Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang delivered a keynote speech at the Belt and Road Summit on 18 May 2016 (Wednesday) sponsored by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). The following is the full text of Zhang’s speech:
Distinguished Guests, Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I am much delighted to join you here in Hong Kong to discuss the Belt and Road Initiative. Let me begin by expressing, on behalf of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government, sincere congratulations on the opening of this summit and a warm welcome and cordial greetings to all our guests and both old and new friends from home and abroad!
In the autumn of 2013, President Xi Jinping raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This belt and road initiative has drawn wide attention and gained positive response from the international community. The initiative responds to the call of the times for world peace and development, and meets the need of all countries for faster development.
It will contribute to economic development of countries along the routes and global prosperity as well as people-to-people exchanges and world peace. The belt and road development is a profound endeavor to carry forward the historical heritage and jointly create a brighter future.
Over 2,000 years ago, there were already interactions between the two ends of the Eurasian continent, and that was when the ancient Silk Road began. The road had taken shape by the time of the Qin and Han dynasties of China, and was most prosperous during the Sui and Tang dynasties. During the Tang and Song dynasties, our ancestors developed advanced navigation techniques, and successfully opened up the Silk Road on the Sea that extended all the way to the West.
Through bustling trade, the countries along that route brought their civilizations closer and lived in peace and prosperity. This period of history gives us something we should carry forward, i.e. the open and inclusive spirit of the Silk Road for peace, mutual learning and win-win cooperation. To maintain sound development of the Chinese economy and realize the “two centenary goals”, China must be more open to the world in the future.
The belt and road initiative answers the call of our times for joint response to risks and joint efforts to strengthen global economic recovery. Development is a major issue facing the world. The shadow of the international financial crisis is not far behind, and the world economic recovery lacks momentum. To avert risks and boost recovery, countries must cooperate in good faith to build up synergy.
The belt and road initiative will boost mutual investment and trade between China and countries along the routes, facilitate connectivity between those countries and support their pursuit of a new-type of industrialization. The initiative will also promote common development and bring real benefits to the peoples along the routes, thus giving positive energy and new impetus to world economic recovery.
The initiative meets the needs for coordinated development of different regions and a new development pattern that brings shared benefits. Stretching along the Eurasian Continent and having connectivity on its agenda, the belt and road links up more tightly the prospering East Asian economies and the highly developed European economies at the two ends. This will galvanize growth of the vast interior of the Eurasian continent.
The initiative can also encourage the countries along the routes to jointly create growth opportunities and share development fruits. The belt and road initiative helps to find the common interests between China and countries along the routes, while addressing different needs. The initiative thus better coordinates development strategies and will contribute to the building of an inclusive and balanced regional cooperation framework that delivers benefits for all. Such an initiative can therefore better serve the fundamental interests of the mankind.
The initiative is an important move to enhance friendship between countries and promote mutual learning between different civilizations. In history, the ancient Silk Road was not only a route of trade, but also a path of friendship that facilitated the dialogue and mutual learning between different civilizations.
The vast land along the ancient Silk Road was home to important cradles of human civilization. From the Yellow River to the Ganges, from the Nile to the blue Mediterranean, the flowers of ancient civilizations had bloomed in the course of mutual learning and became the shared memory of countries along the routes. The virtues of our ancestors must be cherished and kept alive.
Today, in a world where the economy and society have developed like unseen before, we, the builders of this global village, have every reason and the responsibility to increase exchanges and mutual learning between our peoples.
Let us carry on our civilization of glory into the future. The friendship between peoples is the foundation of state to state relations. The Belt and Road Initiative will advance both economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges, promote the friendly interactions between the peoples of China and countries along the routes, and expand practical cooperation in culture, education, arts, science and technology, tourism, health and sports.
This will enhance mutual recognition, mutual understanding and mutual respect between peoples along the routes and lay a solid popular basis for the building of the Belt and Road and world peace and development.
The initiative is a major move of China to pursue all dimensional opening-up under the new historical circumstances. It will align China’s development with that of the countries along the routes, and combine the Chinese Dream and the dream of their peoples.
China is the initiator, but this is not a one man’s show. The initiative is about win-win cooperation and common development, not a solo performance or a zero-sum game. The Belt and Road are not private exclusive roads but wide and open avenues for us all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In March 2015, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, joined by other government departments, issued the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Following this roadmap, we had a good beginning during the past year. Between China and the countries along the routes, there were frequent mutual visits at high levels of the government as well as closer interactions between governments, parliaments, political parties and at sub-national levels.
Common understanding was reached in a number of areas, and over 30 cooperation agreements were signed. China and those countries worked hand in hand to seek the largest denominator in win-win cooperation and common development.
A package of major projects has started in the building of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. An overall plan is being made for the China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor, partnering a number of cooperation projects. In pursuit of infrastructure connectivity, China’s international cooperation on production capacity is well underway in more than 10 key areas, including equipment manufacturing, automobile and electronics. Over a thousand container trains have traveled between China and Central Asia or Europe.
A functional international transport mechanism linking the two ends of the Eurasian continent is up and running. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has entered into operation, and the Silk Road Fund and several other multilateral or bilateral cooperation funds are providing continuous financing support to the Belt and Road Initiative. The RMB cross-border trading has expanded. The joint application to inscribe the portion of the Silk Road that passes through China and Central Asia on the World Heritage List was successful, and the application for the maritime Silk Road has been made.
Interactions have increased in culture, education, science and technology, tourism, business and other areas. All these have proved that the Belt and Road Initiative enjoys a promising future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This summit takes place in Hong Kong not only because Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China, but also because it is a key link for the belt and road.
In designing its 13th Five-Year Plan and the Vision and Actions for the Belt and Road, the central government has made it a major policy to support Hong Kong’s participation in the belt and road development.
We believe that Hong Kong, with the following unique advantages, will be able to make important contribution to this endeavor.
First, advantages from Hong Kong’s location. In terms of maritime transport, Hong Kong sits on the busiest international sea route and boasts developed port economy. It is also an important gateway in the landscape of China’s opening-up. On the land, Hong Kong is next to Guangdong Province.
With modern means of connectivity, Hong Kong has easy, efficient and economic access to China’s mainland, thus serves as a hub of transportation and international communication. In terms of air transport, Hong Kong has the world’s busiest international airport, topping the list in passenger and goods transport.
Furthermore, Hong Kong borders on the Pearl River Delta, one of the three economic growth poles of China and the pioneer of China’s institutional and structural reform and the country’s pursuit of innovation-driven development.
Moreover, Hong Kong is next to Shenzhen, a center for innovation and entrepreneurship. As a natural partner, Hong Kong can join forces with China (Guangdong) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation zone and Fujian Province, which is a core area for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Hong Kong’s strength in the service sector and that of its neighboring provinces in manufacturing have great potential in exploring the international markets.
Second, advantages as first mover of opening-up and cooperation. As a free port from the very beginning and the world’s freest economy for 22 years in a run, Hong Kong maintains close economic and trade relations with most countries and regions in the world.
After the return of Hong Kong to the motherland, an all-round, wide-ranging and high-level form of exchange and cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong has taken shape. Many opening-up policies of the mainland were first experimented and practiced in Hong Kong.
This has brought experience for the mainland to open wider, and offered rare opportunities for Hong Kong itself. This offers a good foundation for Hong Kong to seize new opportunities arising from the Belt and Road Initiative and achieve new progress.
Third, advantages in professional services. Hong Kong is a developed economy with a diverse and advanced service sector, an important international financial, shipping and trade center with the world’s largest offshore renminbi market, and one of the world’s most favorite places of arbitration.
In accounting, law, consultancy, tourism, infrastructure development, engineering design and other fields, Hong Kong may offer a variety of services to countries along the Belt and Road routes.
I understand that Hong Kong consultancy companies were appointed by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce as project supervisors in two Chinese assistance infrastructure projects in Nepal and Cambodia.
Many buildings in Nepal collapsed in the devastating earthquake, yet the projects under their supervision were largely intact. This shows the superior quality of Hong Kong’s professional services, and proves that such services have a big role to play in the Belt and Road development.
Fourth, advantages gained from cultural and people-to-people interactions. For decades, Hong Kong has been an important window for cultural exchanges between the East and the West, and for interaction among various civilizations. This has created a distinctive culture that integrates the Chinese and Western civilizations.
In an open and inclusive cultural atmosphere, Hong Kong has inherited and carried forward the traditional Chinese culture, and created a modern culture of its own, represented by movies, TV and music programs, that has a major influence in the wider Chinese language circle. Hong Kong’s martial arts movies have loyal fans across the world and have influenced generations of people.
Southeast Asia is an important region for Belt and Road development thanks to people-to-people connections. Lots of ethnic Chinese went there from Guangdong via Hong Kong in the early years, and many ethnic Chinese doing business there have their origin in Guangdong, which like Hong Kong, is part of the Cantonese culture circle. This laid down the cultural foundation for deepening exchange and cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The central government attaches great importance to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and its role in the national strategy. We will support Hong Kong in building on its existing strengths and exploring new advantages, support closer exchange and cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland, and support Hong Kong in expanding economic and trade ties with the world.
Hong Kong, for its part, also needs to take a more active part in the national development strategy. I noticed that during this year’s annual NPC and CPPCC sessions, many NPC delegates and CPPCC members from Hong Kong contributed their ideas on Hong Kong’s role and participation in the Belt and Road development.
The Chief Executive and the SAR government regard the participation in the Belt and Road development as a major opportunity for Hong Kong’s development, and have introduced many policies. There are also lively discussions on this topic in the Hong Kong society.
I hope that Hong Kong, with a broader mind and vision, would fully seize the major opportunities of the Belt and Road, link its own development with the Belt and Road, and further bring out its own advantages. The central government will support Hong Kong in playing an active role in the following aspects:
First, respond to the belt and road, and build a platform of comprehensive services. We support Hong Kong’s agencies and professionals in offering accounting, design, consultancy and other professional services to the Belt and Road.
We support Hong Kong’s efforts to build a center for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia Pacific, in order to provide legal and arbitration services to the Belt and Road.
We support Hong Kong in developing high added-value shipping industry, and building a multi-functional shipping center for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. And we support Hong Kong companies in leveraging their competitiveness in research, development, management, innovative industry, marketing and logistics, and participating in real economy cooperation such as production capacity cooperation along the Belt and Road. This will help secure Hong Kong’s competitiveness in international division of labor.
Second, facilitate capital flows and promote RMB internationalization and the development of the Belt and Road investment and financing platform.
We will encourage mainland companies to use Hong Kong’s platform to offer more low-cost capitals for the Belt and Road. We support Hong Kong in strengthening its position as a hub for global offshore RMB business, and develop RMB business along the Belt and Road.
We support Hong Kong’s assistance in investment, financing, asset management and other financial services for infrastructure projects, so as to widen the financial channels for the Belt and Road. And we support Hong Kong in offering insurance and reinsurance services for the Belt and Road to offset and reduce risks.
Third, promote cultural exchanges for greater mutual understanding among the people along the Belt and Road. We support different forms of cultural and educational cooperation between Hong Kong and the countries along the routes, and the development of a platform for personnel exchange.
We support friendly and closer people-to-people exchanges between Hong Kong and the cities along the Belt and Road.
We encourage Hong Kong’s business associations, social groups, think tanks and other organizations in organizing research, promotion, training, study tours and other events related to the Belt and Road. These exchange and cooperation will help increase mutual understanding among the peoples along the Belt and Road.
Fourth, deepen cooperation with the mainland and jointly develop markets along the Belt and Road. We support Hong Kong in fully tapping its advantages as the center in multiple areas, deepening cooperation with coastal provinces and cities in professional services and talents with global vision, and elevating cooperation through innovative models.
We encourage Hong Kong to work with inland provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in developing overseas businesses, build a multi-level form of cooperation at different parts of the value chain, and jointly explore markets along the Belt and Road.
This is the first year for the implementation of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, and an important year for the Belt and Road development. “A huge tree that fills one’s arms grows from a tiny seedling; a nine-storied tower rises from a heap of earth.”
This summit in Hong Kong is of great significance for building consensus for cooperation along the Belt and Road. I hope that all forum participants, as outstanding representatives from countries along the Belt and Road, will fully participate and share your wisdom in the following activities, to contribute to the joint effort for Belt and Road development.
Finally, let me wish Hong Kong greater achievements in its participation in the Belt and Road development, and wish this Summit a complete success. Thank you!