NPC deputies mull the 21st century Maritime Silk Road

By Zhang Lulu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 12, 2014
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Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a 21st century Maritime Silk Road during his visit to Indonesia last October. A month later, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China pledged to build the new Maritime Silk Road. This was echoed again by China's Premier Li Keqiang in his work report delivered at the Second Session of the Twelfth National People's Congress (NPC) on March 5 this year.

The rejuvenation of the Maritime Silk Road has drawn widespread attention since last October, and many NPC deputies have handed in relevant motions and proposals during the Second Session of the Twelfth National People's Congress.

Trade and economic cooperation

China had a total trade volume of more than US$690 billion with nations on the Maritime Silk Road in 2012, accounting for 17.9 percent of its foreign trade, according to data released by China's Ministry of Commerce.

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, an important juncture on the Maritime Silk Road, had a trade volume of US$15.915 billion with ASEAN nations in 2013, and ASEAN countries have been the largest trade partner of Guangxi for 14 years.

Deputies from Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan and other coastal provinces also proposed taking the opportunity to further expand their trade and economic cooperation with other nations on the Maritime Silk Road.

People-to-people, cultural, and academic cooperation

Besides an economic platform, the 21st century Maritime Silk Road will also facilitate people-to-people, cultural, and academic cooperation in the area.

Provinces on the Maritime Silk Road have rich connections with southeastern Asian countries. Take Guangdong Province for example. Guangdong descendents comprise 79 percent of Thai Chinese, 49 percent of Indonesian Chinese, 57 percent of Malaysian Chinese, and 45 percent of the Singaporean Chinese, according to Xiang Xiaomei, a NPC deputy and director of the Institute of Industrial Economy at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences. These overseas Chinese will not only bridge the economic cooperation between China and other Asian nations, but also promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

Jiao Nianzhi, a NPC Deputy and expert in oceanology, has cooperated for a long time with researchers from the nations along the Maritime Silk Road. "Scientists conduct joint research in these sea areas, which helps strengthen China's relations with other nations, and helps to boost academic cooperation in the area."

Marine environment protection

Marine environment protection is also on the agenda of building the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.

Jiangsu Province, located on the intersection of the Silk Road economic belt and the new Maritime Silk Road, has paid great attention to its marine environment.

"Jiangsu takes marine environment protection seriously when developing coastal areas. We have rules that at least 20 percent of the land newly claimed from sea should be protected, industrial land use should be less than 20 percent, and other land should be used for eco-friendly means." said Chen Mengmeng, a NPC deputy and head of the Environmental Protection Department of Jiangsu Province.

Besides Jiangsu, other coastal provinces have also pledged to protect the marine environment in their strategy plan of building the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.

Win-win cooperation

Some have cast doubts on China's initiative of building the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, fearing that it is an attempt to beef up China's presence in the southeastern Asian nations.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a press conference on March 8 that the core of the Silk Road is "peace, friendship, openness, and inclusiveness", and it aims to "deliver benefits to all and build a community of shared interests".

Deputy Xiang Xiaomei said China should let the market play its full role and substantiate the initiative step by step, as nations on the Maritime Silk Road differ in economy, culture and religion. Xiang also suggests China first carry out some programs that already yield mutual benefits. "We are aiming for interaction and win-win cooperation," Xiang said.

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