Silk Road wide enough for China-U.S. cooperation

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by Xinhua writer Huang Yinjiazi : –

BEIJING, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) — Over 2,000 years ago, the ancient Silk Road, a 7,000-km-long trade route created by camel-driving merchants, started to link China with Europe via central and west Asia.

Today, the ancient invention still inspires both China and the United States when they work out their respective blueprints to promote regional development.

Sprouting from the inspiration, the U.S. “New Silk Road Initiative” with war-torn Afghanistan at the heart of a possible trade pathway between Asia and the West, and China’s “Belt and Road” initiatives proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping to boost trade and growth along and beyond the ancient Silk Road, have come into being.

Experts say that Xi’s upcoming U.S. visit in late September will offer a golden opportunity for China and the United States to review their versions of “Silk Road” initiative to see what they could do together.

CHORUS NOT SOLO

“The two initiatives, one by China and the other by the United States, have a lot in common in terms of their purposes, as they all hope to promote economic growth through facilitating trade,” said Yang Xiyu, a researcher with China’s Institute of International Studies.

There is much room as well as favorable environment along the route for possible cooperation between China and the United States.

“It’s more like a chorus, instead of solo by China,” said Xi, referring to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives, now also known as “Belt and Road” initiatives for short.

China has mapped out the plan in an inclusive and open manner to encourage participation of whoever is interested, experts observed. Just like the ancient Silk Road, the modern “Belt and Road” will facilitate trade and cooperation among countries with different religions and cultures.

For the U.S. part, the “New Silk Road” is an initiative for Central Asia and Afghanistan, which aims to integrate the region and tap its potential as a transit hub between Europe and East Asia.

Hillary Clinton, who proposed the initiative when serving as the U.S. Secretary of State in 2011, said the network would allow Afghanistan to attract new sources of foreign investment and approach overseas markets, while creating new markets and investment opportunities for the entire region.

The region, covered both by the Chinese and U.S. initiatives, is of great political and economic significance, whose peace and prosperity conforms to the interest of China and the United States, Yang said, noting that it lays a solid foundation for their cooperation.

Experts suggested Beijing and Washington start concrete talks in this respect, working out ways to cooperate in infrastructure construction, facilitate investment and remove trade barriers, so as to unleash the potential for regional development.

PARTNER NOT RIVAL

When the Chinese initiatives and the U.S. plan meet along the ancient Silk Road, it is not a crash but a chemical reaction that generates a great number of merits benefiting everyone involved.

Sino-U.S. cooperation in a third-party region establishes a fresh front for the development of a new type of major-country relations between China and the United States, experts said.

The possibility and necessity of China-U.S. cooperation in a third-party region have been growing, with the United States, the world’s largest developed country, wielding great influence in almost every corner of the world, and China, the largest developing country, increasing its influence on regional and international affairs.

In the latest cooperative effort to boost the regional development, a group of young Afghan diplomats began a two-week training session in Washington Wednesday as part of a joint program co-organized by the United States and China.

This is the fourth year the United States and China have partnered to train early-career Kabul diplomats, who visit the two countries in order to develop their diplomatic, communications and management skills.

The joint program is a good example for the China-U.S. cooperation in the third-party region, said Chinese Ambassador to U.S. Cui Tiankai.

China-U.S. cooperation on this new front needs a real project, said Yang, the researcher, adding that the “Belt and Road” initiatives could be a meeting place where China and the United States learn to get along with each other on an equal footing and in mutually beneficial way, the core element of the new type of major-country relations.

“Holding fast to the principle of equality and working together for the sustainable development of the region are the key to success,” Yang said.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Possible China-U.S. cooperation on the Silk Road is also expected to meet with challenges besides the die-hard Cold War mentality and the difference of Chinese and U.S. ideologies, experts said.

Several countries along the route, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, are still plagued by conflicts, separatist movements and political instability.

These factors would pose threats to personnel safety, infrastructure construction as well as future investment.

China and the United States should enhance cooperation not only in the field of economy, but also in restoring and maintaining peace and stability in the region, Yang said.

Moreover, their cooperation along the Silk Road will also face challenges from financial sectors. For one thing, it is well-known that infrastructure projects, an important part in both China’s and U.S. Silk Road initiatives, need supports from a stable international financial system.

For another, fundamentally speaking, trade cooperation along Silk Road can not do well without good financial services.

The international monetary and financial systems are currently in a phase of adjustment and are crammed with a great deal of uncertainties and instabilities. So to speak, the cooperation between China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and U.S. New Silk Road Initiative is troubled with an unstable global financial system.

China and the United States, the world’s two largest economies and the world’s largest developing and developed countries respectively, should step up cooperation and reach understanding in the area of finance to facilitate cooperative projects along the Silk Road, said Yang.

Despite those challenges, experts said, the Silk Road is wide and long enough for China and the United States to carry out their plans and cooperate.

(Xinhua reporters Tian Dongdong, Hu Yao, Ma Mengli and Tang Zhimin in Beijing contributed to the story.)

Editor’s note:

Later this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to pay his first state visit to the United States since he took office in 2013. Xinhua is wiring a series of in-depth stories on China-U.S. relations and the historic visit.

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