Address by H.E. Xi Jinping
President of the People's Republic of China at
Dialogue on Strengthening Connectivity Partnership
Beijing, 8 November 2014
Your Excellency President Abdul Hamid,
Your Excellency President Choummaly Sayasone,
Your Excellency President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj,
Your Excellency President U Thein Sein,
Your Excellency President Emomali Rahmon,
Your Excellency Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen,
Your Excellency Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking all of you for coming to Beijing for this Dialogue on Strengthening Connectivity Partnership. It is a vivid testimony to the deep friendship and cooperation existing in our relations and an expression of your important support to China's hosting of the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.
"Friends and neighbors become closer when they visit each other more often." Meeting face-to-face and exchanging views among neighboring countries on major issues is all the more necessary. China, as this year's host of the APEC summit, has made Asia-Pacific connectivity one of the topics of the meeting. Given the importance of the issue and the fact that many Asian countries and relevant international organizations are interested and eager to get involved in the discussions, we have decided to have this meeting after consulting with relevant parties so that we can discuss together how we can best advance development in Asia.
You might have heard of a Chinese fable describing an old man trying to remove the mountains. Thousands of years ago, there was an elderly named Yu Gong, meaning Foolish Old Man, who lived in a remote village surrounded by high mountains. He resolved to remove the two mountains obstructing his access to the outside world. Relatives and neighbors all cautioned him against the idea, but Yu Gong was undeterred and continued with the job with his children and grand-children day in and day out. He said that the mountains would not grow any bigger or higher but people would have children and there would be no end of their posterity. So long as people persevere, there will be a day when the mountains are removed. Yu Gong's perseverance had the Heavenly God moved. With the joint efforts of man and God, the mountains are removed and connectivity of Yu Gong's village with the outside world realized.
Connectivity has been a yearning of mankind since ancient times. Our ancestors braved extremely harsh conditions to create wonders of connectivity. The Silk Road was just a case in point, giving the Asian peoples the well-deserved title of connectivity pioneers.
As humanity moves forward, our society is progressing. At present, with the impact of the international financial crisis lingering, global economic growth and trade have both slowed down. At the same time, a new round of industrial and technological revolution is poised to take off, free trade arrangements at the regional level are cropping up one after another, and structural adjustment, reform and innovation are becoming a prevailing trend of the world. Against such a backdrop, Asian countries ought to redouble their efforts to build on their traditional strengths in resources, manufacturing capacity, savings and as the world's workshop and acquire new strengths in value-added, innovation, investment and market, with a view to cultivating together new growth areas and new competitive edges. In achieving all these goals, connectivity holds a key link.
The connectivity we talk about today is not merely about building roads and bridges or making linear connection of different places on surface. More importantly, it should be a three-way combination of infrastructure, institutions and people-to-people exchanges and a five-way progress in policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, trade link, capital flow, and understanding among peoples. It is a wide-ranging, multi-dimensional, vibrant and open connectivity network that pools talent and resources from all stakeholders.
Asia faces both opportunities and difficulties in connectivity development. The challenges come from diversity of systems and laws in various countries, the divergent needs and requirements among stakeholders, and the less than satisfactory coordination among the existing mechanisms. The issue of funding stands out as the most challenging. According to an Asian Development Bank estimate, Asia as a whole needs as much as 730 billion US dollars per year in infrastructure investment before 2020. To address these and other problems, the efforts by a single or several countries are far from adequate. Only by building extensive partnerships where all will think and work in unison, can we expect to achieve positive results.
– We need to achieve a coordinated development of Asian countries. Asian countries attach great importance to connectivity and many of them have worked out national plans of infrastructure development. It is time that we integrate such national strategies and plans, identify the priority areas and projects, and pool together our resources for coordinated progress in implementation. This will help bring down the logistic costs, create demand and employment, give play to our comparative and latecomer advantages, secure favorable position in the global supply chain, industrial chain and value chain, raise our comprehensive competitiveness and usher in a new situation in Asian development characterized by a robust, sustainable and balanced growth. Asian countries are just like a cluster of bright lanterns. Only when we link them together, can we light up the night sky in our continent.
– We need to build a more open economy in Asia. Facing the trend of the times toward multipolarity, economic globalization, cultural diversity and increased IT application, no country can expect to develop itself behind closed doors. Seclusion will lead to nowhere. A country can only develop by staying open to the outside world. Asian countries should follow open regionalism, refrain from forming exclusive blocs or targeting against third countries and prod countries both within and without the region to make the best of their capabilities, complement the advantages of one another and share their gains together. Countries sharing common borders need to be more open to each other, as evidenced by negotiating and signing transport, trade and investment facilitation agreements, connecting their cross-border infrastructure and coordinating and aligning their regulations in various areas.
It is imperative to resolve through consultation such issues as institutions, policies and standards that affect connectivity so as to reduce the costs and time required for cross-border flows of people, goods and capital. We need to carry out cooperation in mutual information sharing, mutual oversight recognition and mutual law-enforcement assistance in customs procedures, expedite the establishment of "single windows" in border ports and extend the practice of juxtaposed border control according to which travelers are able to go through both exit and entry procedures in the same checkpoint. The openness must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the relevant countries, accommodate their comfort levels and refrain from imposing one's views on others or interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. The openness should follow an incremental approach, addressing the easier issues before tackling the more difficult ones, making pilot projects to bring about greater progress across the board, and achieving success by accumulating little gains step by step. In this way, we can expect the Asian economy to move steadily forward on the path for greater openness and the Asian countries to strengthen their strategic mutual trust amid the process.
– We need to realize the Asian people's dream for happiness. Each new transport route carries on it people's dream for happiness. In stepping up connectivity in Asia, we will open more windows for the people to observe the world, pursue their dreams and broaden their path to move from poverty to prosperity. In considering and planning connectivity projects, we should always put people first, heed the views of the people at the grassroots, ensure a higher income for them and earnestly address such practical problems facing them as electricity, drinking water, medical care, schooling, employment and access to the Internet. At the same time, we must protect the environment and eco-system, so that countries will stay both prosperous and beautiful.
We need to draw our peoples closer to one another for exchanges of ideas and inter-cultural dialogue through connectivity development in Asia, so that they will meet and learn about each other, trust and respect each other, create a harmonious and peaceful life for their common enjoyment and jointly pursue an Asian dream of peace, prosperity and progress.
– We need to create a platform of cooperation of Asian characteristics. Much pioneering and fundamental work has been done by the relevant international and regional organizations on Asian connectivity, and important results have been achieved. We deeply cherish and appreciate their efforts. I hope that the various mechanisms will join the Asian countries planting their feet solidly on Asian realities and forming a synergy through effective coordination. In view of the changing circumstances, we also need to consider creating new institutions and mechanisms.
Last month, over 20 Asian countries signed in Beijing the inter-governmental MOU on the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This is an important breakthrough in Asian financial cooperation. As a useful supplement to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other financial institutions, the AIIB will play a significant role in connectivity development in Asia.
Last autumn, I offered on behalf of the Chinese government an initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which has been positively received by the international community and, in particular, the leaders present here. The "Belt and Road" initiative and the connectivity endeavor are compatible and mutually reinforcing. If the "Belt and Road" are likened to the two wings of a soaring Asia, then connectivity is like their arteries and veins. With the initiative now entering into a stage of practical cooperation, I wish to propose the following for enhanced cooperation:
First, we should strive to realize Asia's connectivity first by making Asian countries our priority. The "Belt and Road" trace their origin to Asia. They find support in Asia and bring benefit to Asia. It is natural that we focus our attention on connectivity of Asian countries and strive to expand their common interests. The "Belt and Road" initiative represents a joint undertaking by China and its Asian neighbors. China gives top priority to countries in the neighborhood in its foreign policy and pursues amity, sincerity, mutual-benefit and inclusiveness in growing relations with them. China is ready to provide more public goods to its Asian neighbors through connectivity development and welcomes them to get on board the train of China's development.
Second, we should develop a basic framework of Asian connectivity by making economic corridors the support pillar. The master plan of China's "Belt and Road" initiative has basically taken shape. It includes the ongoing projects of land and maritime economic corridors undertaken on the basis of full communication among the relevant parties. Such a framework accommodates the needs of various countries and covers both land and sea-related projects. It is extensive and inclusive and has far-reaching impacts. China is ready to have further consultations with the relevant countries with a view to improving the blueprint and giving our cooperation a more solid foundation.
Third, we should realize an early harvest in Asian connectivity by making breakthroughs in transport infrastructure development. The Silk Road project is about roads in the first place. With roads in place, people and goods can flow. China attaches great importance to the railway and highway projects linking China to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other neighboring countries. These projects will enjoy priority consideration in the planning and implementation of the "Belt and Road" initiative. The initiative can be attractive and vibrant only when more people can reap early harvest as soon as possible.
Fourth, we should break the bottleneck in Asian connectivity by building a financing platform. Most Asian countries are developing countries facing a shortage of funding for construction. What is important is to use what is available effectively and spend the increment wisely so that the precious financial resources will be used more on the most worthy projects. Here, I would like to announce that China has decided to commit 40 billion US dollars to the establishment of a Silk Road Fund. This new fund is designed to provide investment and financing support for countries along the "Belt and Road" to carry out infrastructure, resources, industrial cooperation, financial cooperation and other projects related to connectivity. The Silk Road Fund is an open fund which allows establishment of subsidiaries based on regions, sectors or project types. We look forward to active participation by investors from both within and outside of Asia.
Fifth, we should strengthen the social foundation for Asian connectivity by promoting people-to-people exchanges. China supports inter-civilization and inter-faith dialogue, welcomes cultural and people-to-people exchanges among all countries, stands in favor of joint application for World Cultural Heritage status by all countries along the ancient Silk Road, and encourages more subnational cooperation between China and other Asian countries. Asia boasts rich tourism resources. As our citizens make trips abroad in increasing numbers, we should incorporate the Silk Road into our tourism products and combine our tourism cooperation with connectivity development. Connectivity calls for training a great number of talents and professionals. In the coming five years, China will provide the neighboring countries with up to 20,000 training opportunities for connectivity professionals in support of their efforts to develop their own experts. China is also ready to send more students and scholars to neighboring countries for study and academic exchanges.
A Chinese proverb says that people who cherish the same ideals follow the same path. Let us aspire for the high and grand while planting our feet firmly on the ground, deepen our connectivity partnership, upgrade Asia's regional cooperation and work together to build a community of common development and shared destiny.