Full coverage: Belt and Road Forum for Int'l Cooperation
BRUSSELS, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The Belt and Road Initiative will be able to attract those countries which promote free trade and stimulate cooperation between them, a European Union expert has told Xinhua.
"If China and the EU can strengthen their common understanding on free trade, this will help further their cooperation," said Jing Men, professor of the College of Europe.
The Belt and Road Initiative was brought up by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with an aim to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.
The following is the Q&A version of Xinhua's interview with prof. Men, ahead of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, scheduled for May 14 to 15 in Beijing.
Q: The College of Europe is an educational institute that specializes in postgraduate studies and training in European affairs. Does the College of Europe have exchanges with think tanks in China?
A: The College of Europe is the world's first university institute focusing on European affairs. We have a lot of graduates working in European institutions and member states' governments. In 2014, during his visit to Belgium, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a very important speech on topics including EU-China relations to the professors and students of the College of Europe, as well as officials and diplomats from other countries. On the same day, the EU-China Research Center was established at the College of Europe. I have worked here since 2008. I believe that the Belt and Road Initiative will have a great impact on EU-China relations, and thus we have conducted research on this topic in recent years and developed exchanges with research institutes in China.
Q: It is understood that Belgium is interested in joining the Belt and Road Initiative. In which area do you think Belgium and China can develop cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative?
A: The EU's overall awareness about the Belt and Road Initiative is increasing, in particular, the officials and businessmen who have close contacts with China are learning more about the Belt and Road Initiative. Belgium has recently joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and is a country that relies heavily on trade and advocates trade liberalization. Foreign trade accounts for nearly 80 percent of its GDP. Belgium's Antwerp Port was the first to respond to the Belt and Road Initiative, hoping to cooperate with China, in particular, in the port infrastructure construction.
Q: It is said that DG MOVE of the European Commission reached an agreement with China that some projects will be implemented under the Belt and Road Initiative framework. What is the current progress?
A: Seven projects from each side have been selected. But it will take some time for these projects to be completed, at least ten years. While all these projects are in the Central and Eastern European countries, some Western European countries are also interested in getting these projects. These countries want to understand the Belt and Road Initiative more clearly so that solid and effective cooperation can be developed with China.
Q: Do you have any ideas about how the Belt and Road Initiative can promote economic globalization?
A: The Belt and Road Initiative will be able to attract those countries which promote free trade and stimulate cooperation between them. In the European Union's official documents, fair trade is mentioned alongside free trade. If China and the EU can strengthen their common understanding on free trade, this will help further their cooperation.
Q: How can the Belt and Road Initiative be understood and supported by more countries?
A: I think it is important for other countries to understand the benefits that "five links" can bring. In order to do so, China should promote the Belt and Road Initiative by thinking from the position of others, using the language of others, elaborating it in ways that are comprehensible to others so that the other side can understand and accept these new concepts and ideas. I think this will be a challenge. China's think tank institutions have a lot of work to do -- they should establish a good communication mechanism with European government agencies and think tanks in order to find a better way for cooperation proposals to be understood and explored jointly.
Q: How do you understand the relationship between the Belt and Road Initiative and the building of a community of common destiny for mankind?
A: From a philosophical point of view, the building of a community of common destiny for mankind is a good concept. But in bilateral cooperation, one party may get more and the other get less. In this unbalanced situation, how to deal with the gap of benefits is a challenge. For example, in EU-China trade relations, the EU cannot understand why China cares so much about the issue of anti-dumping since this only affects 1 percent of the total bilateral trade. But for China, this 1 percent of trade volume involves a lot of businesses and a lot of jobs, and for these people, it is the issue of their livelihood. At the fundamental level, people's livelihood, economic development and social needs have to be taken into consideration. And at a higher level, the development of specific countries as well as the development for mankind need to be considered and to reach consensus.