Formed in Qin and Han Dynasties, the Maritime Silk Road is a sea lane in ancient times between China and the rest of the world for economic and cultural exchanges. The starting point of the Maritime Silk Road is Quanzhou, Fujian. With the South China Sea as the center, it was also known as the South China Sea Silk Road. It developed very rapidly in Wei and Jin Dynasties. During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, due to expansion of the business scope and thriving of commercial trades, the Maritime Silk Road was very prosperous. However, it began to decline in Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Although it declined, it still had played a significant role to China and the world in many aspects including economy, trade, culture, navigation, etc. With the development of the world and the enlargement of the international vision, In Oct. 2013, when Xi Jinping, president of China visited the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), he put forward a major initiative “The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road” drawing people’s attention from all over the world. With this initiative, China not only seeks to collaborate with countries from ASEAN, but also with those in South Asia, West Asia, North Asia and Europe, etc.
China put forward this initiative for two main reasons. On the one hand, China is able to resist the strategy “Pivot to Asia” put forward by Obama, president of USA, to strengthen their leading advantage in the Asia-Pacific region, In addition, the year 2013 was the 10th anniversary of ASEAN countries and China establishing strategic partnership, which was called “golden decade” by the international community. This initiative not only conforms to mutual interests and requirements of both parties, but also can enhance political and trade relations further. On the other hand, it can guarantee the security of China’s international initiative, making China and the countries along the line reach mutual reciprocity, mutual benefits and win-win targets as well. For the economy, China needs to develop the market outside Europe and United States to keep the foreign trade growth, transfer surplus capacity and reduce foreign exchange reserves. Besides, this initiative would insist on the principle of discussing, sharing and building together. In China, many regions were regarded as key development objects in the plan, like Southwest region, coastal region, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan regions. Because of being close to the ASEAN countries, Yunnan and Guangxi play a vital role. Fujian is the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road. Therefore, it functions as a core area in strategic regions. Shanghai is constructed as the pilot free trade zone.
The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road would boost some planning and constructions, such as Industrial and financial cooperation mechanism and platform construction. In the meantime, it speeds up the implementation of the initiative of free trade zone, deepens regional economic and trade cooperation with the neighboring countries, and strengthens exchanges and cooperation in security field, etc. Another big project is raising fund for the building of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to strengthen basic culture construction and prioritize the development of maritime connectivity in many fields including port of shipping, ocean energy resources, economy and trade, scientific and technological innovation, ecological environment, and cultural and educational exchanges. Last but not least, it aims at promoting policy coordination, facility connectivity, unimpeded trade, finance integration and people-people bond.
This initiative has great significance to the development of China. Firstly, it is beneficial for China to build a peaceful and steady surrounding environment, because it is an initiative pursuing peace, development, cooperation and win-win situations. Secondly, it is an important way to deepen reform and opening-up. Thirdly, it not only promotes regional prosperity and the development of global economy, but also expands the space for the development of Chinese economy. Fourthly, it is a historical choice for accelerating common prosperity the countries alongside.
To sum up, the initiative of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road derives from the concept of ancient Maritime Silk Road about peace, win-win and mutual benefit, and inject with innovated ideas of the new era in terms of modes of transportation, trade content, and coverage area, etc. It brings new opportunities and challenges to China and the world. With this initiative, Chinese economy, polity and culture develop well, gradually become more and more essential in the international community. Let us strive together to create a more powerful China.
(By Zhang Xiaoxin from Zhuhai City Polytechnic)