By David Wong
Since 2013, the Belt and Road development plan initiated and implemented by President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government has laid steady roots on the continents and plough the waves in the broad ocean, making remarkable achievements and laying a solid foundation for high-quality development in the future. Let’s take a look at what has happened to Belt and Road over the past six years.
President Xi Jinping first proposed the silk road economic belt on Sept. 7, 2013, followed by the 21st century maritime silk road on Oct. 3, 2013.
In November 2013, the Chinese government took the construction of Belt and Road as a major state policy and put this strategy into an important document namely “the CPC Central Committee on several major issues concerning comprehensively deepening reform,” which clearly stated that it would “accelerate the construction of infrastructure connectivity with neighboring countries and regions, advance the construction of the silk road economic belt and maritime silk road, and form a new pattern of all-round opening up.”
By July 2019, the Chinese government had signed 195 intergovernmental cooperation agreements with 136 countries and 30 international organizations. Chinese companies have invested over us $100 billion in countries and regions along the routes.
In a broad sense, “silk roads” can be divided into silk road and maritime silk road. In Chinese history, the silk road originated from 202 BC to 8 AD, when the emperor of the western Han dynasty sent Zhang Qian on a mission to the western region, starting from Xi ‘an, passing through Gansu and Xinjiang Provinces of China, to central Asia and west Asia and connecting the Mediterranean countries. Its primary function was to transport silk from ancient China. Later, the route for silk trade was called the silk road.
“Maritime silk road” was a maritime passage for communication, trade and cultural exchanges between ancient China and foreign countries. It was mainly centered on the south China sea, also known as “the south China sea silk road.” The maritime silk road, formed in the Qin and Han Dynasties (206 BC), is the oldest maritime route with a history of more than 2,000 years.
China is an ancient civilization with an uninterrupted history of more than 5,000 years. It has been engaged in trade and cultural cooperation with other countries since more than 2,000 years ago, and formed what President Xi Jinping called a “mankind community of common destiny.” China’s development has never been based on war or aggression, but on mutual benefit and common development with people of other countries in pursuit of a happy life.
In China’s modern history of more than 100 years, due to its weakness and disadvantage, the foreign powers in the world invaded China in turn, divided up its territory, plundered resources and exploited the people, causing the Chinese people to suffer humiliation, bullying and near-destruction of the country. China is deeply aware that a country cannot have dignity and happiness if it does not develop its economy and enhance its strength.
After 40 years of reforming and opening up, China has completed the process of economic development that western countries took more than 100 years to complete. China has become a world economic power, and the Chinese people have regained their dignity and happiness. However, Chinese leaders have not forgotten the pleasant experience of the “silk road” that brought prosperity to China and the world more than 2,000 years ago. Only by connecting the cooperation and development of all countries in the world can prosperity be shared and a mankind community of future be truly meaningful. China is making efforts to this mission, and we certainly hope that all countries will work together.
This year’s APEC summit will be held in Chile. As a member of APEC, the Philippines is taking the opportunity to actively participate in the development of Belt and Road and joining other countries in this event. In recent years, the Philippine government has greatly focused on economic development and improvement of people’s livelihood. It is practical and wise to take Belt and Road as the entry point, and Belt and Road can benefit the Philippines a lot.
Over the last two years, China and the Philippines have reached various consensus through frequent high-level visits. In October 2016, President Duterte paid a state visit to China. Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to the Philippines in November 2017. President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to the Philippines in November 2018. In addition to President Duterte’s participation in the first “Belt and Road” international cooperation summit, as well as meetings and talks between leaders of the two countries on other multilateral occasions, the two sides signed a number of policy documents in various areas related to bilateral cooperation, which laid a good foundation for the improvement of the quality of bilateral cooperation.
The economic cooperation between China and the Philippines enjoys a sound foundation and great potential, which is worthy of the efforts of both countries to realize mutually beneficial development. In particular, the “Belt and Road” initiative and the Philippines’ “Mega construction” plans have turned into specific projects in transportation, water conservancy, construction, agriculture, environment and other infrastructure. In addition, the increasing number of direct flights between China and the Philippines and the Philippines becoming a tourist destination for more Chinese tourists have not only boosted the vitality of the Philippine economy, but also made both countries realize the win-win results of mutually beneficial cooperation.
Since 2016, China has been the Philippines’ largest trading partner, largest source of imports and fourth-largest export destination. According to the statistics office of the Philippines, bilateral trade between China and the Philippines reached US$30.093 billion in 2018, up to 18.1 percent year on year. To the surprise of many, the Philippines is China’s second-largest trade surplus in ASEAN region. The Philippines imported US$21.394 billion from China, up to 22.5 percent year on year, and exported US$8.699 billion from China, up to 8.5 percent year on year, with a trade deficit with China reaching US$12.696 billion. This trend is likely to continue.
Under the “Belt and Road” plan, I believe the Philippines can achieve greater development than before in its cooperation with China, which is what the Philippine people expect and is also beneficial to both countries.