng, Party Secretary of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies, CASS, hosted the opening ceremony. The forum was attended by scholars from the relevant national ministries and research institutions and universities of China and the Central Asian countries, as well as delegates from the embassies of those countries in China.
Translated by Yu Hui
Revised by Gabriele Corsetti