SINGAPORE — Experts and officials gathered in Singapore on July 27 to express their support for and share expertise on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is in line with the future development of the region.
Fu Ying, spokesperson for China’s third session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC), said at the Singapore Regional Business Forum that the new proposal of China aims to carry forward the spirit of peace, cooperation, openness and inclusiveness for shared benefits.
Fu made the remarks when she was giving a keynote speech to the forum. She said that the dream to connect Asia and Europe has remained alive for many years, yet these grand ideas have only remained on academic levels over the years due to lack of capital and more importantly, the lack of China’s own infrastructure network to support them.
“Twenty years on, those two constraints have more or less disappeared ... More importantly, China has come a long way in terms of economic strength, capital and technology,” She said.
“It is in this context that China put forward such a big initiative not only for further development in China but more importantly, for a higher level of growth in Asia and beyond.”
Her words were echoed by Tommy Koh, chairman of Governing Board, Center for International Law, National University of Singapore, who said he supports the “Belt and Road” initiative because the proposal will boost trade, shipping, tourism, the development of maritime infrastructure as well as promote better mutual understanding between and among the peoples.
Apart from new economic opportunities on developing hard infrastructure, Koh gave a new perspective on the focus of “soft infrastructure”.
“We should cooperate on the development of our human resource and the sharing of skills and expertise. We should encourage more people-to-people contacts and exchanges, especially among our young people,” he said, adding that the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will only succeed if it is based upon the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit.
While both agreed on the significance of this idea, Fu and Koh also stressed the challenges facing ahead.
“It’s always been a challenge for China to communicate its thinking and ideas to the outside world,” Fu said. “There are of course language difficulties. It’s also a challenge to put conceptualized initiatives into more concrete ideas.”
Fu said that China should listen more to its neighbors and be aware of security and other risks while promoting infrastructure projects, which are normally long-term and slow to show return.
She also stressed the importance of allowing companies and the market to determine what to do, as economic viability holds the key to their success.
Koh, on the perspective of the ASEAN region, called on China to solicit the views of countries in the region.
“China should listen to the region ... The best outcome is for the proposal to evolve from being a Chinese project to being the region’s project. It is desirable for China to obtain the region’s ownership of its proposal.”