Belt and Road Initiative to boost sustainable economic development: former U.S. diplomat

Updated 2017-04-28 11:31:13 Xinhua
Photo taken on March 22, 2017 shows the Gwadar port area in Gwadar, Pakistan. (Xinhua/Liu Tian)

Photo taken on March 22, 2017 shows the Gwadar port area in Gwadar, Pakistan. (Xinhua/Liu Tian)

The Belt and Road Initiative is a very positive project that helps boost sustainable economic development in the world, especially in ill-connected Asia, a former U.S. diplomat has said.

"I think it's a very important project. I think the idea of reconnecting Asia is very important," Marc Grossman, vice chairman of The Cohen Group, told Xinhua in a recent interview. "Because if you look at the area, especially in South Asia, this is a part of the world where, unlike many other parts of the world, there are very few connections really."

"When you think about how well-connected Europe is and how much an advantage that has been for its economic development, all those things have yet to come in parts of Asia and Southeast Asia, parts of central Asia, certainly in South Asia as well," said Grossman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, and under secretary of state for political affairs.

"So this is a big vision on the part of the government of China," he said.

Grossman, who was the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from February 2011 to December 2012, said the Belt and Road Initiative would help tackle the unifying challenge in South Asia -- economic growth.

"What is the unifying challenge in South Asia? For example, people need jobs. People need sustainable economic development. People need a future," he said. "So I think one of the most interesting things about this vision is that it could really produce a lot of jobs for many, many people (in the region)."

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a collection of infrastructure projects currently under construction throughout Pakistan, is a "very interesting, specific example" of the Belt and Road Initiative comprising the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Grossman said.

"These are positive things, so I'm sure there are lots of reasons to be interested in the Belt and Road Initiative, but for me, it's the question of economic growth," he said.

Globalization has lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty. However, Grossman said that some people have been left behind, so he regarded the Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity to provide jobs to those who have not yet benefited from globalization.

The former U.S. official said the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in mid-May, the highest level of its kind since the initiative was proposed, represents "a continuing, very important effort on the part of the Chinese government" to showcase the Belt and Road Initiative.

"When the summit occurs in May, I think the Chinese side will have a chance to really discuss their objectives and to be honest with people about some of the concerns that are out there. That's only natural. This is a big project and so it's not surprising that people would have concerns about that," he said.

The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

Grossman said China's message has to be clear that the Belt and Road Initiative is a joint project on a voluntary basis, and "not some effort by China to control a lot of other countries."

"This is a joint development project. It's not just China telling you what to do or telling you how to do business or giving you some instructions somehow," he said.

"I've always believed that you have to start with a vision, so the Chinese have this vision and so now the question is who will carry out the vision and how will the vision be carried out, and that's one of the most important issues (the summit has to answer)," he said.

Grossman expressed the hope that some early results would be presented at the summit to demonstrate the great potential and feasibility of the huge project.

"I think it's very important to make sure that there's some real success, some early demonstration that this works," the expert said. "People would like to see an example of how this works and how it works fairly, transparently and successfully."

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