On May 14, 2017, at a two-day summit in Beijing attended by delegates from over 100 countries, including 28 heads of state, Chinese leaders announced that they are prioritizing a green path in promoting the Belt and Road Initiative along and beyond the ancient Silk Road route. They are asking all the parties involved to engage in extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits.
“We should pursue a new vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable,” said President Xi Jinping during his opening remarks at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.
He also underscored the need to strengthen cooperation in ecological and environmental protection and build a sound ecosystem so as to realize the goals set by the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But India boycotted the summit, lambasting the China’s $900 billion scheme as foolhardy and old-fashioned.
“We’re not going to develop a prosperous society in a degraded planet,” asserted Macro Lambertini, the director-general of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He suggested countries along the Belt and Road should think of the environmental dimension at the beginning when engaging in various projects. This would help avoid damage of the environment or a waste of money and efforts on projects that could not be delivered ultimately out of ecological concerns.
“Economic prosperity and environmental well-being can be achieved at the same time,” declared Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). “Blue rivers and green forest are the new gold,” Solheim said, quoting the earlier words of President Xi.
From the official Silk Road portal website: More than two millennia ago the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked the major civilizations of Asia, Europe and Africa, collectively called the Silk Road by later generations. For thousands of years, the Silk Road Spirit – “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit” – has been passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilization, and contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of the countries along the Silk Road. Symbolizing communication and cooperation between the East and the West, the Silk Road Spirit is a historic and cultural heritage shared by all countries around the world.
In the 21st century, a new era marked by the theme of peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit, it is all the more important for us to carry on the Silk Road Spirit in face of the weak recovery of the global economy, and complex international and regional situations.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October of 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), which have attracted close attention from all over the world. At the China-ASEAN Expo in 2013, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the need to build the Maritime Silk Road oriented towards ASEAN, and to create strategic propellers for hinterland development. Accelerating the building of the Belt and Road can help promote the economic prosperity of the countries along the Belt and Road and regional economic cooperation, strengthen exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations, and promote world peace and development. It is a great undertaking that will benefit people around the world.
The Belt and Road Initiative is a systematic project, which should be jointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all, and efforts should be made to integrate the development strategies of the countries along the Belt and Road. The Chinese government has drafted and published the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road to promote the implementation of the Initiative, instill vigor and vitality into the ancient Silk Road, connect Asian, European and African countries more closely and promote mutually beneficial cooperation to a new high and in new forms.
Photo of Myanmar courtesy of Belt and Road Portal.