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Dai Bingguo: Jointly Build the Silk Roads for the 21st Century With Openness and Inclusiveness

Guiyang, 11 July 2014

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,
Good afternoon.

It is my pleasure to attend the Eco Forum Global Annual Conference Guiyang 2014. This year, a sub-forum on the Silk Roads is held for the first time, which combines the themes of eco-friendliness and the Silk Roads. It answers the call of the time, follows the initiatives of our leaders and also speaks to the aspirations of billions of people from dozens of countries along the Silk Roads.

As we know, in the course of over 2,000 years, our ancestors traversed through thorns and waves and opened the ancient Silk Road and the maritime Silk Road, making immense contribution to the exchanges and integration between the East and the West as well as human civilization and progress.

It has been proved that the ancient Silk Roads were roads towards common prosperity and development that connected China with the rest of the world through trade and cultural exchanges. With its starting point in China, the 8,000-kilometer-long Silk Road ran through nearly 30 countries in Central Asia, South Asia, West Asia, Europe and North Africa. The maritime Silk Road ran through the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean towards the Korean Peninsula, Japan and Southeast Asian countries and even as far as countries in the South Pacific, South Asia and East Africa. What China exported via the Silk Roads on the land and the sea was not weapons or war, but silk, porcelain and products of ancient Chinese civilization such as well-drilling technique, metallurgy, silkworm breeding, papermaking, movable-type printing and gunpowder. Through this road, goods from other countries, such as alfalfa, grapes, carrots, pepper, walnuts, pomegranates, garlic, spices, jewelry and colored glaze, also came to China, along with the art of glass making and the Arabic astronomy, calendar and medicine. Over those 2,000 years and more, the exchange of goods, people and technologies via the overland and maritime Silk Roads greatly improved the productivity and people's lives of all countries and contributed to the prosperity of all nations along the way.

The ancient Silk Roads were roads of integration and mutual learning among various civilizations towards common progress. The 20th century British philosopher Bertrand Russell observed and I quote, "Contacts between different civilizations have often in the past proved to be landmarks in human progress." The 2,000-year history of the ancient Silk Roads is a history of exchanges and mutual learning between Eastern and Western cultures and thinking. Both the Eastern and Western civilizations, including those of China, India, West Asian countries, Rome and Greece, witnessed the growth of the Silk Roads from mere transportation and trading routes to a catalyst of two-way learning and integration between civilizations. The pioneering westward journeys of Zhang Qian and Zheng He and the arduous eastward journeys of Marco Polo and Matteo Ricci all reflected the genuine curiosity and respect of people towards another culture. After Hiuen Tsang's pilgrimage through the Silk Road to India in the Tang Dynasty in quest of Buddhist scriptures, foreign cultures, represented by Buddhism, began to have a profound and far-reaching influence on the Chinese culture. Likewise, the spirit of being modest and adaptive, inherent in the Chinese culture, provided the breeding ground for the growth and spread of foreign cultures in China. Voltaire and other Western thinkers had never been to China, but from Chinese classics introduced via the Silk Roads, such as Confucianism, Taoism and the Book of Changes, they were quick to discover the essence of China's moral, legal and civil service system while pushing for yet another liberation of mind across Europe. As former French President Jacques Chirac put it, the French Enlightenment thinkers saw a sensible and harmonious world in China, a world that submitted itself to the law of nature and manifested the overriding order of the cosmos.

The ancient Silk Roads were roads for peace and friendship featuring benevolence, good-neighborliness, and harmony without uniformity. In my view, the fundamental spirit of the Chinese nation boils down to "harmony". Be it in Mother Nature or human society, it is important to have harmonious combination of yin and yang so that "All living things live in harmony and grow with nourishments." In the Spring and Autumn Period of China more than 2,700 years ago, Guan Zhong, an ancient philosopher and politician of Qi Kingdom, put forward four principles, namely non-alliance, non-belligerence, good-neighborliness and proper management of border areas. He advocated harmony at home and abroad, no use of force, opening up to the outside world and meritocracy. The philosophy of harmony had a far-reaching impact on building the Silk Road and even the foreign policy of China over the past 2,000 years. The overland and maritime Silk Roads had not only geographically connected China with its neighboring countries and nations, but also created a cultural bond. It is fair to say that for most of the time over the past two millennia, the two ancient Silk Roads have been a symbol of peace, friendship, prosperity and civilization.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Our planet has changed profoundly over the past 2,000 years. Economic globalization, IT application and digital revolution have brought us into a new era when we are in a community of shared destiny. Mankind still faces a series of tough challenges, among which is a harsh reality that most of the countries along the Silk Roads for the 21st Century are developing countries with the longstanding problem of uneven development between urban and rural areas and among different regions, where many impoverished people still lack access to food, clean water, health services and medicine. Peace, security, development, employment and a sound ecosystem have increasingly become the common aspirations of most of the people. In a sense, the idea of "One Belt One Road" (Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century) provides a viable solution to those issues. In building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century, we should carry forward the fine tradition of the ancient Silk Roads and at the same time keep up with the times and make pioneering efforts to jointly make new achievements.

In my opinion, first, we need to work together to create an international and regional environment of enduring peace and stability. Countries along the Silk Roads differ in size, political system, development level and cultural tradition, but share the aspiration of pursuing peace and development. We have a common destiny of shared interests. We need to commit ourselves to the security of the regions along the new overland and maritime Silk Roads, embrace the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence as the golden rule in handling state-to-state relations, and respect each other with all sincerity, treat each other as equals and live in peace and harmony. Without a peaceful and stable environment, building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century would be an empty slogan. China will stick to the path of peaceful development and reject expansion and hegemony which is a dead end. The history of the ancient Silk Roads testified that the Chinese people were envoys of peaceful and friendly exchanges and cooperation, even in the Han and Tang dynasties when the country was most strong and prosperous. In the 21st century, China still is an important force for peace and stability along the Silk Roads. We will uphold the principles of working together through consultation and sharing the benefits, and join the other countries in the world, in particular those along the Silk Roads to foster a peaceful and stable international and regional environment for building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century. This position will not change even when China becomes more developed and stronger in the future.

Second, to build the Silk Roads for the 21st Century requires an open and inclusive mentality. Last year I raised a viewpoint that mentality determines the state of ecology. In fact, many things in the world are influenced by people's mentality. We need both ecological progress and good mentality. The humanity today is closely interconnected in the global economy. We see flows of commodities, services, finance, data, communications, personnel and knowledge working together to profoundly change our ways of work and life. Facing this overwhelming historical trend in a highly interdependent world, countries along the Silk Roads with different cultural backgrounds and development levels need to participate in the building of the Silk Roads for the 21st Century with an open and inclusive mind to make the endeavor a success. No one should indulge in self-admiration or seek supremacy. We should stand together instead of squeezing each other out and reject the mindset of pursuing one's own development at the expense of others and envying or fearing others' development. We need to view others' development as an opportunity to ourselves, and help others develop to create more opportunities for ourselves and achieve a higher level of common development. All in all, we should all have an inclusive, kind and generous mind. In human history, no single civilization can assume primacy. The harmonious coexistence of different civilizations is the normality. No country remain at the forefront forever. The normality is mutual reinforcement through competition among all nations. Countries should respect each other's interests while pursuing their own and advance common interests of all.

Third, the Silk Roads for the 21st Century should benefit the people in countries along the way. We often say that the government should work to fulfill the aspirations of the people. A journalist of Xinhua News Agency once asked Ella, a 21-year-old Kazakh college girl, "If the Chinese language, oil and the Silk Road are put together, what does it first remind you of?" Ella answered with a simple word, "Jobs." Thirteen years ago, Ali, a Yemeni opened his first Saba Restaurant in Guangzhou, China. Seven years ago, he opened a second one in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province. He once said, "My dream is to get a Chinese Green Card." The driving force for building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century may come from these energetic individuals. Only by benefiting all the countries, cities, communities and the people along the Silk Roads, sharing development gains with everyone and bringing peace, security, prosperity and wealth to all, can we shape an even brighter future for the Silk Roads for the 21st century.

Fourth, to build the Silk Roads for the 21st Century requires enhanced cooperation on ecology and environment and the development of green economy. Both the Loulan Kingdom and the ancient Babylon Kingdom are now buried deep in the sand. Many historical cities and architectural wonders are now ruins or cultural relics. The past is past, but when building "One Belt One Road", we must learn from history and avoid making any mistakes that will sadden our future generations. I am glad to know that in the "One Belt One Road" plan that the Chinese government is drafting, ecological progress is a high priority. International cooperation on ecology and environment is expected to make all-round progress. As the first step, China and Singapore are working together on an Eco-City. China and Europe are joining efforts to build a clean energy center. Switzerland is working with Guizhou to draw an eco-village blueprint. A few days back an article in the Guizhou Daily said that there is a small village called Chuanyan in Bijie City, where stony desertification was very serious. The more land you clear, the poorer you become. Later, the local government and people changed their approach by returning the farmland to nature, growing herbs and planting fruit trees. Last year, the average per capita income there was nearly US$1000, higher than the provincial average. What an inspiring story! Today, many countries along the maritime and overland Silk Roads, including China, are faced with the challenge of balancing economic development with ecological conservation. This is also a global challenge of this century. Without economic development and improvement of people's life, or if poverty and ignorance are regarded as part of the original way of life, ecological conservation will be meaningless. On the other hand, the pursuit of a better life should not be achieved at the expense of eco-environment. President Xi had his point by saying that while we want prosperity and wealth, we also want clear water and green mountains. In fact, clear water and green mountains can bring us prosperity and wealth. I am confident that countries along the maritime and overland Silk Roads will attach high importance to green development and environmental protection cooperation. We have reasons to expect that the green Silk Roads will one day become a reality!

Fifth, in building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century, we should both work hard and follow the natural course of development to seek steady progress. The Silk Roads for the 21st Century, covering both land and sea routes, is a great initiative in human history and calls for extraordinary efforts. Just as Rome was not built in a day, the ancient Silk Road didn't come into being overnight. In building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century, we should also pay attention to the inherent laws governing political, economic, cultural and ecological development. The Silk Roads should feature openness and diversity. It should not only cover China's neighborhood or Asia, but also grow into a system of cooperation across different regions and sectors. It should include both sub-regional cooperation and cooperation in economic corridors, connectivity, maritime transportation routes, marine resources development and people-to-people exchanges. It should not only be an economic belt of development and prosperity but also a beautiful place where man and nature live in harmony. In building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century, we should have confidence, patience and perseverance. As long as we have strong commitment, work tenaciously to overcome the various difficulties and pass this great cause from generation to generation, the modern overland and maritime Silk Roads will expand and bring benefits to people in Asia, Europe, Africa and the entire mankind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

How does my hometown Guizhou relate to the ancient Silk Road? I can tell you proudly that this relationship goes far back in history. As early as in the Spring and Autumn period over 2,600 years ago, the Kingdom of Chu, which is now the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, was already trading goods such as silk and glassware with ancient India, and Guizhou was on the trading route. Guizhou was also an important passage of the "Southern Silk Road" the Western Han Dynasty opened over 2,000 years ago from central China to Myanmar, India and Southeast Asia. Today you can still find there traces of ancient post road and post houses. In the 1950s, Indian Prime Minister Nehru told Premier Zhou Enlai that when he was a little boy, he travelled with his grandfather to China along this ancient post road, and stopped over in the ancient town of Zhenyuan, Guizhou. The journey left him a deep and fond memory of "a ringing bell in the mountain shows the coming of horse caravans". Last year, I visited Zhenyuan for the first time, and I found that it is a place where different civilizations, cultures and religions converge. In the Qinglong Cave ancient architecture complex, one can find Buddhist monasteries, Taoist temples, Confucius academies and business retreats standing side by side, a vivid reflection of harmony between religious and secular life, and between earthly business and the spiritual world.

For years, forest coverage in Guizhou grew at an average annual growth rate of one percentage point and reached 48% last year. This growth margin ranks among the top nationwide. When most places in the world on the same latitude are deserts and wastelands, it is not easy for Guizhou to keep its mountains green and rivers clean, and this should be all the more cherished. Guizhou, like a lung on the Yangtze River economic belt and Silk Road economic belt, contributes immensely to the efforts of China and the international community in tackling climate change.

Guizhou is building a demonstration area for national ecological preservation, and the Guiyang Eco Forum Global Annual Conference is acquiring greater influence. It is encouraging to see that people in Guizhou are both working for and benefiting from ecological progress. I sincerely hope that Guizhou will match its strengths with the historic opportunities of building the new Silk Roads, steadily advance reform and opening up and explore new ways to strengthen international cooperation on ecological conservation, so as to become a pioneer and role model in building the Silk Roads for the 21st Century.

Thank you.

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