BRUSSELS - China and Europe, each located at one end of the
Silk Road, are natural partners in the Belt and Road Initiative,
according to Zhang Ming, head of Mission of the People's Republic of
China to the European Union.
With joint efforts, the initiative and Europe's development strategies are creating synergy, he added.
In an article published on the Euractiv website on Thursday, Zhang
recalled his first Chinese Spring Festival celebration in Brussels last
"It was unforgettable to see Chinese lanterns illuminating the Grand
Place, the world's most beautiful square as described by French writer
Victor Hugo. It was exciting to see the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
decorated with Chinese red lanterns, bringing a moment of happiness to
my European friends. Again, I was fascinated by the perfect fusion of
Chinese and European cultures," he said in the article.
More than 700 years ago, The Travels of Marco Polo invoked Europeans'
curiosity of the East. Numerous trailblazers made strenuous efforts to
connect Europe with Asia, and finally, opened up the ancient Silk Road.
"Today, China and Europe are bound together by faster transportation,
closer commercial ties and more diverse cultural exchanges. Despite its
long history, the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, namely the respect
for diversity and the pursuit of common prosperity, is still alive and
relevant," said Zhang.
Since it was launched over four years ago, the Belt and Road
Initiative (BRI) has received wide support from more than 100 countries
and international organizations, more than 80 of which have signed
agreements with China. The first Belt and Road Forum for International
Cooperation held last year in Beijing produced fruitful results, and
contributed to a global consensus on Belt and Road cooperation.
"Governments of 11 EU member states have signed BRI cooperation
documents with the Chinese government," said Zhang, noting that the EU's
foreign trade will increase by 6 percent because of the Initiative,
according to the Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel.
"The China-Europe express freight trains are busy traveling across
the Eurasian continent. In 2017, a total of 3,673 trips were made, up by
116 percent from 2016 and exceeding the total number combined during
the past six years. The train services reach 36 European cities in 13
countries and make the access of European goods to the Chinese market
much easier," said Zhang.
"In addition, a great number of projects are well underway, such as
infrastructure, logistics, ports, e-commerce and finance. For instance,
in Serbia, a Chinese enterprise bought a troubled steel mill and turned
it around in less than a year. In Greece, the Port of Piraeus regained
its position as one of the largest ports in Europe. In the United
Kingdom, China is partnering with France to build a nuclear power plant,
a stellar example of tripartite cooperation under the Initiative," said
However, according to Zhang, the potential of the Belt and Road
Initiative will be brought to the full only when all players come to
realize its importance and take part in it.
To that end, he reasserted three basic facts.
Firstly, the Initiative is definitely not a unilateral strategy or
China's "Marshall Plan," as some have called it. On the contrary, it is
designed to promote cooperation that is open to all.
"The Initiative aims to promote economic cooperation through
infrastructure connectivity, and to bring about common development by
leveraging the comparative strengths of all participants. As a global
public good, the Initiative follows the golden rule of extensive
consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. All parties get
involved and gain benefits on an equal footing," said Zhang.
Secondly, the initiative is not a one-way street allowing only China
to export its resources, market opportunities, technologies, projects
and manpower. Rather, it is based on wide consultation and
"All Belt and Road projects have to go through well-informed
feasibility studies conducted by interested parties, and must follow
market principles and international rules. All projects must be
results-oriented, high-standard and sustainable. Our goal is not only to
strengthen the physical connectivity of infrastructure, but also to
improve the institutional connectivity of rules and standards," said
Thirdly, the BRI aims to establish a regional economic cooperation
platform that is inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. It is not
meant to reinvent the wheel, rather, it seeks to complement the existing
bilateral and regional cooperation mechanisms.
"Rome wasn't built in a day. The Initiative is such a great
undertaking that it has to involve many participants, including those
from Europe. While each participant comes from different backgrounds and
has different needs, we respect such diversity and value flexibility in
our cooperation instead of insisting on uniformity," said Zhang.
"In our world today, protectionism and isolationism are still taking a
toll. China, with its 40 years of reform and opening-up, has made its
stance clear: openness brings progress, while self-seclusion leaves one
"We remain committed to partnering with our European friends in an
open spirit. Let's consult, contribute and share together to make a
success of the Belt and Road Initiative," he concluded.
The Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure
networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk
Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st
Century Maritime Silk Road.