In October, 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed an initiative called the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road during his state visit to Indonesia when participating in the 25th APEC Summit in Bali Island, in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Sino-ASEAN strategic partnership. This proposal is also aimed at fostering China-ASEAN collaboration, and for the well-being of the people of both sides and the region. There is no doubt that this is a new starting point.
To start with, let’s trace back to the history of the Maritime Silk Road. As the name suggests, it functioned as essential sea lanes from ancient China to other parts of the globe for economic and cultural exchanges. According to historical records, the route formed during the Qin and Han Dynasties, developed steadily in Wei and Jin Dynasties, achieved unprecedented prosperity in the Tang and Song Dynasties, but declined in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Starting from Quanzhou, Fujian Province, the path crossed the South China Sea and the surrounding countries, Indo-China Peninsular, the Indian Ocean, and extended to East Africa and the Middle East. During the Song and Yuan Dynasties, private trades formed as a result of the improvement of China’s shipbuilding and navigation techniques, and the widespread application of compass. In the meanwhile, China conducted business and trade dealings directly with approximately 60 other countries in the world. Numerous precious commodities from China, like silk, tea, porcelain, were exported to the rest of the world, which contributed greatly to the boom of oriental civilization and helped countries along the Road develop together. More importantly, the success of a great navigator, Zheng He’s voyage to the West led to the peak of the Maritime Silk Road, which also sparked the West’s discovery of Oriental Civilization’s navigation era.
Next, in respect to the significance of the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, the proposal is of great benefit to not only China but also the neighboring countries.
From my perspective, the benefits are as follows. First of all, the plan is able to hedge the conception of “Pivot to Asia” proposed by the United States of America. The U.S. government fears that its power of global leadership is increasingly declining and likely to vanish with the boom of China. Hence, the Obama administration advocated and implemented it since 2009. It is evident that since the adoption of “Pivot to Asia”, China has encountered grimmer and grimmer situations internationally, and a number of old and new issues have intertwined. They are quite likely to trigger a severe crisis. Take the following case as an example. Before 2009, the situations surrounding China remained stable on the whole. However, tension arose since then and has intensified since 2012. There is no doubt that the conception is playing an indispensable part in the tension. Under such circumstance, “the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road”, to some extent, can help safeguard China’s national security as well as hedge the conception. What’s more, this would be an important signal that China attaches much greater importance to marine rights and interests and the protection of them than ever before.
Next, both domestically and internationally, it is out of question that this initiative will make greater contributions to joint development of the countries along the Road. As is described previously in the beginning, the Maritime Silk Road makes the countries concerned get close to each other. It is well-known that China ranks No.2 by GDP globally at present, but it also is faced with issues like excess of production capacity which also existed in quite a few other developed economies. Now with the initiative coming out, China is capable of transferring some of the manufacturing to the countries along the Road, especially to those underdeveloped economies. On the one hand, China can carry out structural reforms by optimizing its industries, particularly those irrational sectors. On the other hand, the transfer enables the countries to enhance their competitiveness by encouraging the development of the secondary industry. From this point of view, a conclusion can be drawn that it is a win-win way for both sides.
I believe, with mutual efforts to keep pace with the trend of the times, a brighter future will surely come true. Let’s look forward to win-win collaboration and the more and more vigorous development of Asia.
(By Pang Ruilong from Zhuhai City Polytechnic)