Witness to history: 21st Century Maritime Silk Road a grand vision for the world's well-being, says Indonesian veteran media personality
21st Century Maritime Silk Road a grand vision for the world's well-being: Indonesian veteran media personality
Published: Apr 23, 2023 11:00 PM
Editor's Note:

Promoting high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a major step toward building a global community of shared future. This year marks the 10th anniversary of BRI, through which China has signed more than 200 cooperative documents under the BRI framework with 151 countries and 32 international organizations.

Over the last decade, China showed the world how it turned the BRI into a major cause that benefits the people of countries along the route and enables the people of these countries to share China's solutions and wisdom.

The Global Times interviewed witnesses who were present in 2013 when the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, both of which are integral parts of the BRI, were proposed respectively in Kazakhstan and Indonesia. They recalled how they were inspired by the concepts and shared their observations of how the BRI has benefited their countries.

In this series, the Global Times features first-hand accounts from witnesses who were at the forefront of historic moments. From scholars, politicians, diplomats to ordinary citizens, their authentic reflections on the impact of historical moments help reveal a sound future for humanity through the solid steps forward taken in the past and the present. 

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The 85-year-old Li Zhuohui, the chief editor of Sin Po, a Peranakan Chinese-language newspaper founded in Indonesia, still vividly remembers the enthusiastic applause that erupted during Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech at the Indonesian parliament in 2013 when he proposed the concept of building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

"It was the first time in Indonesian history that a foreign leader had given a speech in parliament, and the first time that President Xi called for building of now far-reaching 'Maritime Silk Road,'" Li told the Global Times.

In Li's view, the BRI, the concept of a global community of shared future, together with the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative, are contemporary versions of "Datong" ideal, or "a world of great harmony" that the Chinese people have carried forward for thousands of years.

Ten years have passed, but Li still remembers the details of what happened in the Indonesian parliament on October 3, 2013. 

At that time, upon learning that Xi would deliver an important speech in the Indonesian parliament, Li immediately reserved admission tickets from the parliamentarian in his district.

"When that day comes, I arrived early and secured a good position in the front five or six rows near the aisle. Soon the venue was filled to capacity. Around ten o'clock in the morning, President Xi entered the Indonesia Parliament Complex accompanied by former speaker of the People's Representative Council of Indonesia Marzuki Alie. Indonesian MPs and representatives from all walks of life all stood up to welcome him, and President Xi also shook hands with the people he passed by," Li recalled.

Li, who happened to be sitting on Xi's path, also had the opportunity to shake hands with the Chinese top leader - an interaction still makes him feel proud and unforgettable today. 

At the time, Li was impressed by Xi's eloquence and the epochal value embedded in the content of his speech.

"In his speech, President Xi advocated building a more closely knit China-ASEAN community of common destiny and jointly constructing to build the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century. Such a compelling call reflected that China's leaders have a clear understanding of the development of the times and a grand vision for the world's well-being," said Li.

"Based on such foresight, these peaceful, friendly, and mutually beneficial initiatives will eventually become shared ideals that are admired and actively implemented worldwide," Li noted.

Li Zhuohui Photo: Courtesy of Li

Li Zhuohui Photo: Courtesy of Li

Before being interviewed by the Global Times, Li specifically retrieved a commemorative photo album which documenting Xi's visit to Indonesia in 2013 and reread the full text of Xi's speech.

As a newspaperman, Li believed that Xi's keynote speech was full of emotions and was worth reading carefully for Indonesian high school and university students who are studying Chinese.

"There are many beautiful Chinese words and the use of allusions to the past and present, such as President Xi's reference to Dream of the Red Chamber and the Indonesian folk song 'Bengawan Solo.' If you know Chinese, you will feel very impressed," he noted.

Li, who is dedicated to promoting Chinese language education in Indonesia, observed that in recent years, there has been a continuous fever of Chinese language learning in Indonesia. 

This is due to the benchmark projects of China and Indonesia to promote the high-quality development of the BRI, especially the infrastructure projects that have brought Chinese technology and Chinese standards to Indonesia, Li pointed out. "They also brought new development opportunities, as well as the benefits that the local people can see and feel." 

In the past decade since the initiative of building the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was proposed, Li has visited several BRI flagship projects including the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, Jakarta-Bandung Expressway and Tsingshan Industrial Park. Meanwhile, in June 2017, the ASEAN Foundation, led by Li, established the Center for Chinese Cultural Studies in collaboration with Indonesia's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama to promote the teaching of Chinese culture, send Indonesian university students to study in China in a planned way and foster talents for the new era under the Belt and Road cooperation.

"Proficiency in Chinese will facilitate them to find a job in Indonesia with the chances of getting a high salary, as a lot of joint projects between Chinese and Indonesian companies need such talents to drive implementation," Li said.

Li also mentioned that currently, more local Indonesian youth have expressed that they want to get more opportunities to study in China to learn from China's development experience.

China and Indonesia are both populous countries, Li said, stressing that based on the BRI, the cooperation between China and Indonesia is gradually moving from a comprehensive strategic partner to jointly build a global community of shared future, which will affect the development of the whole Asia and the world.

In Li's view, unlike the US and its allies, which are obsessed with building military alliances and hound some countries at the economic level, the BRI focuses on win-win cooperation. In the era of globalization, unlike the unipolar system that the US is bent on maintaining, China emphasizes bilateral, multilateral and all-dimensional friendly exchanges and cooperation, and actively contributes Chinese wisdom and solutions to the global challenges facing the world today.

"I hope Indonesia could further seize the opportunities brought by the BRI and work with China to contribute to the grand blueprint of prosperity and development in Asia and beyond," Li said.