Mahesh Kumar Maskey, Nepal’s ambassador to China, has given exclusive written interview to Xinhuanet lately.
About “Two Sessions”
Q1: As a significant window to learn about China’s development, the annual “two sessions” of China’s top legislative body and top national advisory body are slated for this month.
Your Excellency, what issues will draw most of your attention? And why?
Ambassador Maskey: Deliberation upon many important issues is certain to make the annual “two sessions” of 2016 outstanding if not historical.
Addressing implementation challenge of 13th Five-Year Plan to achieve the target of moderately prosperous country by 2020, amidst the stage set by decelerating Chinese economy, would be a particularly daunting task.
Making poverty relief program effective and precise would be high on the agenda and so is the continuation of the effort to control corruption.
Since China stands committed for the protection of environment in the trade-off between ‘development’ and ‘environment’ these achievements are to be made through a green, sustainable and innovation-driven development.
Belt and Road Initiative connecting 4 billion people of the world should also find a high priority among others in the sessions of China’s top legislative and advisory body.
About 13th Five-Year Plan
Q2: This year ushers in the 13th five-year plan of China. On the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, Innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development were proposed to fulfill its economic goals, among which innovation tops the list.
The international media have it that innovation-driven development will serve as the new engine for China’s economic growth under “new normal”.
In which fields do you think China should focus its innovation and development in the next five years?
Ambassador Maskey: With the shrinkage of global market and international demand of Chinese products, China had to adopt a new strategy to meet its enhanced productive capacity. China at the same time had to protect and revive her environment adversely affected by developmental priorities and also redress the burgeoning gap between rich and poor.
China is doing so with a conscious shifting of gear to slow down the economy and entering into the phase of “new normal” setting a standard for environmental friendly development. “Innovation” defines the essence of this new development strategy.
I believe China will focus on innovative way to revive its soil from the damage caused by pesticides and chemical fertilizers and ensure the quality of food for both human and animals. It would also want to tackle air and water pollution while keeping the development going.
A new type of urbanization drive which shifted its focus to China’s periphery and less developed regions making communities take lead in the economic development in harmony with nature is where the focus of China will most probably be in coming decades.
About Belt and Road Initiative
Q3: The initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
T his initiative does not merely remain a concept, but has been actually put into practice: the establishment of the $40 billion Silk Road Fund, the China-Europe freight train jumpstarts project, the building of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, and the opening of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.
In your opinion, what benefits has your country gained from this Initiative? What are the challenges for your country? This year, in which fields will your country and China cooperate under the “Belt and Road” Initiative?
Ambassador Maskey: Belt and Road initiative is a brilliant stroke of imagination of President Xi Jinping which has blended the ancient with the modern, and gave an impetus to a novel inter-regional connectivity that encompasses over 60 countries and 4 billion people. Nepal being the immediate neighbor of China is poised to gain tremendously from this initiative.
Nepal and China are bordered by Great Himalayas and difficult terrains and fragile ecosystems. Belt and Road initiative will help to establish connectivity across this challenging geography through Nepal-China joint venture.
Connectivity by highways between the major border points of China and Nepal are in high priorities. While within 4 years China’s railroad is likely to reach near Nepal border, Nepal also wants to build railway tracks in its territory to get connected to China as soon as possible since it would provide fast tracks to boost economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries. Such projects can be supported under Belt and Road initiative.
China-Nepal-India economic corridor is also in the pipeline and emerging as an ambitious project to connect China with South Asia inspired by Belt and Road Initiative, which, if connected with China-Myanmar-Bangladesh-India (CMBI) corridor can form a circular subset of modern ‘silk road’ that may begin from Yunnan and Sichuan province of China to India, Nepal, Tibet autonomous region and back to Yunnan and Sichuan. Such subset of silk road countries would have a tremendous opportunity to prosper together through economic and cultural cooperation in a mutually beneficial environment.
About China’s economy
Q4: China’s economy has shifted gear to the “New Normal” and is undergoing structural reform, especially the supply-side structural reform. Nowadays, hard landing forecast for China’s economy goes viral. Will China’s economy face a hard landing? How do you see the prospect of China’s economic growth in 2016?
Ambassador Maskey: I think China had consciously shifted its gears to slow down the overheated economy and to protect the environment. In doing so China is facing some problems in readjustment before the ‘new normal’ gets stabilized. There are of course some speculations and conjectures about hard landing and melt down of Chinese economy. Such views contradict with the fact that ‘deceleration’ is natural outcome of a change in the stage of economic development and China is less likely to fall into “middle income trap” because of several distinguished characteristics of its market economy.
First Chinese market economy is regulated under macro-control of socialist government and does not conform to the laissez-fair model advocated by neo-liberal approach. Here the private sector has been developed under the precondition that public sector remains dominant. Second, all along the development path of past three decades China has followed the principle of self reliance when opening up to foreign investment. Third, share of stock market in total size of Chinese economy is relatively small hence less prone to “bursting of bubble” risks.
In my opinion this is a turning point for China where enormously large economy is trying to protect environment while keeping the momentum of development to an optimum level, and given the specific characteristics mentioned above, the odds of achieving success are much higher than what some experts lay a wager on.
About Chinese Dream
Q5: Since the “Chinese Dream” was first put forward in 2012, President Xi has repeatedly expounded the “Asia-Pacific Dream”, “African Dream”, “Latin American Dream” and “World Dream”in various international arenas to spread China’s concept on development.
How do you think of this concept? In which fields, do you believe that China could strengthen the win-win cooperation and share opportunities of development with your country?
Ambassador Maskey: Chinese dream is a dream of great renewal of Chinese Nation as she rises peacefully in the global community of nations. This renewal is a prerequisite for China to carry her historical role in ensuring world peace through shared prosperity and win-win cooperation. It is also a dream of collective-individual prosperity eloquently expressed in the words of President Xi: “only when country and the nation are better off can every one of us be better off”.
Such concepts have a universal appeal and Chinese dream of renewal and common prosperity also resonates with Nepalese aspiration of all round development and modernization while preserving her cultural richness. Inspired by such dreams, cultural cooperation and cooperation for green and sustainable development between Nepal and China would go a long way in fostering bilateral relation between the two countries.
About Sino-Nepal ties
Q6: Your Excellency, what is your view on the development of relationship between China and Nepal in recent years? In your perspective, in which fields will the two countries make breakthroughs to boost bilateral ties in the future?
Ambassador Maskey: Nepal China bilateral relationship made a huge stride with the visit of former Premier Wen Jiabao to Nepal and signing of eight far reaching agreements in the year 2012. That year was also declared as Nepal-China year of friendly exchange. First time Nepal Cultural Festival was organized in China and 7787 Nepalese products were granted zero tariff facility for export to China.
Nepal’s membership of Belt and Road Initiative under the leadership of President Xi, and later also the founding membership of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was a landmark event. China topped the list of countries contributing to foreign direct investment in Nepal.
China also provided highest grant support for post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation of Nepal. After the promulgation of the constitution, Nepal’s signing of MOU for long term commerce for petroleum product with China and waving of visa fee for Chinese tourists are other breakthroughs in recent times.
I think in recent future major breakthroughs would be made in signing transit treaty between Nepal and China, establishing special trade and economic zone, cross border energy cooperation, infrastructure development and connectivity through highways and railroads.
Q7: Your Excellency, could you tell us what will be the major projects for bilateral exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in 2016?
Ambassador Maskey: Very high level visits are going to be made from both sides in 2016 and many of the cooperation mentioned above may be concretized during such visits.
After the promulgation of new constitution now Nepal’s major drive is to realize eco-friendly economic development.
Cooperation with China offer Nepal a tremendous opportunity for her economic prosperity. Nepal’s comparative advantage of Hydropower, solar and wind energy potential, medicinal plant, organic food, handicrafts, mountain ecology and biodiversity, tourism and cultural heritage, infrastructural developments are certain to attract Chinese investors.
Our efforts would be to prioritize and implement these multiple projects in the year 2016 in the spirit of win-win cooperation.