Different countries have different conditions and live by different social institutions due to the differences in history, traditions and cultures. This is true of countries along the " Belt and Road" initiatives too, due to their different development patterns. These differences are increasingly becoming obstacles in their own growth in addition to diplomatic relations, since the current wave of globalization and regionalization is thrusting all countries onto the same stage.
Communication of blueprints is important in connectivity
The Chinese government has been endeavoring to enhance connectivity with countries along the "Belt and Road" to solve the so-called "institutional excess" in the region, since the initiatives were proposed.
Boosting communication and connectivity is a constructive method for integrating various cooperation mechanisms in Asia and Europe. As for enhancing connectivity, the Chinese government places the communication of policies at a primary position since it will safeguard the shaping of the "Belt and Road."
Since 2013, Chinese leaders headed by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang paid frequent visits to countries along the "Belt and Road," during which they promoted the cooperation initiatives to the governments and people of those nations and received positive responses from them.
President Xi's visits to Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus enhanced China' connectivity with these countries and helped the different sides to understand each other's development plans. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are expected to be the Chinese president's next destinations, to carry forward the initiatives further into Europe.
To revive the old Silk Road civilization and reopen the land bridge between the east and the west, the priority is to boost the connectivity among these countries before reaching a consensus on peace, development, cooperation and consequent win-win outcomes.
The purpose of stressing the compatibility of each other's development blueprints is to seek an orderly free flow of economic elements at a higher level as well as highly efficient allocation of resources and the market merges, and to shape a peaceful and prosperous Asia and Europe in the long run. This is why President Xi paid three visits to Russia, two visits to Kazakhstan in addition to a trip along the "Belt and Road" countries.
Communication of blueprints seeks to expand common interest
A country's blueprints and path for development are its internal affairs that concern the country's vital interest. They are highly sensitive issues and prone to attract conflict. For example, a country has the liberty to choose its own social institutions and path of development, which other countries should not interfere with. Bearing this in mind, China should adhere to its bottom line of sovereignty when promoting the "Belt and Road" initiatives, seek common ground while preserving differences, and coexist in peace with others.
First, it should expand common ground where common interests are likely to merge. Although countries along the "Belt and Road" have different development patterns, most of them are developing countries and have a common desire to maintain sustainable and rapid growth. Some of the European countries in the "Belt" area are still affected by the debt crisis and are under heavy pressure to recover.
Second, China should pay attention to the establishment of a mechanism to protect other countries' core interests, because enhancing connectivity will inevitably touch upon the vested interests of these countries, which in turn, triggers domestic debates. If they are dealt with improperly, China will get stuck in those countries' internal political struggles.
Third, China should establish a mechanism for transparent negotiations and fair play. The "Belt and Road" initiatives are fundamentally a regional economic cooperation framework, in which the market should play a decisive role in the allocation of resources. Justice, transparency, rule of law and sense of responsibility are all important in infrastructure development under the framework.
The success of the "Belt and Road" initiatives lies in that whether there will be a fair and just system and mechanism. In shaping the "Belt and Road," one has to avoid short-sighted, project-driven ideas. A country should have a broad mind to put into practice actual projects in the framework of bilateral, multilateral and regional mechanisms, and lay a solid foundation for long-term prosperity.
Communication on various levels to expand converging interests
Expanding converging interests is a complicated process of trade-offs, which requires communications on different levels. This includes direct talks between top leaders, and between central governmental agencies, local governments and policymakers. The vast network of communications, which are intended to make various policies understood by everyone, is key to expanding the converging interests on the "Belt and Road" Initiatives.
First, communication on policies between top leaders
The connectivity of development plans involve many fields and require complicated negotiations on interest. Most countries are involved in globalization and regionalization, making them more interdependent. But a key issue is how a country can ensure win-win results while balancing its own development with global development.
In this sense, communications between top leaders should focus more on views on development and philosophy. President Xi has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin frequently on bilateral and multilateral occasions; Xi and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev held heartfelt talks. Such examples show how communications on policies should be conducted.
Second, communication on policies at lower levels
After top leaders cleared the path, central government agencies and local governments become the actual parties to draft and implement policies. The communications between ministers and local governments cover various specific fields. Bilateral senior-level talks, multilateral cooperative forums and global senior forums will all serve the purpose. In those communications, one should not only discuss policies and other concrete matters, but also seek to build a personal relationship with one another to make the rapport a facilitating factor for the implementation of new policies. As for local governments of all levels, they should make the most of their own advantages, expand room for concrete cooperation, build trust with their counterparts and seek continuous development.
Third, communications on policies between research institutes and think tanks
Communications on the "Belt and Road" policies should focus on existing policies as well as potential ones, meaning that communications with policy research departments in the government are equally important as well as those with think tanks because such communications will help understand a government's thoughts as to predict what policies are likely to be unveiled in the future.
To sum up, the development of the "Belt and Road" involves various aspects that require wisdom and synergies from all parties concerned. To start with, each sector should ensure sound communications on policies with its counterparts in other countries. In strengthening the policy communication with countries along the "Belt and Road," China should prepare common ground for cooperation, predict the possibility of friction, and think through issues worthy of attention in order to connect the "Belt and Road" countries through different policies.
The writer is an associate professor in International Relations at Tsinghua University and a senior research fellow at Charhar Institute.
The article was translated by Chen Boyuan. Its original unabridged version was published in Chinese.
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