'Green Silk Road,' new engine for world sustainable development

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The ancient Silk Road once connected the East and West by traversing through desert. Two thousand years later, countries along the road are striving to revive the path together, but in a "green" way.

At the ongoing annual conference of the Eco Forum Global held in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, former or current leaders and experts from around the world agreed the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt should not repeat history by pursuing development at the cost of the environment.

Historical lessons

"The ancient kingdom of Loulan has been buried in desert, and historic towns and architecture have fallen into ruins. We must learn lessons from history and never make the same mistake," said Dai Bingguo, former Chinese state councillor.

Loulan, also called Kroraina, was one of the pivotal stops along the Silk Road, located in what is now northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It gradually became a wild desert region around the 3rd Century A.D.

Dai said the Chinese government is drafting a plan to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, emphasizing construction of an "ecological civilization."

Last year, President Xi Jinping proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road during his visits to Kazakhstan in September and Indonesia in October, and was echoed by many other governments.

As most of the countries involved are developing countries, a key issue is balancing development and environmental protection, he said.

Because of rapid industrialization and urbanization, countries like China are facing growing pressure from the environment. Chinese people increasingly complain about smoggy weather, polluted water and chemical projects that may threaten their living environment.

"Apart from peace, security, development and job security, most of the countries along the Silk Road have agreed that the common goal of sound ecology is equally important," Dai said, adding the common goal is expected to promote international cooperation on environmental protection, he said.

Two thousand years ago, Zhang Qian, a diplomat of the Han Dynasty, was dispatched as envoy to the Western Regions, or today's central and west Asia, which later contributed to the exploration of the Silk Road. Six hundred years ago, Zheng He, a noted navigator of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was sent overseas as envoy at the head of a large fleet on seven voyages, the longest of which took him to the equator on the eastern African coast. Both of their trips greatly boosted cultural and economic exchange and development between China and other countries, contributing to world civilization and progress.

Unlike Western navigators, whose voyages ended up in colonization, Zheng He and his crew members strengthened trade development with other countries based on China's culture of unity and moderation, said former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.


The world's population is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025, and human consumption of resources, material and energy is sure to grow. Under such circumstances, protecting the environment with limited natural resources while trying to solve poverty has become one of the world's most pressing challenges, according to Rudd.

China, with its deep-rooted philosophy of harmony and moderation, will help tackle global challenges by joining hands with other countries in unity, he said.

"The central concept of the Silk Road is contacts, connectivity and communications," he said, indicating that mutual understanding and communication are vital for countries involved in the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Despite various challenges, the pursuit of green growth has also provided opportunities for Silk Road countries, which have a combined population of 3 billion, including jobs and business potential.

Construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt could release huge economic potential and, with environmental protection measures, become a new engine for China and the world's sustainable development, said former Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said properly handling the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection is "the very foundation" to tackle global environmental challenges.

Tu Xinquan, deputy head of the China Institute for WTO Studies at the University of International Business and Economics, said when China proposed the new Silk Road belt and maritime Silk Road, it had no intentions of pressing open any market.

"Instead, it draws upon the lessons in history and its own experiences in hopes of blazing a win-win path through sharing knowledge and collaborating with developing countries," he said.

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