Envisioning our shared future through CDAC

By Harvey Dzodin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 13, 2019
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A flower arrangement is set up to mark the upcoming Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing, on May 12, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

As time goes by in China's capital, it seems there are more world-class events coming in quicker succession every year. There's never a dull moment here, and in that way it reminds me a little of New York City, where I happily lived for 22 years, running from one event to another. Just take a snapshot of recent and upcoming Beijing events: the fruitful second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, followed by the spectacular opening ceremony of the Beijing Horticultural World Expo, and then there was Art Beijing earlier this month. This week we'll have the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, and as a participant it's one that I look forward to with special anticipation.

The Dialogue was proposed by President Xi Jinping at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia held in Shanghai in 2014. Its two goals are to provide a platform for interactions among young people, local communities and media; and to form a cooperative network among think tanks, such as the Center for China and Globalization, to enhance Asians' rich cultural lives and contribute to vibrant regional development.

This year, the focus will be on exchanges and mutual learning among Asian civilizations, starting with an opening ceremony and six sub-forums. In addition to this food for thought, a festival of Asian food will take place, as well as an Asian cultural carnival and Asian civilization week. Asian state leaders and leaders from other regions and international organizations have been invited, as have representatives from the humanities.

I myself will be speaking at the sub-forum "Sharing Experience on Asian Governance: Pooling the Wisdom of Diverse Civilizations for a Beautiful Asia." Under this there are three engaging topics that should generate some heat, but hopefully lots of light as well: Asian wisdom to promote political advancement, Asian solutions to benefit the people, and Asian community with a shared future. I intend to talk about China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the context of the second topic, as the BRI is on the way to build an Asian solution to benefit not only Asians, but all mankind.

When President Xi Jinping announced what is now called the BRI in 2013, the world was a far different place. I have frequently mused about Mr. Xi's foresight as to how the globalized world would change — into one marked by nationalism, short-sightedness and selfishness.

It's fair to say that when the BRI was first announced, some believed that it was merely lofty political rhetoric. This is simply wrong. The Belt and Road Initiative is truly timely and helpful. New infrastructure, primarily in terms of ports and railways, is changing the way countries do business in terms of speed and capacity. 

So far, 125 countries and 29 organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements. China's direct investment has been US$90 billion to date. Turnover of contracted BRI projects has exceeded US$400 billion, and trade in goods among BRI countries has been US$6 trillion. 

It wasn't until recently that it became readily apparent that the BRI is here to stay. In March, Italy became the first G7 country to sign, but even more recently, Luxembourg and Switzerland signed memorandums of understanding. This is important because their success in providing financial services is legendary, as is their conservative approach to doing so. Countries along the Belt and Road will benefit from this, but also from the fact that both countries consistently rank at the top of the scale in creativity and will play a big part in knowledge transfer to jumpstart national economies.

The fifth pillar of the BRI is people-to-people exchanges. The Conference on the Dialogue of Asian Civilizations promises to promote high-quality sharing on an international level. I look forward to participating, sharing and learning during these days of intellectual, cultural and policy discussions.

Harvey Dzodin is a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.

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