Sun Zhuangzhi's keynote speech at China Poland Foreign Policy Forum
“16+1 Cooperation” in Synergy with the “Belt and Road” Initiative: Approach and Prospect
(20 June, 2016, Warsaw, Poland)
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan and Indonesia in September and October 2013, he raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (hereinafter referred to as the Belt and Road). The China-CEEC Cooperation Framework (shorted as the “16+1 Cooperation”), on the other hand, was proposed during the first leaders’ meeting of China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries in Warsaw, Poland in April, 2012. Ever since then, the leaders’ meeting of China and CEE countries has been held in different countries once a year. Since the Central and Eastern Europe is a key region along the Belt and Road, in which there are one third of participating countries, how to boost the “16+1 Cooperation” under the “Belt and Road” Initiative is hotly debated.
The so-called “Synergy” has three meanings. To begin with, it refers to the common cooperative concept and the same starting point with no communication barriers; secondly, the two ways of cooperation are complementary and mutual driven with the objective of joint development; thirdly, the two means of cooperation are interrelated in terms of content and thus can jointly promote the specific cooperation in some important fields.
In November 2015 China hosted the leaders’ meeting of China and CEE countries in Suzhou for the first time. Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his meeting with the leaders of 16 CEE countries, emphasized that the “16+1 Cooperation” has developed into an all-directional, multi-level and wide-ranging cooperative pattern ever since the establishment. It has opened a new path for China to develop its traditional friendship with CEE countries, created new practice of enhancing Sino-Europe relations and provided a new platform for the South-South Cooperation with the characteristics of the South-North Cooperation. In particular, he put forward the goal of fully integrating the “16+1 Cooperation” into the “Belt and Road” Initiative and said that China welcomes the 16 CEE countries to jointly build the Belt and Road based on the principle of joint discussion, sharing and co-construction for common development and prosperity.
Both the “Belt and Road” Initiative and the “16+1 Cooperation” are guided by the “Silk Road Spirit” proposed by Chinese leaders, namely, the spirit of “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit”. Moreover, the implementation of the “Belt and Road” Initiative has further interpreted the common objective of countries with different culture and traditions, diverse social systems and varying levels of development to realize joint discussion, sharing and co-construction.
Another thing that the “Belt and Road” Initiative and the “16+1 Cooperation” have in common is their openness. Chinese leaders have once remarked that China will insist on the Open Regionalism, sign cooperation agreements with many countries inside and outside the region and align its policy and development strategy with those countries. By doing so, China aims to promote orderly and free flow of economic factors, highly efficient allocation of resources and deep integration of markets. Through the “Belt and Road” construction, China will carry out the regional cooperation in a larger scope, with higher standards and at deeper levels and jointly create an open, inclusive and balanced regional economic cooperation architecture that benefits all. From this perspective, the “Belt and Road” Initiative is entirely consistent with the “16+1 Cooperation”, both of which suggest the new direction of regional cooperation in the future.
The “Belt and Road” Initiative aims to promote the connectivity of the Eurasia. To achieve this, countries along the Belt and Road should strengthen the cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields including the policy coordination, the connectivity of infrastructure, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. At the initial stage of the “Belt and Road” construction, the connectivity of infrastructure is a key area that deserves priority attention as it could lay a solid foundation for the economic and trade cooperation among the countries along the Belt and Road. Another priority area is the global cooperation on production capacity with the focus of setting up free trade zones and industrial parks.
As for the “16+1 Cooperation”, well, Chinese Premier Li Keqing, in his address at the Fifth China and Central and Eastern European Countries Economic and Trade Forum, has focused on 6 priority plans. To begin with, China and CEECs should jointly adopt the Medium-Term Agenda for Cooperation Between China and Central and Eastern European Countries and the Suzhou Guidelines for Cooperation to map out the blueprint for future cooperation. Secondly, China is ready to synergize its development strategies with those of CEE countries to promote the connectivity. To meet this end, we should push forward the project of the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line, accelerate the connectivity of customs clearance, expand logistic cooperation, cultivate the brand of “China-Europe freight trains” and strive for the comprehensive civil aviation cooperation. Thirdly, efforts should be made to create new models of cooperation on production capacity and cooperation may start with the upgrading of ports connecting the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas. Fourthly, China will provide more financial support for the “16+1 Cooperation” by creating new means of investment and financing cooperation. Fifthly, we should strive to boost the growth of trade and investment, enhance trade and investment facilitation and promote the balanced development of trade. Last but not the least, close cultural and people-to-people links will consolidate the foundation of our business cooperation.
Based on Premier Li Keqiang’s address, it can be clearly seen that China-CEEC cooperation also centers around the five connectivity. Some infrastructure projects between China and CEECs play an exemplary role for the “Belt and Road” construction. Needless to say, the “Belt and Road” initiative has promoted the “16+1 Cooperation” into a higher level with a wider space, while the “16+1 Cooperation” has put the “Belt and Road” Initiative into practice at regional level. Apart from that, the “16+1 Cooperation” has also expanded local contacts by setting up cooperative mechanisms such as the China-CEEC local leaders’ meeting and local governors’ association and so on, which is totally in line with the construction of the “Belt and Road” that uses more flexible approaches, has rich levels and is diversified in subjects.
Synergy of the Cooperation Target and three new communities
The “Belt and Road” Initiative works to build a community of shared interests, destiny and responsibility featuring mutual political trust, economic integration and cultural inclusiveness. That is in accordance with the target of “16+1 Cooperation” which commits to the long-term cooperation between China and CEECs, as exemplified in the theme of the fourth leaders’ meeting of China and CEECs in Suzhou, namely, “new beginning, new domains and new vision”. Clearly the “16+1 Cooperation” strives to reaching the new cooperation consensus through the top-level design.
The “Belt and Road” Initiative is aimed at creating a new pattern of cooperation rather than building a supranational mechanism. It relies on the mature bilateral and multilateral mechanisms that have been established and takes advantage of the existing efficient platform for regional cooperation. By doing this, it aims to promote the economic partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road, eliminate political barriers and conflicts, break down economic monopoly, get out of the narrow cultural ideology and realize the common goal of peace and development step by step.
On May 8th, 2015, China and Russia signed the Joint Statement on the Docking of the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative and the EAEU Construction, in which China agreed to launch talks with the EAEU on an economic and trade cooperation deal. What’s more, China has synergized its development strategy with the countries along the “Silk Road Economic Belt” including Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. In addition, China and EU have long before jointly formulated the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation. All these suggest that the “16+1 Cooperation” has made the construction of “Silk Road Economic Belt” more complete and has formed synergy with the Belt and Road Initiative both integrally and regionally.
The common target of cooperation is beneficial for the integration of different mechanisms and can avoid unnecessary competitions as well. The synergy that we are talking about here does not simply mean the mutual openness of two platforms with different functions and clear boundaries. Instead, it requires us to overcome the drawbacks of traditional practice of regional cooperation to truly realize the “two becomes one”. In other words, we need to present the most optimal and economical cooperation program and create a new and more reasonable pattern of “regional integration” in the context of globalization.