Striving for lasting peace
Published: Oct 16, 2023 10:20 PM
Illustration:Tang Tengfei/GT

Illustration:Tang Tengfei/GT

Editor's Note:

Peace is a prerequisite for development, while development serves as the foundation for peace. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) paves the way for peaceful development, and aims to offer a fundamental approach to lasting peace and universal security. Why has the BRI been regarded as a path to peace? How has the initiative contributed to peace? The Global Times selected opinion of 10 global thinkers, including head of state, former diplomats and officials, as well as scholars, to share their understandings of the BRI and China's role in preserving world peace.

Peaceful development

Sonexay Siphandone: Looking back, China has actively promoted BRI cooperation, demonstrating active and extensive engagement on regional and international stages. Particularly, it has focused on strengthening cooperation with various countries and accelerating BRI cooperation according to the plan, gradually carrying out mutually beneficial cooperation. At the same time, the BRI aims to develop cooperation in areas such as infrastructure, trade, investment and culture in order to enhance China's role in global trade and investment.

The BRI cooperation framework has made significant contributions to promoting the social and economic development, job creation and poverty reduction of countries and regions participating in the BRI. China and Laos should uphold the spirit of being "good neighbors, good friends, good comrades and good partners," and continue to support each other on the international and regional stages, and make important contributions to the peaceful and stable development of the international and regional areas.

Martin Jacques: The BRI paved the way for a new kind of global politics. The relationship between China and the developing world is not based on a shared view of politics or ideology, nor military alliances, but on the most important issue facing the great majority of the world's population: development. The BRI promoted the question of development to a position of fundamental centrality on the global stage, and it offered a new kind of solution for the developing countries. 

The BRI has introduced, for the first time, key tenets of Chinese philosophy to the wider world. There is China's concept of a global community of shared future, with the BRI as its living embodiment, encouraging us to think beyond the narrow constraints of the nation-state. 

Peter O'Neill: The BRI is something that will certainly benefit the development agendas that we have in our country. I'm a great believer of infrastructure development in any country. I've seen over the last eight to 12 years, we have access to very concessional funding in China. This enables us to build hospitals, universities or schools. We've been able to build roads and airports. Those infrastructures today are still serving our people. There was a lot to be learned from China, and I'm a very strong proponent of that.

Rejecting zero-sum thinking

Zlatko Lagumdzija: Developing countries are striving to elevate themselves and join the family of the world. The linkage between the BRI and developing countries is self-evident. The BRI actually shows how we can work and participate in building the big picture. I think this is the future that we need and the future that we should be striving for. That's why the BRI is a chance for us and everyone else who supports us to learn a little bit more without having to argue over why this initiative is better than any other. We should be competing in good projects and complementing each other so that we can all improve, rather than competing against each other. 

Stephen Brawer: I think it's very clear that the world is opening their doors to the initiative, and I see that there is a shift in the direction of world policy. It's very positive for global development. However, the US and generally the G7 are at least presently not willing to either accept or understand the importance of it. This is in a very unfortunate situation. But I don't think that is stopping the role of China and the world moving in another direction. There are clear indications that many countries are wishing to do this. 

What I've mentioned is that the debt trap narrative lacks substance. It is merely a propaganda tool used by Western think tanks to distort the reality of the situation. This narrative aims to uphold the notion of Western power and assumes that the entire world will comply. However, those days are over and a new world is emerging. It is in the best interest of Europe and the US to not resist this change with conflict and confrontation, but rather to embrace it and cooperate. This will not only benefit the global community but also aid in the recovery of Western economies. It is crucial to alter the flawed thinking of the current Western economy. 

Erik Solheim: The BRI has been a major driver of development since it was announced by President Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan 10 years ago. There are great examples of good South-South and Belt and Road projects in almost every corners of the world. Decoupling is probably the most unwise idea in the world today. It's outright dangerous. What developing nations ask for is a choice of good cooperation with both China and the West. Unfortunately, up to now, a number of the Western-led initiatives have been more like media events. They lack structure, secretariat, finances and clear direction. Nearly all nations in the world want to see close people-to-people relations, investment and political cooperation with both China and the West. No one wants to choose.

Peter Walker: When China launched the BRI, its intention was not just using rhetoric in the developing world but actually improving the lives of the people there. It has been very effective. If you step back from the BRI and look at the big picture, China has made enormous contributions to the infrastructure development of many developing countries. Those countries very much appreciate it, and I think the BRI is on a good track to reach its objectives.

I think the US needs to move out of the current Cold War mentality, which I call a zero-sum mentality. If you're a developing country, all you get are speeches from America. What you're getting from China is real infrastructure building. To me, the outcome is fairly predictable. China has added real value, the US has not.

Win-win cooperation

Boris Tadic: We believe the BRI is very important because it advocates mutual benefit and interoperability, and advocates that all relevant countries and regions can benefit from it. We can also see that over the past 10 years, many infrastructure projects have made great progress, and the initiative has brought great changes to many developing countries.

The BRI emphasizes cooperation and mutual benefits for all participants, and Western politics should not be focused on perpetuating prejudices or attempting to hinder the progress of this initiative. I anticipate that realities will evolve and teach people to be more flexible. 

Bolat Nurgaliyev: The intention of the Chinese leadership was to uplift the economic and social development of the participating states based on the level of economic development that had been achieved by China. The BRI was an investment in the future of China and also an investment in the well-being of its neighbors and other friendly countries. It guarantees the ultimate success of the plans that the Chinese leadership sets. 

The wide participation of the BRI is a sign that everybody sees this from the point of view of win-win, that together, we can set in front of us ambitious goals and we can achieve them on the strong foundation of China's economic success. If we look at the economic achievements under the BRI, it is changing the international environment and producing healthy competition of ideas, including ideas about how we develop peace, harmony, innovation and inclusiveness.

Ong Tee Keat: The BRI infrastructure projects have reshaped the landscape of logistical connectivity in many countries, thus empowering them in their pursuit of economic development. For example, the China-Laos Railway gives the entire ASEAN a great impetus in its railway connectivity. It has transformed Laos from a landlocked country to a land-linked country, thus enhancing its economic competitiveness. It also helps to re-invigorate the Pan-Asian railway network that has been left in abeyance for some time. The BRI is a trans-national endeavor underpinned by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits. 

Asia, the most populous continent, is blessed with an abundance of resources and a wide gamut of supply chains which are primarily contributed by China. The potential unleashed is enormous, enough to reshape the entire economic landscape of Asia in this century. So long as Asia is free of military conflict, the continent is all set to embark on a trajectory of inclusive development.